Top College Basketball Picks for Sunday, January 17th, 2021

Top College Basketball Picks for Sunday, January 17th, 2021
Sat 16th January 2021

Iowa vs Northwestern 

The Iowa Hawkeyes and Northwestern Wildcats meet each other for the second time this season, and #5 Iowa will search for its sixth straight victory over Northwestern. Back on December 29, 2020, the Hawkeyes easily outlasted the Wildcats as 11.5-point home favorites, 87-72. 

While Luka Garza had a quiet night with 18 points on 6-for-14 from the field, Jordan Bohannon led the way for Iowa with 24 points, five boards, and five assists while making six of his nine attempts from deep. On the other side, Pete Nance had 21 points for the Wildcats who shot 44.0% from downtown but couldn’t keep it close.  

Northwestern started a four-game losing streak with that defeat at Iowa, and during their awful run, the Wildcats lost #16 Michigan 85-66, #12 Illinois 81-56, and #21 Ohio State 81-71. The Hawkeyes have won three straight games since then, defeating #14 Rutgers 77-75, Maryland 89-67, and #16 Minnesota 86-71. 

Iowa has improved slightly on the defensive end over the last two weeks. The Hawkeyes’ defensive rating is the 73rd-best in the country at the moment, as they surrender 96.1 points per 100 possessions. Iowa’s offensive rating of 123.5 points is the second-best in the nation, and the Hawkeyes shoot 48.8% from the field (33rd in the country). 

The Wildcats will be fired up to snap their skid, but they won’t have enough firepower to deal with Iowa’s offense. They allowed 80-plus points in four straight showings, and the Wildcats surrender 95.5 points per 100 possessions (65th) while tallying 108.6 in a return (63rd). 

Northwestern is 3-12 straight up and 4-11 ATS in its last 15 encounters with Iowa. 

College basketball pick – Iowa by 9. 

UCF vs Houston 

Houston has owned UCF over the last five years. The Cougars are 8-2 straight up and ATS in their previous ten matchups with the Knights, and Houston had no mercy in a 63-54 road victory over Central Florida on December 26, 2020, covering a 7.5-point spread. 

The Knights have dropped three straight contests, and everything started with that loss to Houston. They are coming off a 62-55 defeat at Temple, falling to 3-4 on the season and 1-3 in the American Athletic Conference play. 

UCF plays solid defense, allowing 95.5 points per 100 possessions (66th), but the Knights are scoring only 103.0 points in a return (141st). They will struggle mightily against the Cougars’ elite D that surrenders 88.6 points per 100 possessions (4th). 

The first meeting of the season between these two foes was a proper defensive battle. The Cougars shot 36.0% from the field and 28.0% from beyond the arc, but the Knights made 37.2% of their field goals and 15.4% of their 3-pointers. 

These numbers tell you a lot about the eventual outcome on Sunday, and backing the Cougars is a logical choice. Their offense is still 19th in the country, averaging 112.7 points per 100 possessions. Both Houston and UCF prefer to play at a slow pace, and we should get another low-scoring clash. 

The Cougars (10-1; 5-1 Conf.) are No. 11 in the AP Top 25 Poll and No. 6 in the latest NCAA NET Rankings. They are 8-1 straight up and 6-3 ATS over the last nine outings. Houston is undefeated in 17 straight outings on the home court, covering 11 times in the process. 

College basketball pick – Houston by 13. 

Virginia Tech vs Wake Forest 

The ACC showdown from Lawrence Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, will wrap up Sunday’s slate, and the #20 Virginia Tech Hokies will look to extend their dominance over the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. 

The Hokies have won seven of their last eight games against Wake Forest including the previous four. They are 7-2 ATS in the last nine encounters with the Demon Deacons, and the Hokies went 3-1 SU and 4-0 ATS through their previous four visits to Winston-Salem. 

Virginia Tech will look for its third straight win here after outlasting Notre Dame 77-63 and Duke 74-67 in its previous two outings. The Hokies are 10-2 overall and 4-1 in the conference play, sitting at the third spot of the ACC standings behind Louisville and Virginia. 

Wake Forest is on a four-game losing streak, dropping all four games in 2020. In their previous two showings, the Demon Deacons lost to Louisville 77-65 and at Duke 79-68, so they will have a mountain to climb against the Hokies, too. 

They rank outside of the top 100 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. On the other side, the Hokies are a top-50 team. Interestingly, the total has gone over in the previous 11 encounters between these two schools.  

College basketball pick – Virginia Tech by 7.

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