Iowa center Luka Garza looks to pass around Nebraska forward Derrick Walker, right, during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, March 4, 2021, in Iowa City, Iowa. Iowa won 102-64. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
- No. 2 Iowa is heavily favored in its first-round matchup with No. 15 Grand Canyon
- While the Hawkeyes try to avoid another early exit from March Madness, the Antelopes will make their NCAA Tournament debut after claiming their first-ever WAC title
- We’ve got you covered with all the odds and trends ahead of Saturday evening’s West Region matchup
The Grand Canyon Antelopes will make their first-ever appearance at the Division I NCAA Tournament when they take on the Iowa Hawkeyes as lengthy 14.5-point underdogs in first-round action on Saturday afternoon at 6:25 ET at Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
Pegged as the No. 15 seed in the West Region, the Antelopes make their March Madness debut after claiming their first-ever Western Athletic Conference Tournament title. No. 2 Iowa is looking to rebound after getting bounced from the Big Ten Tournament with a semi-final loss to Illinois, which also put the brakes on an impressive 8-1 SU run.
Here’s a look at all the odds and trends ahead of Saturday’s NCAA Tournament first-round matchup.
Grand Canyon Antelopes vs Iowa Hawkeyes Odds
|Grand Canyon Antelopes||+14.5 (-110)||+870||O 145 (-110)|
|Iowa Hawkeyes||-14.5 (-110)||-1500||U 145 (-110)|
Odds from FanDuel on March 17, 2021.
Debutant Antelopes Face Enormous Challenge
It was an impressive campaign for the Antelopes, but one that almost ended in disappointment. The team opened conference play with seven straight wins, and appeared to be well on their way to the regular-season title. A worrisome 1-3 SU and ATS run late in the season almost derailed the team’s bid to finish atop the conference standings.
However, the Antelopes recovered nicely in the WAC Tournament, posting dominating wins over Seattle and New Mexico State by a combined margin of 52 points.
FINAL in Men’s 🏀 (WAC Championship Game) at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas @NMStateMBB 5️⃣6️⃣
The Antelopes are the 2021 WAC Tournament Champions 🏆 🔥
Congratulations to the Aggies on a great run!
Powered by @scorestream / @Prep1USA pic.twitter.com/lGPLrVQT1G
— Borderland Sports (@EPSports915) March 14, 2021
The Antelopes have been reliable at the sportsbooks this season, going 15-5 ATS overall, and 7-3 ATS in 10 contests played away from home. The team has marched to victory by double-digit margins in each of their past six wins. The Antelopes have also held their own against top-flight competition.
GCU Steady Against Top-Flight Opponents
GCU suffered a heartbreaking 71-70 loss to No. 23 Arizona State in its only meeting this season with a nationally-ranked opponent. In addition, the Antelopes covered in early-season losses to Colorado and San Francisco, and dominated in an impressive 87-77 win over Nevada.
GCU sfiora l’upset ma infine Arizona State la spunta per 71-70
– Alessandro Lever (18 punti) mette una tripla clutch a 29″ dalla fine
– Remy Martin (31 punti, 4 assist) risponde nell’azione successiva
– Jovan Blacksher (21 punti, 5 assist, 4 recuperi) non trova il controsorpasso pic.twitter.com/mUGx4UJvXz
— Basketball NCAA (@BallNcaa) December 14, 2020
Senior big man Asbjorn Midtgaard topped the team in scoring , tallying 14.0 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game. But it was Jovan Blacksher Jr. that led the attack during the WAC Tournament. The sophomore guard averaged 17.0 points and 3.5 assists per game at the tourney, and has now recorded double-digit point totals in nine of his past 12 outings.
March Madness Final Four Odds Tracker
Hawkeyes Aim to Avoid Another Early Exit
While the Antelopes arrive to this year’s Big Dance as debutants, the Hawkeyes aim to reverse a lengthy track record of disappointment at the NCAA Tournament. Iowa has managed to survive the opening weekend of March Madness just once in its past 14 tournament appearances. The Hawkeyes have also been bounced in the first round in three of six appearances, including a stunning 64-63 opening-round loss to Northwestern State in 2006, while perched as a No. 3 seed.
In a season like no other, we earned our highest seed in the last 34 years.
Let that sink in. #Hawkeyes | #MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/5oX4qFQ8wu
— Iowa Basketball (@IowaHoops) March 14, 2021
The Hawkeyes showed their resilience during a challenging stretch run. The team closed out the regular season with SU wins in eight of their final 10 contests, including a 4-2 SU run against nationally ranked opponents. However, consistent success at the sportsbooks has eluded them. Iowa failed to earn an ATS win over its final three contests, and has gone a worrisome 5-9-1 ATS in its past 14 overall.
Iowa a Betting Disappointment
Those concerns extend to the Hawkeyes’ recent outings as double-digit chalk, going 2-1 SU and 1-2 ATS in their past three. Iowa has also been a massive betting disappointment when listed as a favorite at March Madness. The team has gone 2-2 SU in their past four, and covered just twice in six all-time tournament outings as betting chalk.
Luke Garza (6-foot-11, 265 pounds) has been the most dominant player in college basketball in 2020-21. Garza leads the country in points per game (25.3), eff. rating (39.3), 30-point games (6), & fgm (188). He ranks 8th nationally in double-doubles (9) and free throws made (102).
— World Exposure Report Men’s Basketball (@WorldExposureMB) February 11, 2021
This time around, the Hawkeyes will rely on Luka Garza to lead the way offensively. The big senior dropped 21 points and 12 rebounds in the team’s 82-71 loss to Illinois at the Big Ten Tournament, and has now recorded four double-doubles in his past seven outings. Not surprisingly, Garza has been key to the Hawkeyes’ climb to No. 2 in adjusted offensive efficiency at Kenpom.
While a stingy Antelopes defense has limited opponents to just 55.7 points per game during their current three-game win streak, it is tough seeing GCU keep pace on Saturday with a battle-hardened Hawkeyes team with plenty to prove.
The Picks: Hawkeyes -14.5 (-110); OVER 145 (-110)
Daniel has been writing about sports and sports betting for over 23 years. The seasoned pro has contributed to the likes of Sports Illustrated, Sportsnet, NESN, Bleacher Report, OddsShark, the Globe and Mail, and The Nation magazine.