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Northwestern vs Penn State Game Preview, Odds, Picks & Predictions

Northwestern Can Leapfrog Penn State

Most of the attention in the star-studded Big Ten Conference tends to focus on the teams at the top of the standings or of an occasional dust-up between coaches after games ,but Friday night’s Northwestern-Penn State matchup will give both teams to thrive.

The Nittany Lions and Wildcats are a combined 2-11 against ranked teams but 22-15 against unranked squads, so they will be in their comfort zone in this one.

Northwestern vs Penn State Game Preview, Odds, Picks & Predictions
Quinn Harris/Getty Images/AFP

Penn State could have the advantage based on its 9-4 home record while Northwestern is just 3-6 on the road.

With plenty of national championship contenders in the Big Ten leading to some lofty March Madness predictions for teams like Illinois, Purdue, Ohio State and Wisconsin, it is easy to overlook Northwestern and Penn State.

Nance Getting It Done for Northwestern

Pete Nance did a little bit of everything in leading Northwestern to a sweep of the season series with Nebraska.

The 6-foot-10 senior forward had a career-high four 3-pointers en route to scoring 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting. It was his sixth 20-point game of the season. Two of those efforts came against ranked opponents and another against a Providence team that is currently sitting atop the Big East standings. If all Nance did was make some shots, that would have been impressive enough.

However, he added five rebounds and five assists against the Cornhuskers. He also had 20 points, five rebounds and five assists. The last Northwestern player with two 20-5-5 games in the same season was John Shurna during the 2011-12 campaign. For a player who had 18 assists in 23 games as a freshman, it was the latest sign of the remarkable growth he has made over the last four seasons.

His shooting numbers also show his improvement. Nance shot 34.7 percent, including 26.3 percent from 3-point range as a freshman. The numbers slightly improved to 40 percent and 29.7 percent during his sophomore season. Now he is connecting on 49 percent of his field goal attempts and 43.8 percent of his 3-pointers.

Northwestern made its lone appearance in the March Madness brackets in 2017 beating Vanderbilt in the first round before falling to Gonzaga.

Northwestern is 6-2-1 against the college basketball spreads in its last nine games.

Lee’s status Up in Air for Penn State

While his numbers might not jump out to the casual observer, the inside presence of Greg Lee has been missed while Penn State’s 6-foot-9 senior has been sidelined.

Lee had at least eight rebounds in five of the last six games he which he played. However, Lee hasn’t taken the court since a Feb. 5 loss at Wisconsin.

The good news is that Lee, who has missed the last five games, is out of a walking boot

“It’s still day to day,” Penn State coach Micah Shrewsberry told the media on Wednesday. “There are good days and bad days. He met with the doctor again today, so hopefully, there’s good progress here. He’s progressing a little bit, starting to jump into more drills and do more things.”

Penn State has gone 2-3 without Lee. Other than in a one-point loss to Michigan, the Nittany Lions haven’t been outrebounded in the five games without Lee, but with the losses during that stretch by one, six and six points, one has to wonder if the results would have changed if Penn State was at full strength.

Penn State is 10-4 against the Las Vegas odds in the last 14 games,

Penn State hasn’t played in the NCAA tournament since 2011 and hasn’t taken part in the NIT since 2018. Barring some magic in the conference tournament, the Nittany Lions will need to focus on improving their March Madness odds in the future.

Northwestern vs Penn State Head-to-Head

Penn State has won five of the last six games against Northwestern and covered in four of those.

Northwestern’s last win at Penn State came in 2016 as a 3½-point favorite, although the Wildcats did cover in the last trip to State College, losing by three as a 5½-point underdog in 2021.

Something to consider for those who bet online: Each of the last three games between the Wildcats and Nittany Lions finished over the total.

Northwestern vs Penn State Game Information

  • Game: Northwestern (13-13) at Penn State (11-13)
  • Location: Bryce Jordan Center, State College, PA
  • Day/Time: Friday, 7 p.m. ET
  • Television: FS1

Northwestern at Penn State Betting Lines

Northwestern at Penn State Prediction

The bar has been set pretty low with a total of 129, but that number is understandable to those who bet online since the total has gone under in five of Penn State’s last six games and in four of Northwestern’s last five contests.

Northwestern is second in the Big Ten in turnover margin at +4.2 while Penn State ranks last in that category. Penn State also ranks at the bottom of the conference stats in free throws attempted, but in the first meeting between the teams this season, the visiting Nittany Lions outscored Northwestern 15-6 at the line.

Pick: Over 129

Pick: Northwestern Wildcats +1½

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