Friday's college hoops slate finds several little guys taking the floor, including a conference opener for Siena and Rider plus NIU at Milwaukee, and we have NCAA basketball picks on each.

Season: 21-19 ($0.10)

OD Anosike'Tis the season to be jolly, and nothing brings more jolly into the holidays than some extra cash. College basketball bettors have a very light schedule to choose from to try and make a little money on Friday, and sometimes that can be a good thing. 

More options certainly give handicappers more places to find value, but a shorter slate can help narrow the search down in some cases. There are just 11 games on Friday's card, making it a very narrow search indeed. 

Lighter Friday schedules are something we're going to have to get used to. For the past month, starting with the big opening day back on November 9, we've been spoiled to a certain extent with at least a few marquee teams to consider leading into the weekend. But that's about to change with most of our Fridays from here on out occupied with games from conferences like the Ivy League and MAAC to name a couple. 

A MAAC conference opener is on our list tonight when Siena gets a visit from Rider. Our other selection will be a MAC-Horizon League clash as Milwaukee hosts Northern Illinois.  Let's get to it. 

Rider vs. Siena

Loyola (MD) was the pick to win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference in the preseason, but the Greyhounds got their league slate off on a losing note this week with a home setback to Niagara.  Could that open the door for a team like Rider to sneak in and surprise everyone? 

Probably not, but if the Broncs are going to pull off such a stunt, they'll need to get out to a fast start with conference road wins over teams like Siena. The good folks who set the NCAA basketball odds sent Rider out as a 2.5 point favorite in this conference opener for both schools. 

Rider comes off a 75-66 win at Drexel, just missing the 10-point cover, and has won three of its last four. The lone defeat in that stretch was a poor showing at home vs. La Salle as the Explorers jumped to an early 11-point lead that the Broncs never could make up, thanks to 18 turnovers and a poor night shooting the rock, from both the field and charity stripe. 

Siena has dropped its last five, covering just one of the three lined games in that span, and the Saints have been horrible on offense all season. They've also yet to give the home fans anything to cheer about with defeats in all three contests at Times Union CenterSiena does have a rebounding machine in OD Anosike, and neutralizing him on the glass will be an issue for Rider.

 

Northern Illinois vs. Milwaukee

The Huskies might be the talk of the Mid-American Conference on the gridiron, but all signs point to the Huskies, and the rest of the MAC, taking a backseat to Ohio on the hardwood. 

All signs also point to their opponents on Friday, the Milwaukee Panthers, sitting in the same spot as the Huskies in the Horizon League. The Panthers drag a 5-game losing streak into this matchup, yet are still favored by 11 against NIU. No total was released with the overnight odds. 

The spread wouldn't be so large if this game was played a week ago before Paris Gulley came back from his hand injury for Milwaukee. The senior guard is definitely the go-to guy on offense for the Panthers, and NIU will need to either shut him down or hope Gulley can't find the net. 

Northern Illinois, meanwhile, doesn't have a player in double-figures on the scoring end, and it's not because the Huskies like to spread it around.  Only 10 teams are scoring less than NIU's 54.6 PPG average, and the squad has failed to break the 50-point mark in four of the seven trips to the floor. 

My picks: Rider -2.5 / Milwaukee -11 at Bookmaker