Rider Broncs vs. Manhattan Jaspers
The Jaspers are 6-2 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, while the Broncs are 5-3. This is one of two particularly important MAAC games on Friday night that will reshape the conference standings in the final full week of January. The two teams are separated by only one game in the conference standings, as you’ve just been told, but Manhattan has a 13-4 overall record, while Rider sits at 9-8. Schedule strength varies from team to team, but the Jaspers have shown much more of an ability to finish games and should therefore be given the benefit of the doubt, especially since they’re playing this game on their home floor. Rider is the team with something to prove in this game. The Broncs are operating under a burden, and they shouldn’t be trusted unless or until they can beat one of the four teams in front of them in the MAAC: Canisius, Quinnipiac, Iona, or Manhattan. The Broncs, however, should be able to cover for your college basketball picks.
Pick: Rider +11
Quinnipiac Bobcats vs. Iona Gaels
This is a game in which the Gaels will try to split the season series, having lost to the Bobcats by an 86-74 margin on Jan. 6. Iona and Quinnipiac are both 6-2 in the MAAC, half a game behind Canisius at this point in the season. It’s hard to beat the same team twice in the regular season, and for this reason, Iona – which has had a few weeks in which to see just how deficient it was in its first performance against Quinnipiac – is in a good spot. The Gaels know that they need to make adjustments, and they also know that they need to play with more hunger on defense. Quinnipiac put together a strong performance against Iona on Jan. 6, but that very reality means that the Bobcats – though talented – might find it harder to duplicate that sort of effort in this game. Give Iona the overall edge, but Quinnipiac will cover the college basketball odds.
Pick: Quinnipiac +6.5
Vermont Catamounts vs. Stony Brook Seawolves
This is a showdown for first place in the America East Conference, where both teams are 5-0 in league play. Vermont and Stony Brook have gone at each other hard in recent seasons, with Stony Brook winning the last two regular season league championships and Vermont winning the 2012 America East Tournament. Stony Brook knows that it needs to knock the door down and win the conference tournament this season. Since the America East puts the championship game of its conference tournament inside the gym of the highest-seeded team in the league, this game could very well be for home-court advantage in that championship game. Since Stony Brook hosts this game, the Seawolves are probably going to have more enthusiasm than the Catamounts, just enough to matter in a pressure situation. Go ahead and take Stony Brook with your sports picks to cover the number as a slight favorite.
Pick: Stony Brook -2.5