Two Totals Picks Top Light, Exam-Week Hoops Card Thursday

Burch Manning

Jay Pryce

Thursday, December 14, 2017 1:23 PM GMT

Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017 1:23 PM GMT

Books are listing just four matchups on the college basketball oddsboard Thursday night. Blame it on being exam week. SBR has each one covered with free picks, expert analysis, and predictions. Here are our best bets for the Valparaiso-Northwestern and South Dakota-Northern Arizona matchups.

Valparaiso vs Northwestern (-9.5)

Northwestern (6-4 SU, 3-5 ATS) hammered cross-city foe Chicago State 96-31 on Monday, the 65-point win the largest in program history. The victory was a jolt of confidence for a Wildcats squad underachieving to begin the season. They were ranked in the preseason AP Top-25 before crashing out with losses to Creighton and Texas Tech in the first week of competition.

Head coach Chris Collins returns four starters from a team that reached the NCAA Tournament last season for the first time in 60-plus years. The quartet, senior guard Scottie Lindsey (15.8 ppg), senior guard Bryant McIntosh (13.85 ppg), junior forward Vic Law (13.7 ppg) and junior center Derek Pardon (1.7 ppg), average double figures in scoring.

Valparaiso (8-2 SU, 5-2 ATS) enter Allstate Arena having dropped its last two games after a red-hot 8-0 start. It lost to Ball State 71-70 last Saturday, but without leading scorer Tevonn Walker (16.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg) who missed out due to illness. Defense is the team’s strength, ranking 39th in adjusted efficiency per KenPom. The Crusaders excel defending the perimeter. Their 27.1 opponent 3-point percentage against Division I competition ranks eighth nationally.

The Wildcats held Chicago State to an astonishing 20 percent shooting from the floor last time out. Strong defense is typically the catalyst for victory for the Cats under Collins, particularly against overmatched foes. Since taking over coaching duties, Northwestern is 34-5 SU (16-15 ATS) on its home hardwood versus non-conference opponents. It yields a 38.1 percent opponent field goal percentage.

Valpo is 0-9 SU and 2-5-1 ATS in the last decade against Big Ten opponents. They have not reached their projected team total in any, shooting a dismal 34.8 percent from the floor. It has also lost by double digits in all but two. Expect a rough night offensively. The Crusaders will be lucky to hit 60 points. Pick ‘under’ 141.5 as your best bet.

Free NCAAB Pick: Under 141.5Best Line Offered: at JustBet

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South Dakota (-11.5) vs Northern Arizona

South Dakota (9-3 SU, 6-2 ATS) is laying the most points (-11.5) ever for a Summit League team on the road versus a Big Sky representative when it travels to Rolle Activity Center to take on North Arizona (2-8 SU, 3-4 ATS) Thursday. Oddsmakers opened the rare matchup with a 14.5-point spread, bet down to its status in early trading.

The Coyotes are off to their best start in the D-I era, winning four of its last five games. They lost but handily covered the spread against then-No. 1 Duke (96-80, +23) and TCU (76-71, +17.5) in their two toughest games this season. The team is balanced on both ends of the court, ranking 120th in offensive adjusted efficiency and 92nd defensively.

The Lumberjacks, meanwhile, have won two of their last three following an uber-tough schedule with dates against Arizona, Arizona State and Kansas State to open the year. They’ve played the 22nd toughest schedule in the country. Offense is the biggest issue for a program that is 16-55 SU since 2014. It ranks 343rd out of 351 teams in efficiency and has put up more than 70 points once this season. The bunch gets to the line often, however, attempting 254 free throw attempts (33rd).

This is just the sixth game South Dakota will tip off road chalk since head coach Craig Smith assumed control in 2014. They are 4-1 SU and ATS prior. The ‘over’ has hit in four of five as well with the Coyotes sailing over their projected team total in each. Both teams play at an above average tempo (53, 111) and with plenty of stoppages due to Northern Arizona’s ability to get to the charity stripe, look for this to soar over a 145.5 total.

Free NCAAB Pick: Over 145.5Best Line Offered: at Heritage

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