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No. 6 Michigan State on Top of the Oddsboard for the Big Ten Tournament

Odds to win the Big 10 Tournament

In a top-heavy Big Ten Conference, it was no surprise to see five teams all in the hunt to be the winner of the regular season, with Michigan State and Purdue ultimately finishing in a tie for first with 16-4 conference records. Oddsmakers believe that the Spartans will parlay their regular-season success into their first conference tournament title since 2016 as they are +140 favorites.

Spartans battling through Injuries

Michigan State had a remarkable season considering it lost two of its three top-scoring players for large chunks of the season. The Spartans lost junior guard Joshua Langford in late December for the rest of the year with an ankle injury and junior forward Nick Ward in late February with a broken hand. However, the Spartans still finished tied for the best record in the Big Ten, going 16-4 in conference play and 25-6 overall.

Most impressive for the Spartans was their two late-season triumphs over in-state rival Michigan. Michigan State chips in 79.7 points per game for the No. 26 mark in college hoops, while giving up 65.9 ppg (40th). I think the Spartans proved a lot about who they were with the two wins over Michigan and it’s no surprise to see Michigan State at +140.

Are the Wolverines just a step behind?

Similar to Michigan State, Michigan dealt with a late-season injury to its third-best scorer. Senior guard Charles Matthews injured his ankle in the home game against Michigan State and didn’t play in the three contests to close out the season, although he was close to suiting up for the season finale and should be good to go for the Big Ten tournament.

The Wolverines had just one home loss this year, falling 77-70 to the Spartans, but on the road they went 7-4, with three losses coming against unranked teams. Michigan has a stifling defense, ranking third in the nation by restricting opponents to a mere 58.8 points per game, but it’s 219th in points scored per game at 70.4.  

My Best Bet for the Big Ten Tournament

Michigan State +140

I think the Spartans are the team to beat in the Big Ten this year. They have overcome adversity and were the only team to earn a road victory over the Wolverines. Junior forward Nick Ward should be able to return from his hand injury for the tournament, which just adds another element to their offense and helps protect the key defensively.

2018-19 College basketball big Ten odds
Michigan State Spartans+140
Michigan Wolverines+225
Purdue Boilermakers+300
Wisconsin Badgers+600
Maryland Terrapins+1400
Indiana Hoosiers+5000
Iowa Hawkeyes+5000
Penn State Nittany Lions+5000
Minnesota Golden Gophers+6600
Nebraska Cornhuskers+6600
Ohio State Buckeyes+6600
Rutgers Scarlet Knights+20000
Northwestern Wildcats+20000
Illinois Fighting Illini+20000

Odds as of March 11 at BetOnline

Last year, Michigan nearly went wire-to-wire in conference play and went on to win the Big Ten tournament for the second straight year before ultimately falling to Villanova in the national championship game. The Wolverines have returned many of those players and for this reason they are a +175 favorite to three-peat as Big Ten champions.

Bovada has Michigan at +175 followed by Michigan State at +200, Nebraska at +600, and Purdue, Wisconsin and Ohio State at +1000 to round out the top contenders for the Big Ten tournament.

Wolverines’ Defense is carrying the torch

Michigan has just one loss in its last 30 games and that came in the national championship game to Villanova. The Wolverines earned redemption over the Wildcats in non-conference play this year with a 73-46 beatdown at the Finneran Pavilion. Defense has been the path to victory for them this season as just one team has topped 70 points against them – South Carolina in a game Michigan won 89-78.

From last year’s team, the Wolverines returned pivotal players in Charles Matthews, Jordan Poole, Jon Teske and Isaiah Livers. Additionally, they recruited forward Ignas Brazdeikis and the freshman has paid immediate dividends as he leads the team with 16 points per game. Back to the defense, the Wolverines rank third in the nation by limiting opponents to just 55.6 points per game, with those foes shooting just 38.9 percent from the floor, the 19th-lowest percentage in college basketball. Michigan has won back-to-back Big Ten tournaments and at +175 I think there’s value for it to become the first team in the conference to three-peat.

Can the Spartans’ Offense overcome the Wolverines’ defense?

If there’s a team that can knock off the Wolverines this season, it may be their in-state rivals the Michigan State Spartans. They started the season on the wrong foot, getting out-hooped 92-87 by then-No. 1 Kansas, but have gone on to win 14 of their next 15 games. Unlike Michigan, though, Michigan State likes to use its offense to put teams away as it scores 86.4 points per game, the fifth-best average in the nation, and that rises to 91.8 ppg when it plays in front of its home fans at the Breslin Center. The Spartans are led by a trio of juniors in guard Cassius Winston (18 ppg), guard Joshua Langford (15 ppg) and forward Nick Ward (16.7 ppg).

They aren’t slouches on defense either – they’re just not up to the level the Wolverines are. They give up an average of 67.5 ppg to rank 70th among 353 teams and are limiting their foes to shooting just 36.9 percent from the floor, the third-lowest percentage in the nation. Additionally, the Spartans haul down 43.9 rebounds per game to rate third in the NCAA, leading to more possessions and the 66th-most shot attempts per game at 60.8. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Battle of Michigan in the Big Ten conference championship and a wager at +200 isn’t a horrible idea.

Here’s a look at the odds for the Big Ten tournament:

2018-19 College basketball big Ten odds
Michigan Wolverines+175
Michigan State Spartans+200
Nebraska Cornhuskers+600
Purdue Boilermakers+1000
Wisconsin Badgers+1000
Ohio State Buckeyes+1000
Indiana Hoosiers+1300
Maryland Terrapins+1500
Penn State Nittany Lions+2200
Minnesota Golden Gophers+2700
Iowa Hawkeyes+3000
Illinois Fighting Illini+5500
Northwestern Wildcats+5500
Rutgers Scarlet Knights+5500

Odds as of January 10 at Bovada