The Iona Gaels and Alabama Crimson Tide are unbeaten, which makes for a fantastic contest at HP Field House on Thanksgiving Day.
Bettors will be hoping for some extra HP sauce on their turkey and the value could be with the Gaels, who are double-digit underdogs with NCAA basketball odds.
Alabama brings a power-packed lineup, so it won’t be an easy cover.
Alabama Riding Hot Start
The Alabama Crimson Tide are 4-0 after beating some low-level teams. They easily handled the likes of Louisiana Tech, South Dakota State, and Oakland, but the narrow win over South Alabama is a worry.
They scored 73-68 despite starting as a 20½-point favorite. South Alabama isn’t much in the way of opposition and the Gaels will present a much harder challenge.
Alabama did respond by beating the Oakland Golden Grizzlies by 26 points as a -16½ favorite, but there could be doubt in the mind of the Alabama players.
Offense has been the cornerstone of the team. It averages 89 points per game and allows 69.8. The numbers could be conflated due to the strength of schedule, but its quality players are stepping up to the mark.
Jaden Shackelford is averaging 19.5 points per game and he hasn’t been shooting at a high percentage. If Shackelford and Keon Ellis can improve their efficiency, they could mature into some of college basketball’s finest.
Another player stepping up is J.D. Davison, who has impressed coach Nate Oats.
“His effort was — I mean, you saw him flying for rebounds,” Oats told Sports Illustrated. “He was our leading rebounder. I think he and Noah tied at seven. I think when he’s playing hard, flying around, he looks great. He’s attacking the rim.
“The more we can get out in transition, the better he’s gonna look. You lose yourself in the game with all the effort stuff, and the offense just kinda flows.”
We’re not surprised the sportsbook has Alabama at -12. It has moved into the top 10 in the rankings, so it should beat Iona, but covering the spread is a different story.
Alabama could struggle to cover double-digit lines against teams like Iona, which is an underrated outfit. They won by 13 points during the NCAA Tournament last season, so it was close to the current spread.
Gaels are Worth Following
Just because the Iona Gaels are not a high-profile team doesn’t mean bettors can’t make money.
They are 5-0 overall and 4-1 against the spread. The only spread loss came in overtime against Harvard when failing to cover the 9½ number. However, they responded by covering against Hofstra, Liberty, and North Alabama.
We rate the win over Liberty highly, and although they scored only 54 points, keeping the Flames to 50 points is a testament to their attitude.
The Gaels are led by Nelly Junior Joseph, who might not be a household name, but he’s getting the job done. Joseph leads the team with 16.6 PPG and 7.2 rebounds. He is shooting 56.3% from the field and the power could dominate in the paint against Alabama.
The Crimson Tide are an outside shooting team, so he shouldn’t get too tired on defense. That will allow him to run to the paint and set up shop for most of the game.
Betting online markets aren’t giving Iona much credit, and although it’s a tough game to win, it could cover the big spread.
Alabama vs Iona Pick
We can’t turn down the Iona Gaels +12 in this situation. They have been playing excellent basketball and deserve their chance against a top 10 side.
Alabama is the better team and will likely post a better record, but covering big spreads has never been its forte. We expect this game to come down to the final few possessions, and with 12 points up our sleeve, we are confident with the pick.