- Penn State’s home game against Iowa is being played at The Palestra in Philadelphia
- Penn State is led by the senior forward tandem of Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins
- Iowa center Luka Garza is averaging a double-double with 21.6 points and 10.0 rebounds
No. 23 Iowa (10-3, 1-1 Big Ten) and No. 21 Penn State (11-2, 1-1 Big Ten) meet in a neutral-site matchup of ranked team at 2pm ET Saturday (Jan. 4) at the Palestra in Philadelphia.
#23 Iowa vs #21 Penn State Odds
|Team||Spread||Over/Under at BetOnline|
|Iowa||+2.5 (-107)||Over 154.5 (-110)|
|Penn State||-2.5 (-113)||Under 154.5 (-110)|
Odds taken Jan. 4
Iowa has won four games in a row since starting the season 6-3. In Big Ten play, the Hawkeyes lost 103-91 to then-No. 4 Michigan on the road on Dec. 6, then whipped Minnesota 72-52 at home three days later.
Penn State is also on a four-game winning streak. The Nittany Lions have split their conference games, getting routed 104-76 at then-No. 7 Ohio State on Dec. 7 but bouncing back to upset then-No. 4 Maryland 76-69 on Dec. 10.
The teams’ chances of participating in March Madness can be found at our 2020 NCAA Tournament odds page.
Philly Ties on Both Sides
It might seem odd that Penn State would play a conference game at a neutral site. However, the Nittany Lions have their reasons for playing in Philadelphia.
For one, Penn State has five players from the Philadelphia area and coach Pat Chambers is a native Philadelphian. Thus, this game amounts to a homecoming for them.
— Penn State Men’s Basketball (@PennStateMBB) January 4, 2020
Furthermore, Penn State is trying to raise its exposure in the basketball-rich market. What better way than to play a conference game in the city, especially since the Nittany Lions aren’t forfeiting a huge home-floor advantage because their students at State College are on Christmas break.
Also, Iowa coach Fran McCaffrey is a Philadelphia native and played his college home games at the Palestra while at Penn.
Surprising Penn State
Neither Iowa nor Penn State figured to be ranked when the season began nearly two months ago. However, the Nittany Lions are the bigger surprise as they are in the Top 25 for the first time since 1996.
Senior forwards Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins – both from Philly – have helped Penn State overwhelm many of its opponents in the paint.
Stevens is averaging a team-high 16.4 points and 7.2 rebounds a game. Watkins has averages of 11.2 points, 9.4 rebounds and 3.5 blocked shots, and is also one of just three players in school history with 1,000 points and 800 rebounds in his career.
Garza the Star for Iowa
Iowa has its own inside force in 6-foot-11 junior center Luka Garza, who is one of the best low-post players in the country and should provide quite a challenge for the Stevens-Watkins duo.
Garza is averaging 21.6 points and 10.0 rebounds and has double-doubles in eight of the Hawkeyes’ first 13 games. He can also step outside and score as evidenced by shooting 31.5% on 3-point attempts.
Garza talked about the matchup with Penn State.
Though Penn State guard Myreon Jones is averaging 14.5 points and shooting 41.9% from 3-point range, Iowa has more depth in the backcourt with the duo of Joe Wieskamp (12.8) and C.J. Frederick (11.2) combining for 24 points a game.
That depth has been pivotal as senior point guard Jordan Bohannon underwent season-ending surgery on his left hip Dec. 18. He was a 41.4% shooter from 3-point range in his career in addition to running Iowa’s offense.
Here are how the teams stack up in various KenPom.com categories:
Head-to-Head Statistical Comparison
|114.9 (4th)||Adjusted offensive efficiency||107.9 (33rd)|
|95.6 (92nd)||Adjusted defensive efficiency||89.9 (32nd)|
|71.1 (126th)||Adjusted tempo||73.2 (37th)|
Hawkeyes Won Last Season
Iowa is 9-4 against the spread this season, including being the winning side in each of its last four games. Penn State is 8-5 ATS but has been on the losing side in three of its past five games.
Penn State has covered in six of its last nine games against Iowa – with one push – but the Hawkeyes won 89-82 last season as 3.5-point underdogs at State College.
On the surface, it may seem like a de facto home game for the Nittany Lions. However, it’s a nearly 200-mile drive from State College to Philadelphia.
Iowa has had only one road game since Dec. 9 and has played the more difficult schedule. The Hawkeyes won’t be rattled by a neutral-site game, even in Penn State’s home state.
The pick: Iowa +2.5 (-107)
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