NCAA Basketball Picks: Back Motivated Manhattan Team vs. Iona

Mark Lathrop

Friday, January 29, 2016 12:57 AM GMT

Our NCAAB handicapper spots a tasty trend to back in this Friday night MAAC matchup between Manhattan and Iona that can be seen on ESPNU. 

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Manhattan +9.5
Best Line Offered: at Heritage

 

The Iona Gaels (10-9, 7-3) try to keep up with Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference leaders as they host the Manhattan Jaspers (8-10, 5-4) in a nationally televised game on Friday night on ESPNU. Initial lines had the Gaels favored by 10.5 points before early bettor brought the chalk down to 9 points at books such as Heritage. The opening O/U total has been set at 154 at BookMaker.

Manhattan has had a significant layoff since their last game, a 78-71 win at home against conference leading Monmouth. This layoff was caused by a postponement of their game at St. Peter’s because of the recent blizzard on the East Coast of the United States. Basically, travel came to a stop and a college basketball team going anywhere was no exception.

Sophomore forward, Calvin Crawford, came out of nowhere to post a 20-point effort against Monmouth. The night’s scoring exceeded his 9.1 points per game average by a wide margin. Crawford didn’t see significant minutes until January of this season, and has steadily been gaining momentum as the season has gone on. It’s a significant matter for bettors, as trends early in the season for Manhattan have to be looked at a little differently with the roster shift.

Senior forward, Shane Richards, is still the backbone of this team and averages just over 37 minutes per game and 17.7 points per game. He made some clutch baskets in the game against Monmouth to secure the win late in that game. Leading Jasper rebounder, junior guard Rich Williams, also pulled down seven rebounds in the matchup to go along with 15 points. Williams is an anomaly by leading the team in rebounds at 6.8 per game as a 6-5, 190 lb. guard.

Iona has hit a bit of a rough patch after their 110-102 loss at home to Monmouth, a game that led to a scuffle and Jordan Washington being suspended for two games after throwing a punch. That game broke a 26-game streak of home wins for Iona as well, so it wasn’t surprising the Gaels were a little heated afterwards. Iona went on to lose 2 of their next 3 games at Rider and at Fairfield, with a win coming at home versus St. Peter’s.

In their last game against Fairfield, Iona ran into some hot shooting as Fairfield’s Marcus Gilbert drained seven 3-pointers in route to a 32-point outburst. Not to be outdone, the recently returned Jordan Washington added 33 points on 10-19 shooting from the field and 13-18 from the free throw line. That performance definitely bumped up Washington’s 16.8 points per game average over the season. The Gaels leading scorer for the season with 23.7 points per game, senior guard A.J. English, had a poor performance though with only 16 points for the game – and only shot 4-10 from the charity stripe. Iona’s 15 missed free throws in the game against Fairfield would have more than made up the difference to win the game had they sunk them.

I’m frankly not surprised that the line in this matchup has contracted a bit since opening at 10.5 points in favor of Iona. Manhattan has played the Gaels very tough over the last couple of years and you’d have to go back six meetings before finding a game that Iona won by double digits. In fact, in the last matchup Iona was handed a ten-point loss even though they were a four-point favorite. Iona is also 1-7-1 ATS in their last nine games at home when playing against Manhattan and there is nothing but a little layoff rust to make me think that this will go any differently. Take a confident Manhattan team, coming off of an upset of the conference leader, +9.5 points on the NCAA Basketball odds board at Bookmaker as one of your top Friday night NCAA Basketball picks