Friday’s college basketball slate doesn’t present nearly as many attractive matchups and situational spots as the weekend, yet one of the best games on the oddsboard lies in Madison, Wis. — with a top-15 duel between No. 14 Michigan State at No. 8 Wisconsin. Spots are geared by bounce-back, letdown, look-ahead or revenge opportunities. Let’s break down this massive Big Ten tilt for my Friday college basketball best bets.
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No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers vs. No. 14 Michigan State Spartans
Sure, Greg Gard’s team moved up to No. 20 in my college basketball power rankings with Wooden Award favorite Johnny Davis (+400) leading the way. But I’m going back to the well against these Badgers after they’ve tallied seven straight wins.
Why does the market disrespect Wisconsin? For one, its “free-throw defense” is unsustainable, as opponents are shooting the second-lowest clip at the line (63.1%) in Division I. Meanwhile, Michigan State boasts a top-100 percentage in that category and earns trips to the line often as well.
Although the Badgers don’t foul much, their defense will be in trouble against the Spartans’ fast-break attack. MSU generates the 11th-highest transition rate in the country (via ShotQuality), and its opponent allows a top-90 efficiency at 1.04 points per possession.
Tom Izzo’s bunch manufactures so many of those opportunities because of its dominance on the glass. MSU is one of the tallest units in college basketball — guided by the 7-foot Marcus Bingham. It’ll have a slight size advantage over Wisconsin, which has struggled in the rebounding department at both ends during Big Ten play. That should translate into some run-and-gun possessions for Gabe Brown & Co.
Keep in mind, Badgers forward Tyler Wahl (ankle) is expected to be a game-time decision after sustaining the injury in Tuesday’s win at Northwestern. Even if he suits up, expect him to be a bit limited, hurting Wisconsin on the glass.
Nevertheless, the Spartans’ biggest liability is racking up miscues, notching the conference’s highest turnover percentage. But the Badgers exhibit little to no ball pressure, forcing a bottom-115 turnover rate in the process.
Let’s sell-high on Wisconsin — with a MSU group that showcases market value after a tight win versus Minnesota and a loss to Northwestern.
Eli’s Bet: Michigan State +4 (placed on Thursday night at PointsBet Sportsbook)
College Basketball Best Bets: MSU +3.5 or better
Best Available Line: MSU