The seventh-seeded Northwestern Wildcats (21-11) battle the tenth-seeded Boise State Broncos (24-9) in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament. Winner of the West Region matchup advances to the Round of 32 to face the winner of the #2 UCLA vs. #15 UNC Asheville.
Thursday’s contest tips off at 7:35 p.m. EST inside the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. Northwestern is a one-point favorite and the over/under total is 127.5 points.
What to Know – #10 Boise State Broncos
Boise State represents the Mountain West Conference where the Broncos finished the regular season in tie for second place. The Broncos fell in the semifinals of the conference tournament to Utah State in a 72-62 loss. Boise State sits 29th in the NET ranking and had the 26th toughest schedule.
Offensively, Boise State was sixth in the conference in scoring 72.2 points per game while hitting 45.5% of its shots from the field and 36.5% from the 3-point line. On defense, the Broncos ranked second in the MWC limiting foes 64.3 ppg, 41.3% from the floor and 30.9% from deep.
Five players average in double figures for the Broncos, led by forward Tyson Degenhart. The sophomore was second in the conference shooting 53.7% from the field.
The Broncos went 16-14-2 against the spread during regular season play and 4-2 in games played at a neutral site. Boise State is 2-8-1 ATS over its last 11 contests coming into the tournament.
What to Know – #7 Northwestern Wildcats
The Wildcats posted one of their best seasons under ninth-year head coach Chris Collins. Northwestern eclipsed the 20-win mark for the third time in a decade. The NET ranking has the Wildcats ranked 41st with the 74th rated strength of schedule.
The Wildcats offense was 12th in the Big 10, scoring 67.7 ppg behind 40.6% shooting from the floor and 32.1% from three. Northwestern’s defense made up for the lack of offense, finishing second in the conference surrendering 62.5 ppg, 41.2% shooting from the field, and 33.9% from beyond the arc.
Seniors Boo Buie (17.1 ppg) and Chase Audige (13.8 ppg) combined to score nearly half the Wildcats points. Sophomore Brooks Barnhizer has emerged as an additional scoring threat, eclipsing double figures in the last six games.
Northwestern owns a 19-13 record ATS with a 2-1 record at neutral locations. The Wildcats are 1-4 ATS over their previous five games.
The Pick is In
Boise State and Northwestern both possess strong defenses (14th and 13th in KenPom), but the Wildcats lack of offense is a concern. All five of the Broncos starters can step and score, creating a tough matchup for the Wildcats to gameplan for on a short week.
There are a lot of intriguing matchups in the first round where the higher seed has just as good of a chance of winning as their opponent. This one is one of those, and we believe the Broncos get it done.
The Pick: Boise State Broncos +1