Northern Iowa vs. Saint Louis Prediction and Odds for NIT Opening Round

NIU v Loyola
NIU v Loyola / Quinn Harris/GettyImages

The Northern Iowa Panthers are set to take on the Saint Louis Billikens tonight in opening round NIT action. The Panthers had a very impressive regular season, finishing with a 19-11 record. They did even better in the Missouri Valley Conference with a 14-4 record. They were the top overall seed in the MVC Tournament, but got crushed by Loyola Chicago, 66-43. While that was a bitter loss, I think Northern Iowa might be better off for it. While the Panthers would have gotten torched in the NCAA Tournament, they might have a chance to make some noise in the NIT. 

Saint Louis, meanwhile, The Billikens had a similar exit to the Atlantic 10 tournament after getting torn apart by Davidson 84-69 in the semifinals. Here are the odds for this opening round NIT battle, courtesy of WynnBET Sportsbook.

Northern Iowa vs. Saint Louis Odds, Spread, and Total


  • Northern Iowa +4 (-110)
  • Saint Louis -4 (-110)


  • Northern Iowa +125
  • Saint Louis -185

Total: 150 (Over -110/Under -110)

Northern Iowa vs. Saint Louis Prediction and Pick

While they were embarrassed by Loyola in the MVC tournament, let’s not forget that the Panthers won the regular-season title. While that game was a definite low-point, this team is not to be slept on. They averaged 74.4 points per game in the regular season which ranks them in the top 70 in the nation. The Billikens are 56th and score 74.9 points per game. The Panthers are also the eighth-best free-throw shooting team in the nation. While that might not blow everyone's socks off, I think FT shooting is a key indicator to a team’s success in tight games. For reference, the Billikens are solid from the charity stripe as well at 35th in the nation. 

The big difference between these two teams is their defense. Put bluntly, the Panthers have one and they don’t. Northern Iowa ranks outside the top 300 in opponent field goal percentage, two-point shooting, and three-point shots made per game. The Billikens aren’t exactly the Steel Curtain on defense, but they are at least competent. 

I’m having a hard time picking a side here. I feel that Northern Iowa is going to come out swinging to upset STL. But, my brain is telling me that the Panthers' defense is too much of a liability to trust as underdogs. This leads me to look elsewhere.

The total for this game is set at 150 and I think it’s a little bit low. Both teams have top 70 offenses and very questionable defenses. Both teams also shoot well from the line and won’t be giving up points at the charity stripe. 

Lean: OVER 150 (-110) | Lean: Northern Iowa +125 to win

Follow all of Matt De Saro’s betting picks HERE

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