The cream of the crop of the Big Ten come into the fold off a double bye when Northwestern battles it out against Penn State. While the public would think Northwestern should win with ease due to seeding, oddsmakers actually opened Penn State as a -0.5 favorite. Tired legs may be an issue for a jump shooting team, as well as having to go against a ferocious defense in the Wildcats. Because of that, Northwestern should have the advantage and get the decisive win on the moneyline.
Penn State Vs. Northwestern Prediction
The narrow spread actually came as a surprise to me as Northwestern poses as a bad matchup for the Nittany Lions. Especially on the defensive end, a unit that ranks 19th in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency per Kenpom. They specialize in smothering opposing jump shots, holding opposing offenses to an Effective Field Goal Percentage of 48.4%. That percentage is good for 81st in the nation per TeamRankings.
When it comes to limiting Penn State, then Northwestern will need to keep excelling in their defensive identity of covering jump shooters as Penn State is a lethal shooting unit. The Nittany Lions play at a slow methodical pace, ranked 324th in Adjusted Tempo. Their offensive identity is built on running off ball screens at the perimeter and burying opponents from deep. They shoot the three at a hyper efficient rate, connecting from deep at 38.9%.
While that three-point percentage is certainly unsettling, Northwestern is more than equipped to combat against it as Penn State’s style of offense plays right into the Wildcats hands. Like the Nittany Lions, Northwestern also prefers a sluggish pace as they clock in at 304th in Adjusted Tempo. Getting to maintain your pace of play on the defensive end helps with limiting Penn State’s style of play as you can establish your halfcourt defense instead of scrambling in a track meet.
By avoiding getting burned in transition, Northwestern can plug their gaps by settling on the defensive end. When settled, it’s easier to make up the ground when Penn State runs off their screens, getting a hand in the open shooter’s face. When Penn State fails to connect from deep at a consistent rate, their offense is then prone to scoring lulls as second chance opportunities are non-existent as a poor rebounding unit.
Penn State Vs. Northwestern Prediction: Northwestern moneyline
Penn State Vs. Northwestern Odds
As mentioned earlier, oddsmakers actually opened the Nittany Lions as a -0.5 favorite after their recent win against the Fighting Illini. Bettors believe that was a mistake, quickly hammering the Wildcats down to -1.5 in some shops as of writing. They get the advantage of being well rested, as well as being more than equipped to handle the Penn State perimeter shooting. The Nittany Lions are also a poor defensive unit, giving the Wildcats an opportunity to find consistent scoring success.
Speaking of consistent scoring success, points are expected to be scored at a moderate pace as oddsmakers opened the total at 131.5. Correlated with the spread movement, bettors are backing the idea of Northwestern’s defense shutting down the Nittany Lions offense and are taking the total down to 130.5 as of writing. The expected pace of the game also plays towards the under backers’ hands as both units rank 300th or slower in Adjusted Tempo. With a slow pace comes a limited quantity of possessions.
Penn State Vs. Northwestern Key Matchups
Boo Buie vs Penn State defense
Northwestern’s offense doesn’t exactly strike fear in opposing defenses hearts, ranking a lowly 103rd in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency. What does strike fear is Northwestern’s leading scorer Boo Buie who is one of the best scorers in the conference.
Boo Buie will once again have ample opportunities for scoring success as the Penn State defense struggles to contain opposing playmakers. Ranked 125th in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, Boo Buie should have little issue finding opportunities in his cuts to the rim, settling for a mid-range jump shot or attacking the basket.
When Buie attacks the interior, this shifts the defense towards him which allows Buie to connect to his open shooters should the interior get clogged. Boo Buie’s playmaking ability is a key reason why Northwestern should cover the spread in my Penn State Vs. Northwestern game prediction.
Back Northwestern at no higher than -2 as their defense should limit the Nittany Lions scoring, giving the Wildcats ample opportunities to put this away early.