Penn State vs Northwestern Odds & Prediction: Why to Bet Nittany Lions

Penn State vs Northwestern Odds & Prediction: Why to Bet Nittany Lions article feature image

David Berding/Getty Images. Pictured: Jalen Pickett

Penn State vs Northwestern Odds

Wednesday, March 1
9 p.m. ET
Big Ten Network
Penn State Odds
-115o / -105u
Northwestern Odds
-115o / -105u
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute college basketball odds here.

Penn State travels on the road to Evanston, Ill., to take on Northwestern in a game that is vitally important for seeding in the Big Ten Tournament.

Penn State was on its way to a fourth-straight win in conference play last time out until it blew a 19-point second half lead against Rutgers. The Nittany Lions are now 9-11 in Big Ten play and need to win out to get at least one bye in the conference tournament.

Northwestern was flying high and got all the way up to second in the Big Ten before falling back down to earth, losing on the road to Illinois and Maryland. The Wildcats, much like Penn State, need to win out to get a double bye in the Big Ten Tournament.

Penn State Nittany Lions

Offensively, Penn State is one of the more odd teams in college basketball.

It does an unbelievable job taking care of the ball, as it's the No. 1 team in the country in turnover percentage allowed. The Nittany Lions are ninth in effective field goal percentage and 14th in adjusted offensive efficiency, per KenPom, but have the lowest offensive rebounding percentage and free-throw rate in the entire country.

That means the Nittany Lions' offense is incredibly reliant on not only getting high-quality shots, but making them, as well. The Nittany Lions' shot selection is actually quite terrible, ranking 359th, per Shot Quality.

They are a top-10 shot-making team, but usually when a squad isn't getting high-quality shots, it's not getting second-chance opportunities. However, they are facing a Northwestern defense that is outside the top 300 in shot making allowed.

Penn State does have one of the best defenses in the Big Ten, though. It does an incredible job at not only forcing teams into difficult shots, but also defending the rim at an incredibly high rate. The Nittany Lions are top 10 in PPP allowed at the rim and shot selections allowed.

Penn State is also really good at defending screens, which is huge against Northwestern. The Nittany Lions are eighth in the country in PPP allowed off pick & roll sets and 26th in PPP allowed off of off-ball screens. Northwestern is a top 10 frequency team offensively in both of those areas.

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Northwestern Wildcats

Northwestern was at one point one of the more underrated teams in college basketball, but now is firmly on the radar.

The Wildcats do two things very well offensively: They attack the rim at an elite level and they run a ton of pick-and-roll. Northwestern is 15th in the country in PPP at the rim and has the ninth highest pick-and-roll frequency in the country — although it's only 169th in PPP in that set, per ShotQuality.

Northwestern also does a fantastic job spacing the floor and getting the best shot possible, but that really only applies to field goal attempts inside the arc.

As you can see below, Northwestern is 354th in open 3-point rate, which is a problem because during Big Ten play, 42% of its 3-point attempts are coming from behind the arc.

Image via ShotQuality

Northwestern is getting to the free-throw line at the second highest rate during Big Ten play, but Penn State is top 50 in the country at preventing teams from getting to the free-throw line.

Northwestern's defense has been running pretty well this season. It's up to 25th in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, per KenPom, but it's ninth in that same category during conference play.

One of the main advantages Northwestern has had defensively is it turns opponents over at a top 25 rate. That's not going to happen against Penn State.

Penn State vs Northwestern Betting Pick

This is a good buy-low spot for Penn State, which is coming off blowing that huge lead against Rutgers on Sunday. The Nittany Lions defensively will be able to neutralize Northwestern's main advantages on offense, especially given their ability to defend the pick & roll.

Northwestern is coming off of back-to-back road losses to Illinois and Maryland, but the regression indicators are still signaling the Wildcats heading in the negative direction rather than positive.

So, I like the value on Penn State on the road at +3.5 and would play it down to +1.

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