Northern Illinois Our Sharp NCAA Basketball Pick vs. Eastern Michigan

LT Profits Sports Group

Tuesday, March 1, 2016 4:32 PM UTC

Tuesday, Mar. 1, 2016 4:32 PM UTC

In a big game in regards to seeding for the MAC Tournament, the Northern Illinois Huskies have a chance to shake off their road woes while visiting the Eastern Michigan Eagles.


The road underdogs appear to hold some value in Tuesday night MAC action when those Northern Illinois Huskies (19-10, 13-10-1 ATS) seek their 20th win of the season as they pay a visit to the Eastern Michigan Eagles (15-14, 10-12 ATS), who are trying to stay above .500 overall, at the Convocation Center in Ypsilanti, MI at 7:00 ET in a game available on ESPN3.

The point spread at Heritage has Northern Illinois as a moderate road underdog for this contest with the current line at +6 on the NCAA Basketball odds board at odds of -110.


Every Game Big in the MAC
The MAC Tournament is coming up next week, and the seeding for that tournament remains up in the air as only three games separates the top seed from the eighth seed at this moment! Thus, every game is critical this final week of the conference season.

Northern Illinois has the better overall NCAA Basketball picks record overall here at 19-10 as it seeks its 20th win, but the Huskies are only 8-8 inside the MAC and are entering this game as the seventh seed in the conference. The Huskies still have an outside shot at a four-seed though, which would mean a first round bye, if they win their last two games and get some help.

Eastern Michigan may be just one game over .500 overall at 15-14, but the Eagles are just one game behind Northern Illinois in conference at 7-9 as they enter as the ninth seed. However, the Eagles still have a chance to finish as high as the sixth seed, but they have to win their last two games to have that opportunity.


Seeking Just Second MAC Road Win
Northern Illinois has actually been outstanding at home this season as the Huskies are 16-1 when playing at DeKalb! Unfortunately they are on the road here and the highway has not been kind to them as they are just 3-9 in true road games including 1-7 on the road inside the MAC. In fact, NIU has lost seven straight road games since winning its first road conference game at Toledo.

On top of that, the Huskies have sputtered going 3-7 since starting out 5-1 in MAC play. However, we feel that slump combined with the road troubles is actually giving Northern Illinois some value here with this line, as the Huskies still appear to be the better team on paper with the superior defense. As the old adage says, “Defense wins championships,” and we will gladly take the points with the better defense in such a critical game that may have a tournament feel to it.


Rebounding Dominance
Besides, Northern Illinois should be able to destroy Eastern Michigan on the offensive glass here, and all of those second-chance opportunities for the Huskies should add up nicely.

You see, only one team in the entire country allows more second chances than Eastern Michigan, which is ranked 350th out of 351 Division I teams in defensive rebounding percentage due to usually playing four players smaller than 6-foot-10. That weakness gets compounded here by Northern Illinois being so good on the offensive glass, ranking a respectable 69th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage at 32.9 percent vs. a national average of 29.8 percent.

Granted tonight is Senior Night in Ypsilanti, but even that loses a lot of significance here with Eastern Michigan being such a young team with only two seniors on the roster, and with only one of them in starting forward Brandon Nazione being a significant contributor. Thus, EMU does not expect to have the emotional edge that a more experienced team may have on Senior Night, so this contest should come down to which team is more talented.


An Underdog Series
Finally, the underdogs have been great investments in this head-to-head series as they are still 7-1 ATS in the last eight meetings even after Northern Illinois covered the point spread as a scant 1½-point favorite in the first meeting this year. Also, Northern Illinois is 30-14-4 ATS in its last 48 MAC games and 7-3 ATS its last 10 games following an ATS win, while Eastern Michigan is 7-19 ATS in its last 26 games vs. teams with a winning percentage above .600.

While we could appreciate that Northern Illinois has struggled on the road, we think that is offset here by the Huskies’ expected offensive rebounding dominance and by the struggles of Eastern Michigan when facing better teams, so take the points with NIU visiting Ypsilanti on Tuesday.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Northern Illinois +5
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle

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