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Those teams met Sunday in East Lansing, with Michigan State taking a 77-67 victory. However, this time there is much more at stake. Maryland faces its last chance to continue the season and, while unlikely, could still reach the big dance by winning the conference tournament.
Michigan State sits in eighth place in the most recent Bracket Matrix NCAA Tournament projections, so the Spartans will almost certainly be in the field no matter what happens in this game. That being said, they would definitely like to improve their resume as much as possible ahead of the selection on Sunday. Here are our top plays for Thursday night’s showdown at Indy.
Michigan State -2.5 (FanDuel)
It’s obviously worth looking at the game from just a few days ago to see if we can find any advantage in this one. From a spread perspective, we see the line for Sunday’s meeting in East Lansing closed at Michigan State -6. Assuming that included around 2-3 points for Michigan State at home, it looks like Thursday’s line may be too low. All things being equal, we expect to see Michigan State score between 3 and 4 points in a neutral site game. When you factor in that Michigan State won and covered on Sunday, Michigan State ATS comes across as a strong pick.
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In Sunday’s game, Michigan State took a 46-26 halftime lead. Maryland narrowed the margin of the eventual victory, but the Spartans clearly controlled the game. The box score doesn’t appear to have any statistical anomalies, as both teams shot roughly around their season averages. Michigan State’s 11 offensive rebounds stand out as one reason the Spartans were able to win in double digits, but that seems somewhat repeatable to some extent. According to KenPom, Michigan State ranks 79th in offensive rebound rate, while Maryland ranks only 158th in defensive rebound rate. Michigan State also managed to grab 11 offensive rebounds when they met at College Park, so it’s safe to say that’s likely to happen again.
From a pure confrontation perspective, Michigan State has clear advantages, especially in the turnover department. Turnovers have been the main weakness for Michigan State’s offense throughout the season. The Spartans moved him up to second in the Big Ten this season and ranked 267th nationally in offensive turnover. However, Maryland’s defense isn’t one to generally benefit from this, as the Terrapins ranked 313th in defensive rotation rate.
Another Michigan State advantage on offense is its pick-and-roll games. Per Synergy, Michigan State ranks in the 92nd percentile in pick-and-roll offense this year, while Maryland ranks only in the 16th percentile in pick-and-roll defense. Pick-and-roll play isn’t a major feature of the Spartan offense, but they can use it at a higher pace knowing Maryland is struggling to stop it. Many of those pick-and-rolls should open up three-point shooting for Michigan State, and the Spartans rank 9th nationally in three-point percentage.
We are looking for Michigan State to win the game by more than one possession and advance to the next round of the Big Ten tournament.
Total: under 141
Although the total is a bit lower than last Sunday’s game, under bets are still our recommended bet. One of the main reasons is that Maryland is likely to do everything it can to limit the number of possessions in the game. Maryland ranks 258th in KenPom’s average offensive possession duration, while the state of Michigan ranks 73rd. We have a sample of two games from this matchup, with entirely different results. The Maryland encounter played to just 61 possessions, a game in which Maryland lost by just two points. The most recent game saw 69 possessions, as Michigan State won more comfortably. Maryland knows they’ll need to limit possessions to maximize their chances, and they can do that with their transition defense. By Synergy, Maryland ranks in the 99th percentile in transition defense. That’s key against Michigan State, as they generally prefer a quick game.
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There’s also the obvious fact that this game is being played on a neutral site, which means unknown shooting backgrounds. This may impact Michigan State’s three-point shooting, as their percentage is weaker on the road than at Breslin Center. Look for Maryland to try to slow this game down to a snail’s pace, giving the pennies a better chance to cash out.
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