How About a Little Parlay Action on Today’s Big Ten Semifinals?

Purdue Boilermakers

Rainman M.

Saturday, March 3, 2018 3:00 PM GMT

Saturday, Mar. 3, 2018 3:00 PM GMT

No. 15 Michigan and No. 2 Michigan State (29-3) square off at 2 ET, followed by No. 8 Purdue (27-5) and Penn State (21-12), likewise in New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Let’s break down each game and decide how to approach them.

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Too many bettors will want to unload on Michigan State because the Spartans were embarrassed by Michigan, losing on Feb. 7 by ten to their rivals at home. I disagree, however, that the revenge angle is valid in the postseason. In such a big game, Michigan will be just as motivated to win today as Michigan State.

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The Wolverines did not win the first match-up by any kind of fluke. It’s not like they had an insanely good shooting performance. But they did prove how well they match up with Michigan State. The key was winning the turnover battle 18-7.

Michigan State has incredible talent on offense. But they don’t have enough talent to be a reliable bet against a good team that can dominate the turnover margin. KenPom has Michigan State winning by four. If the Spartans open as four-point favorites, bettors are asking them to win by more than two possessions, despite giving away several other possessions by committing turnovers. Michigan State ranks 13th in the Big Ten, and 251st nationally, in turnover percentage allowed. Conversely, Michigan is the Big Ten’s most ball-secure team and ranks fifth in turnover percentage allowed. Point guard Zavier Simpson leads UM, ranking 198th in steal percentage. UM will give Spartan point guard Cassius Winston fits, who committed four turnovers when the teams first played and leads the team with 2.5 turnovers per game.

Overall, Michigan’s defense can succeed in making Sparty’s offense uncomfortable. MSU is strongest from three, ranking second in three-point percentage. But opportunities will be difficult against UM’s top-ranked perimeter defense, in terms of the proportion of three-pointers attempted, and half-court defense, in terms of assists per field goals allowed.

UM’s defense isn’t as vulnerable to lapses as MSU’s seventh-ranked half-court defense. The biggest thorn in MSU’s defense will likely be versatile center Moritz Wagner, who scored 27 points when the teams first met and ranks in the top 300 in both two-point and three-point shooting percentage. Simpson will play a big role in locating Wagner. Simpson ranks 188th in assist rate and had five assists to zero turnovers in the teams’ first match-up. Michigan loves to shoot the three and has two other players who rank in the top 500 in three-point percentage, guard/forward Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and forward Duncan Robinson

Look for Michigan to cover behind its frustrating defense and variety of playmakers and scorers on offense. And by the way, Sparty’s problems with turnovers don’t only spell trouble for today. Since 2013, top-three-seeded teams with a turnover rate of 19+ are 2-5 SU in the NCAA tournament. Three of those teams lost to a 14 seed.

When Purdue hosted Penn State on Feb. 18, they held on with a three-point victory. The Boilers were riding a nine-game stretch during which each of their games were decided by single digits. I don’t trust Purdue to cover a larger spread (KenPom has the line being seven), but the Boilers are experienced in tight games and know how to survive with a win. If the game is close, Purdue has the advantage of being fresh, while Penn State’s legs will be feeling tired after playing two exciting games in consecutive days.

The Boilers beat Penn State despite having an off-day from behind the arc. They created twenty three-point opportunities against a respectable PSU perimeter defense, but converted 7.1% less of their threes than their season average. Purdue is still always a threat from three, ranking second nationally in three-point percentage. Guards Dakota Mathias and PJ Thompson rank in the top 50 in three-point percentage while three other Boilers rank in the top 500 in the category.

Purdue was still strong inside the arc even though their big men were rather quiet. Centers Isaac Haas and Matt Haarms are two seven-footers who rank in the top 200 in two-point percentage. They will exploit a PSU interior defense that is missing its top shot blocker and defender in center Mike Watkins. Even if Penn State devotes extra attention to Purdue’s center, the Boilermakers enjoy numerous other options who can attack the rim. In the first game, when forward Vincent Edwards sat out due to injury, guards Dakota Mathias and Carsen Edwards combined for 11-for-17 shooting inside the arc. Vincent Edwards is healthy and ready to contribute. He scored 26 last night against Rutgers.

The Nittany Lions are so dependent on point guard Tony Carr. Carr will get his lion’s share of points, but he won’t be at ease due to the interior presence of Purdue’s big men and the defense of guards like Carsen Edwards. Edwards is a feisty defender who ranks 273rd in steal percentage. Overall, Purdue was solid in limiting Carr to 33% in two-point scoring.

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