March 1, 2018
By Brian Edwards
Editor's note: Brian Edwards went 5-0 last night in college hoops to improve to 15-5 (75.0%, +9.57 Units) since Feb. 22. He owns a 40-24-1 record (62.5%, +14.4 Units) on his guaranteed plays since Dec. 8, so don't miss out on tonight's pay-if-it-wins-only selection!
**Northwestern vs. Penn State**
-- This is a 7/10 showdown in the second round of the 2018 Big Ten Tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York City. As of early this morning, most betting shops had seventh-seeded Penn State (19-12 straight up, against the spread) listed as a 5.5-point favorite. The winner will advance to face second-seeded Ohio State in Friday’s quarterfinals.
-- PSU is led by sophomore guard Tony Carr, who was a consensus first-team All-Big Ten selection after leading the league in scoring with a 20.1 points-per-game average. Carr has also led the Nittany Lions in assists (4.8 APG), 3-point accuracy (45.8%) and free-throw percentage (81.2%). Lamar Stevens is averaging 15.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocked shots per game, while Mike Watkins averages 12.1 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.3 blocked shots per game. Watkins, who was ‘questionable’ due to a knee injury as of early this morning, has been limited to 14 minutes of playing time in his team’s past three contests. He sat out Sunday’s loss at Nebraska.
-- Penn State is No. 87 in the RPI Rankings, posting a 2-3 record against the RPI Top 25, a 2-5 mark versus the Top 50 and a 4-8 ledger against the Top 100. PSU swept the season series from Ohio State, the No. 18 team in the RPI, but its only other Top-100 wins came at home over Nebraska and Maryland. The Nittany Lions also have a home win over a solid mid-major in Montana (#102 RPI). They have four bad losses: vs. Wisconsin, at Indiana, vs. Minnesota and at Northwestern.
-- Pat Chambers’s team lost 76-64 Sunday in Lincoln and the final score was misleading as to how lopsided this matchup was. After winning four straight games and six of seven, PSU has dropped three in a row heading into Gotham. Carr scored 27 points against the Cornhuskers, who led 34-17 at intermission and didn’t allow the Nittany Lions to get closer than 12 the rest of the way.
-- Penn State has played a pair of neutral-court games this year, beating Pittsburgh 85-54 and losing 98-87 to Texas A&M.
-- Northwestern (15-16 SU, 11-17 ATS) limps to the Big Apple sporting a six-game losing streak. Chris Collins’s team dropped a 77-70 decision in Sunday’s regular-season finale at Iowa. Scottie Lindsey tied a school record with nine 3-pointers in a career-best 32-point effort, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the Wildcats from falling to 1-5 ATS in their past six contests. Lindsey made 10-of-14 field goals and 9-of-11 from downtown. Barret Benson finished with eight points 10 rebounds, three blocked shots, two assists and one steal.
-- Northwestern is No. 161 in the RPI with its 1-5 record vs. the Top 25, a 1-7 ledger against the Top 50 and a 2-11 mark versus the Top 100. The Wildcats’ only wins of note came at home over Michigan and Penn State.
-- Northwestern’s Vic Law is ‘out’ with a foot injury. Law is averaging 12.0 points and 5.8 rebounds. Bryant McIntosh, who recently missed two games with a shoulder injury, will play through the pain but isn’t at 100 percent. McIntosh averages 12.0 points and 5.1 assists per game. Also, Gavin Skelly (6.1 PPG, 4.0 RPG) is ‘questionable’ due to an undisclosed injury.
-- Lindsey (15.3 PPG) is the Wildcats’ leading scorer who is making 36.5 percent of his 3-balls and 82.5 percent of his free throws. Derek Pardon (11.2 PPG) leads Collins’s unit in rebounding (7.1 RPG), FG percentage (62.3%) and blocks (1.8 BPG).
-- When these teams met in Evanston on Jan. 29, Northwestern captured a 70-61 win as a three-point home ‘chalk.’ The Wildcats finished the game on a 15-2 run in the final six-plus minutes of play. The 131 combined points dipped ‘under’ the 137.5-poin total. The winners were led by Law, who tallied 18 points and five rebounds. Lindsey scored 13 points and grabbed five boards, while Pardon had 12 points, four rebounds and three assists without a turnover. Shep Garner scored a game-high 22 points for PSU on 6-of-11 accuracy from long distance.
-- The first meeting of the year went down on Jan. 5, with Penn State winning 78-63 as a 5.5-point home favorite. The 141 combined points jumped ‘over’ the 136.5-point tally. Stevens had 30 points for the Nittany Lions, who got 18 points, 17 rebounds and four rejections out of Watkins. Carr added 12 points, four boards and five assists compared to only one turnover. McIntosh was Northwestern’s only player in double figures with 18 points, as he drained 4-of-6 from 3-point land.
-- The ‘over’ is 7-3 in the past 10 head-to-head meetings in this rivalry.
-- The ‘over’ has hit in three consecutive games for PSU, but the ‘under’ has cashed at a 14-13 overall clip.
-- The ‘under’ is 17-11 overall for the Wildcats even though they’ve seen the ‘over’ cash in three straight games and four of their last five.
-- Tip-off is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Eastern on the Big Ten Network.
**Western Kentucky at Middle Tennessee**
-- If you’re looking to scout a pair of potential Cinderella stories in the NCAA Tournament, search no further than tonight’s Conference USA showdown in Murfreesboro. As of early this morning, most spots had Middle Tennessee (23-5 SU, 15-10 ATS) as a 4.5-point home favorite.
-- Kermit Davis’s club has won outright in 10 of its 11 home games, posting a 6-3 spread record. MT is 3-1 both SU and ATS in four games as a single-digit ‘chalk.’
-- Middle Tennessee has won 10 consecutive games while producing a 7-3 ATS record, including three straight spread covers. The Blue Raiders are off a 79-54 win over UAB as a seven-point home favorite. Nick King led the way with 22 points and six rebounds, while Giddy Potts added 17 points, six boards and three assists. Potts buried 5-of-9 launches from 3-point land. Brandon Walters finished with 16 points in only 14 minutes of action.
-- When these teams met on Jan. 20 in Bowling Green, KY., Middle Tennessee captured a 66-62 win as a 5.5-point road underdog. The 128 combined points stayed ‘under’ the 140.5-point total. King dropped 28 points on the Hilltoppers by making 11-of-21 field-goal attempts. King also pulled down nine rebounds, while Potts scored 16 points. Dwight Coleby had 19 points and three blocked shots in the losing effort.
-- Middle Tennessee is No. 28 in the RPI Rankings and No. 24 in the latest Associated Press Top 25. The Blue Raiders are winless in a pair of games against RPI Top-25 opponents and three games versus Top-50 foes. They’re 3-4 against the Top 100, registering victories at WKU, at Murray State and at Old Dominion. Davis’s team went 2-1 against the SEC, winning at Vanderbilt and at home over Ole Miss. MT took three-neutral court losses to Auburn, USC and Miami, in addition to a home setback vs. Belmont and road defeat at Marshall.
-- King leads Middle Tennessee in scoring (21.5 PPG) and rebounding (8.3 RPG), while Potts is averaging 13.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. King is a grad transfer from Alabama who started his career at Memphis. He has enjoyed a breakout season with MT, scoring 25 points or more 10 times and breaking double figures in 28 of 29 games. King has five double-doubles in the Raiders’ last seven outings.
-- Western Kentucky (22-7 SU, 18-9 ATS) is No. 54 in the RPI with its 1-1 record against the RPI Top 25, a 1-2 mark versus the Top 50 and a 4-3 ledger against the Top 100. The Hilltoppers had a strong showing at the Battle for Atlantis in the Bahamas over the Thanksgiving holidays. They defeated Purdue and SMU (when the Mustangs were at full strength) after losing 66-58 to Villanova in the opening round.
-- Western Ky. has won six straight games and has taken the cash in four consecutive contests. I backed the Hilltoppers as 3.5-point home favorites vs. Old Dominion on Saturday, and that was an easy winner. They raced out to a 16-point first-half lead, led by as many as 23 and coasted to an 88-66 triumph. Taveion Hollingsworth scored a game-high 20 points on 8-of-13 FGAs, while Darius Thompson stuffed the stat sheet with 11 points, six rebounds, two blocked shots, one steal and eight assists compared to just two turnovers. Justin Johnson finished with 19 points and 11 boards.
-- Western Ky. is 14-2 in C-USA play and can pull into a first-place tie with Middle Tennessee by picking up a road win tonight. WKU is 7-3 both SU and ATS in 10 true road assignments this year.
-- Rick Stansbury’s squad has an excellent blend of talent led by Johnson, a senior forward who paces the team in scoring (14.8 PPG), rebounding (9.4 RPG) and 3-point accuracy (41.7%). Thompson shares team-best scoring honors (14.8 PPG) with Johnson and dishes out a team-high 4.9 assists per game. Thompson, a grad transfer from Virginia, has a 143/51 assists-to-turnover ratio and averages 4.7 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. Hollingsworth, who is averaging 13.6 points PPG and nailing 40.3 percent of his treys, is a freshman guard who was Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball at Dunbar High School. Meanwhile, the 6’9” Coleby (11.9 PPG, 8.1 RPG & 1.8 BPG) is a grad transfer from Kansas.
-- The ‘under ‘is 13-12-2 overall for the ‘Tops, but they’ve seen the ‘over’ go 6-4 in their road outings. Also, the ‘over’ is 4-1 in WKU’s past five games.
-- The ‘under’ is 18-7 overall for the Blue Raiders, 7-2 in its home games. However, the ‘over’ is on a 4-2 run in their past six contests.
-- The CBS Sports Network will have the broadcast at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
-- My picks went 5-0 last night with winners on Nevada, Providence, Clemson, Seton Hall and the South Carolina-LSU ‘over.’
-- Nevada’s Caleb Martin is nasty. Dude reminds me of Kenyon Martin with the ability to dribble and shoot deep 3’s.
-- Georgia’s Mark Fox left three timeouts in his pocket like a knucklehead in last night’s crushing 61-60 home loss to Texas A&M. Admon Gilder’s 3-pointer with 1:12 remaining sliced UGA’s lead to 60-59, and then the Bulldogs’ true freshman point guard Teshaun Hightower turned the ball over. Eleven seconds later, A&M went back in front by one on T.J. Starks’s short jumper. With the Aggies heading to the free throw line for a front end with 12 ticks remaining, Fox could’ve called a timeout to ice the shooter and instruct his team on how to proceed in the event of a make or a miss (or both) and still had two timeouts left to burn. Whatever the case, you want to make a million-percent sure that star senior Yante Maten gets the ball on the final possession. Remember, Maten made a pair of deep 3’s in the final 16 seconds of regulation to force overtime in an improbable win at Florida on Valentine’s Day. When A&M missed, Maten rebounded and threw an outlet pass to Hightower, who rushed up the court and nearly lost the ball with eight seconds left. At this point as the possession was going nowhere, Fox could’ve instructed his players to call timeout. Then Hightower passed to Juwan Parker on the wing right in front of UGA’s bench. Parker was double-teamed and in panic mode. Maten was on the other side of the court at the 3-point line open. Parker hurriedly forced a wild shot that had no chance. A&M rebounded, the clock ran out and Fox was left to blame nobody but himself for a gut-wrenching defeat.
-- Florida head coach Mike White said earlier this week that John Egbunu, who tore his ACL on Valentine’s Day of 2017 and hasn’t been able to play yet this year, tried to practice late last week. However, his “knee began swelling up immediately,” according to White. His return this year seems highly doubtful at this point. It’s unclear whether Egbunu will seek a waiver from the NCAA for a sixth season, though he’d probably have a decent chance at getting it. He sat out one season via transfer rules (from South Florida) and has obviously missed all of 2017-18 (so far).
-- George Mason’s Ian Boyd made his third-game winning bucket of the season last night when he tipped in a teammate’s miss to lift his team to an 81-80 win at VCU. The sophomore guard averages modest numbers (8.1 PPG, 4.5 RPG) but knows how to come through in the clutch.
-- As of Wednesday afternoon, Tulsa guard Sterling Taplin was ‘questionable’ for Thursday’s game against East Carolina due to an ankle injury. Taplin averages 12.0 points, 4.4 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.0 steals per game.
-- UTSA’s Jhivvan Jackson is ‘out’ for the rest of the season with a knee injury. Jackson was averaging 18.4 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.0 steals per game for the Roadrunners.
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.
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