Friday College Basketball Odds, Picks & Predictions: Northwestern vs. Penn State Betting Preview
Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images. Pictured: Jalen Pickett (Penn State)
- Northwestern travels to Penn State in a battle between two teams at the bottom of the Big Ten.
- The Wildcats and Nittany Lions play at relatively slow tempos, and that will likely factor into value on the total.
- D.J. James explains in depth as to why he's backing the under.
Northwestern vs. Penn State Odds
-110o / -110u
|Penn State Odds|
-110o / -110u
In a duel at the bottom of the Big Ten, Northwestern will head to University Park, Pennsylvania to take on Penn State.
Penn State notched a win against Michigan State last week, while Northwestern has dropped three of its last four. NU has a tendency to play closely with teams — no matter the opponent — but since this game will take place on the road, look for Penn State to control the pace.
The Nittany Lions usually play slowly, so looking at the under would be wise for bettors.
Northwestern definitely plays at a quicker tempo than Penn State, and proved that when it lost to the Nittany Lions at home, 74-70, in early January.
Still, NU is sliding at the moment. The Wildcats’ go-to offense is the 3-pointer, as they have manufactured 34% of their total point distribution from distance this season. On the year, they are shooting 34.4% as a unit, but in Big Ten play, that number dwindles to 33.5%.
Pete Nance is a major part of this offensive attack. He leads the team in scoring at 15.1 points per game and shoots 43.8% from deep this season.
Penn State’s John Harrar is a strong defender, though, standing at 6-foot-9, and his capability to steal rebounds from opponents is virtually unmatched. In fact, he is almost averaging a double-double (points and rebounds), so Nance will have his hands full.
Northwestern is brutal when it comes to defending the perimeter, however. The Wildcats are allowing opponents to shoot 35.7% from 3 on the season, while Penn State has received a boost to its offense from 3 all year.
The Nittany Lions shoot 34.5% as a team, but 36.7% of their total points have come from beyond the arc. Seth Lundy, Jalen Pickett and Myles Dread all have over 100 3-point attempts each, so Boo Buie and Northwestern will need to change the narrative and guard them closely.
Penn State plays at such a slow pace. Per KenPom, the Nittany Lions rank 351st out of 358 NCAA teams in adjusted tempo. Much of this is due to their offensive attack, as they occupy 20.3 seconds per possession on average, ranking 353rd in the nation.
The Nittany Lions have an inability to get to the free throw line, as they rank 350th at getting to the strike. Although Northwestern ranks 309th in fouling, Penn State does not carry much of a height advantage, so this should not mean anything significant to the total.
Penn State does have a tendency to turn the ball over, though, and this could play into the under if Northwestern does not force any breakaway layups.
The Nittany Lions’ turnover rate is 19% on the season, so the Wildcats might be able to force some mistakes, seeing as they turn over the opposition on 19.9% of possessions this season.
Finally, Penn State is elite at defending inside. Much of this has to do with Harrar and his matchup, which as mentioned above should negate Nance’s impact on the game.
The Nittany Lions hold opponents to 45.2% on 2-pointers this season, so NU will not score much inside, especially with Nance removed from the equation.
Northwestern vs. Penn State Betting Pick
All of these signals point to an under in this underwhelming Big Ten battle.
Penn State will play at its tempo at home, forcing a slow, methodical pace. NU will not catch much of a rhythm, and since it has struggled in Big Ten play from beyond the arc — the main source of its offense — it will be tough to find open shots.
Penn State defends well on the interior, too, so this is another factor into a poor potential offensive performance from the Wildcats.
The struggles will not be limited to one side of the floor, though, as NU should force plenty of turnovers on the Nittany Lions’ behalf.
Play the under.
Pick: Under 128 (Play to 126)