Drake Bulldogs vs. Northern Iowa Panthers Preview and Pick

Drake Bulldogs (22-2) -2.5, N/A O/U at Northern Iowa Panthers (3-6)
+2.5, N/A O/U, McLeod Center, Cedar Falls, Iowa, 2 PM Eastern, Saturday

by Badger of Predictem.com

Now that their 21-game winning streak is history, how exactly will
the 14th-ranked Drake Bulldogs respond when they face another tough
test versus Missouri Valley Conference foe Northern Iowa in the
McLeod Center on Saturday?

Drake lost for just the second time this season on Wednesday when
Southern Illinois slipped past them, 65-62. Prior to the loss the
Bulldogs dodged several close calls, including a three-point win at
Illinois State last week, a one-point win at Bradley back on January
16th, and a narrow four-point victory over this same Northern Iowa
team at home in Des Moines back on January 26th.

Northern Iowa is like most college basketball teams, solid at home
but suspect on the road. But they havent been playing their best
basketball lately. The Panthers needed a 3-pointer by senior Adam
Viet at the buzzer on Wednesday to sneak past Wichita State, 77-75,
in overtime. The thrilling win ended a mini two-game slid, with
lopsided losses to Missouri State (71-54) and Creighton (74-50) on
the road the week before.

Most offshore sportsbooks opened the game with Drake as a 2.5-point
favorite. As of press time there is no total listed, but expect it to
be around the 110 to 120 range.

Drake has gotten this far with an impressive balanced attack on
offense (73.2 ppg), with Josh Young (16.0 ppg), Leonard Houston (14.3
ppg) and Jonathan Cox (11.8 ppg) all averaging in double digits in
scoring. Senior point guard Adam Emmenecker is clearly the straw that
stirs the drink though, as his leadership and all-around game (7.2
ppg, 4.4. rpg, 5.8 apg) is the key to the Bulldogs attack.

Northern Iowa shot extremely well in their last game out, connecting
on 10-of-19 from 3-point range (52.6 percent), but that is typical of
the Panthers at home in the McLeod Center. The Panthers have averaged
68.5 points in their seven MVC home games, while just 54.8 points in
their seven road games in the MVC.

Eric Coleman is the Panthers on offense. The senior center notched
his 11th double-double of the season versus Wichita State with 14
points and 11 rebounds, and leads the team in every offensive
category except blocks (11.6 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 56.4 FG%, 1.8 apg).

It sounds like a broken record, but defensively is where this game
will be decided. Drake allows just 60.3 points per game (21st in
NCAA) and makes opponents work for every point they can get. Northern
Iowa is even better though, allowing just 59.9 points a contest (17th).

The key number to this game is 70. The Panthers have only allowed 70
points to be scored on them four times, and theyve lost three of
those games, so if Drake can get close to their scoring average it
will most likely spell doom for Northern Iowa.

Drake has won three straight games in this matchup, including the
earlier game this season. Prior to that the Panthers have owned the
head-to-head series taking 10 out of 15. The Panthers covered the
number in the game earlier this season too, as Drake was an 8.5-point
favorite at home. Drake however sports a 5-2 ATS record in the last
seven head-to-head.

Drake is also one of the best bets this season, with a 15-4-1 ATS
record so far, a 7-2 ATS record in their last nine Saturday games,
and a 7-2-1 ATS record on the road.

Northern Iowa on the other hand is just slightly above average at
12-10 ATS this season, and a disappointing 6-13 ATS in their last 19
home games. After covering the spread in five straight games in
January and early February, the Panthers have failed to cover in
their last three games overall.

However, it is worth noting that Northern Iowa does seem to have a
knack for knocking off ranked teams at home. The Panthers have won
their last six games at home versus ranked teams including then-24th-
ranked Bucknell in 2006, a then 15th-ranked Southern Illinois in 2004
(also snapped the Salukis 16-game win streak), and a then 10th-ranked
Iowa in 1997.

Badgers Pick: The charm is off the Bulldogs now, as their unreal
run of 21 straight ended earlier this week. Dont look now, but they
will end up with their first losing streak of the season after this
game. Northern Iowa has a knack for playing and winning at home, and
this is by far the biggest game of the season for them. Take the home
dog to bark. Take Northern Iowa and the points.