The 2015 Big Ten Men's Tournament tips off Wednesday in Chicago, and the opening college basketball odds matchup pits the Penn State Nittany Lions against the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
It was a good season for Tim Miles and the Nebraska Cornhuskers a year ago. They pulled off several upsets, including taking down ranked Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin teams, to earn an invite to the NCAA Tournament and making them a 4th-place pick in the Big Ten preseason rankings this time around.
But instead of sitting near the top of the conference ranks, the Cornhuskers are playing in the opening round of the Big Ten Men's Tournament. And not only are the 'Huskers playing in Round 1, they're underdogs in the matchup against the Penn State Nittany Lions.
Action in the Big Ten tourney gets underway Wednesday with the 4:30 PM (ET) battle between Nebraska and Penn State. ESPN2 will broadcast the contest from Chicago's United Center, the Nittany Lions opening as 2½ point chalk on the college basketball odds, the spread dropping by a point overnight.
The total has yet to be released, but we're expecting NCAA Basketball odds to open somewhere around 120 with two of the last three in this series never reaching the target.
PSU, NU Series All Level
The Lions and Cornhuskers met just once during the regular season, that contest taking place at University Park in early-February and resulting in a 56-43 Penn State victory. Favored by 4 on their home court, the Nittany Lions caught Nebraska at just the right time in its worst offensive performance of the Big Ten slate and limiting the 'Huskers to just 13 points in the opening half.
Nebraska managed to connect on just 2-of-20 from beyond the arc and offered little to no resistance on the glass as Penn State won the rebounding battle, 39-26. Geno Thorpe led all scorers with 14 points while also snatching three steals for the Nittany Lions.
The victory helped Penn State tie up the series with Nebraska, 5-5. The final score never got close to a 120½ point total after five of their first six meetings as conference opponents went 'over' the marks.
'Huskers Hit Windy City On 8-Game Skid
That defeat at Penn State started a tailspin for Nebraska (13-17 straight up, 8-17-2 against the spread) that continued through the end of the regular season schedule. The 8-game losing streak includes six spread defeats and left the Cornhuskers without a win on the Big Ten highway.
If there was any good news in that stretch, it was for 'over' bettors who cashed five times in Nebraska's final six games despite the 'Huskers being offensively challenged. Nebraska sits at the bottom of the conference averaging 57.1 PPG in league play, as well as the Big Ten's worst success rate from 3-point range (26.5%).
12-1 Start Long Forgotten In Happy Valley
Penn State (16-15 SU, 13-15-1 ATS) didn't fare much better after beating Nebraska. The Nittany Lions went on to drop their next six games, four of those to ranked teams.
Patrick Chambers' crew came out of the gate strong with a 12-1 record on the non-conference slate before going 4-14 in the Big Ten. Penn State is led by DJ Newbill who averages 20,7 PPG and scored in double figures all but once this season, a 3-point performance at Northwestern on February 21 that stopped a 36-game double-digit streak for the senior guard.
Definitely one of those games that is tough to get excited for either team, but yeah, I'll bite on the Nittany Lions winning by a bucket or more for my free NCAA Basketball pick.
My pick: Penn State -1.5
Season: 67-58-2 (+3.2)