The Diamond Head Classic is back after taking a year off due to COVID-19 and tips-off on Wednseadays in Hawaii. The opening game of the tournament features a matchup between the Liberty Flames and Northern Iowa Panthers. The game will be a defensive battle between two lockdown teams but should still be an exciting showdown.
The Liberty Flames are coming off back-to-back wins over Eastern Carolina and Carver College and have a 7-4 overall record heading into Wednesday afternoon. They are a dangerous team who have qualified for back-to-back NCAA tournaments and won the Atlantic Sun Tournament last year as well. They have suffered some tough losses to LSU, Iona, and Manhatten and are just 2-4 against teams in the top third of the nation.
Luckily for Liberty, the Northern Iowa Panthers are not one of the better teams in the country at 4-5 and sixth in the MVC. They have been one of the bigger letdowns so far and are 1-4 thus far against D1 teams. Their offense has been awful and is the third-worst in the nation with an average of 56.7 PPG. Their defense isn’t much better and allows 67 PPG to opposing offenses.
Here are the odds for this matchup, courtesy of WynnBET Sportsbook.
Liberty vs. Northern Iowa Odds, Spread, and Total
- Liberty: +1.5 (-110)
- Northern Iowa: -1.5 (-110)
- Liberty: N/A
- Northern Iowa: N/A
Total: 126.5 (Over -110/Under -110)
Liberty vs. Northern Iowa Prediction and Pick
Northern Iowa was not expected to have such a rough start to the season due to the return of AJ. Green to the lineup. The leader of this offense last season has sputtered to start the year and is averaging 18.7 PPG and shooting less than 40% from downtown. While those are not bad numbers in any sense, they are a far cry from his 22.3 PPG and 5.7 RBG averages for the Panthers in 2020-21. So, while the Panthers have the depth to win this game, they are too inconsistent and their star play is struggling to trust as a favorite.
The Flames’ best player is Darius McGhee and might even be the best player to step on the court in Hawaii. This game might be a pick between McGhee and Green and I am siding with the former. McGhee is averaging 19.5 PPG and exploded for 27 points against ECU last week.
Pick: Liberty Flames +1.5 (-110)