Maryland is the NCAA Basketball Pick in Big Ten Debut

LT Profits Sports Group

Tuesday, December 30, 2014 3:58 PM UTC

Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014 3:58 PM UTC

Each day LT Profits Sports seeks an overlay side that has a better chance of cashing than its spread, offering long term value. Here is their Side Value Play for Tuesday.


The new kid on the Big Ten Conference block can be competitive as a decided underdog in its first conference game ever Tuesday when those Maryland Terrapins (12-1, 1-0 away) pay a visit to the Michigan State Spartans (9-4, 6-1 home) at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, MI at 5:00 ET in a game televised nationally on ESPN2.

The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Maryland as a road underdog for this contest with the current line at +6 with odds of -103.

Underdog Terps are the Ranked Team
It is a brand new era for Maryland as the latest member of the Big Ten after being in the ACC for many years, and as fate would have it the Terrapins are the team ranked right now and not a Michigan State team that has been ranked almost every year. That is because Maryland enters this first conference game in school history as a Big Ten member at 12-1, losing only to its former ACC conference mates from Virginia, a Cavaliers’ team ranked third in the AP poll!

Maryland is ranked 12th in the AP while Michigan State is nowhere to be found right now with its disappointing 9-4 mark. Granted three of those losses were to Duke and Kansas on neutral courts and to Notre Dame in a true road game, but in the other one the Spartans were shockingly losing NCAA Basketball picks here at home to a Texas Southern team currently ranked 177th in the Pomeroy Ratings 71-64 in overtime.

At least Texas Southern has since won at Kansas State also, so perhaps that loss was not as bad as it seemed at first glance.

No Real Maryland Weaknesses
Still, Maryland is not Texas Southern as the Terps look like the real deal. Besides the loss to Virginia, Maryland has won its other three games vs. major conference schools, beating Arizona State and Iowa State on consecutive nights on a neutral floor in Kansas City and then most impressively going on the road and beating Oklahoma State 73-64 on December 21st. Maryland then concluded non-conference play by routing Oakland 72-56 on Saturday.

The Terrapins have a nice mix with Dez Wells and Jake Layman both returning starters from last season while also getting significant contributions from a couple of freshmen in Melo Trimble and Dion Wiley. Wells (15.2 points per game) and Layman (15.8) continue to do their thing, but the freshman Trimble has been one of the top newcomers in the country while averaging 15.8 points, 3.1 assists and shooting a blazing 49.5 percent from the floor.

All that has netted Maryland a 19th ranking in offensive efficiency, but the Terps are also 55th in defensive efficiency and 37th in effective field goal percentage allowed at 43.4 percent, thanks to allowing opponents to shoot just 43.2 percent on two-point attempts and 29.1 percent from beyond the three-point arc.

Free Throw Shooting Could be Key
Now, Michigan State is mostly comparable to Maryland in many categories despite the loss to Texas Southern, as the Spartans are 29th in offensive efficiency and 34th in defensive efficiency. Still, this is not the same team that reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament last season before losing to the eventual national champions from Connecticut.

It has not helped that Travis Trice and Bryn Forbes have both been in shooting slumps lately, combining to score a total of just 25 points in the last two games while going a cumulative 2-for-17 beyond the three-point arc, but the Spartans have no choice but to give them extended minutes with their depth not as good as recent seasons.

And one area where these teams are not similar is from the free throw line, where Maryland is 31st in the country at 74.5 percent while Michigan State is 299th at 63.2 percent. That latter figure does not exactly give confidence that the favored Spartans would be able to safely extend a lead should this be a close game late.

Maryland Healthy Again Too
Finally, keep in mind that the Terrapins kept on winning even with Wells missing seven games before returning for the Oakland win with a small fracture in his wrist. Playing without Wells allowed the freshman Trimble to blossom rather quickly and the Terrapins should be a tough team to beat with both on the court simultaneously, hopefully for the rest of the season.

Add this all up and Maryland does not figure to be intimidated playing in East Lansing and the Terrains get our underdog call vs. unranked Michigan State on Tuesday.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Maryland +6 (-103)

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