Not far behind are the Michigan Wolverines and Indiana Hoosiers. Longer shots from there include the Wisconsin Badgers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Illinois Fighting Illini, and Minnesota Golden Gophers.
Michigan State has several early-season tests lined up, facing the Kentucky Wildcats and North Carolina Tar Heels in their first month of action. Tom Izzo’s troops notched 11 wins in last year’s first 13 matchups of conference play, cashing with a 7-4-2 spread mark against the NCAAB odds.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State just missed a trip to the Final Four last year thanks to a 70-66 defeat to the Wichita State Shockers in the West Region of “The Big Dance.” The Buckeyes won the Big Ten Conference tourney prior to that, reeling off three wins as ‘chalk’ over Nebraska, Michigan and Wisconsin.
Michigan starts out with a set of ‘cupcake’ contests before reaching some taller orders in November’s Puerto Rico Tip-Off. John Beilein’s squad then meets Duke, Arizona and Stanford through the following month before Big Ten play gets underway.
Indiana finished one game ahead of Ohio State and Michigan State for last year’s regular season Big Ten Conference title (14-4), while ranking fifth in the nation for scoring (78.6 PPG). The Hoosiers saw its “March Madness” run come to an end in the “Sweet Sixteen,” falling to the Syracuse Orange, 61-50.
Wisconsin struggled to get on the board last year, but held foes to a stingy 55.9 PPG. Bo Ryan’s crew faces an early challenge against the Florida Gators, while having a circled home date in February against Ohio State to avenge last year’s Big Ten Tournament title loss.
Iowa began last season undervalued by NCCAB betting shops, cashing at 7-3 ATS in its first 10 ‘board’ battles. The Hawkeyes also held their own in conference and NIT matchups, finishing the year with a 14-3 spread record in their final 17 contests – losing to the Baylor Bears in the NIT Championship, 74-54.
Illinois Fighting Illini
Illinois struggled through its Big Ten schedule last year, picking up just three road wins in the regular season’s final two months of action. John Groce’s troops still had their moments during the year, including capturing the Maui Invitational with a 78-61 triumph over the Butler Bulldogs.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
Minnesota begins a new era with Richard Pitino as head coach, replacing Tubby Smith. Pitino takes over a squad that logged just one defeat in last season’s first 16 games, jetting out to a 10-4 ATS mark in the span’s 14 contests with NCAAB betting.