Saturday, noon ET (Fox)
Free NCAAB Pick: Buckeyes ATS
Best Line Offered: SportsBetting
With college football no longer taking up Saturdays, it’s really time to shift our betting focus to NCAA basketball, and this Saturday (for the most part) is the first one of major conference action around the country. There are a ton of good matchups, and it all begins with a noon tip from Columbus with No. 8 Michigan State visiting No. 14 Ohio State.
That the Spartans are an excellent team again is no surprise as they always are under Coach Tom Izzo and were picked by the media in the preseason to win the Big Ten title despite losing stars Jaren Jackson Jr. and Miles Bridges to the NBA lottery off last year’s team. That Ohio State is ranked is a surprise because the Buckeyes lost by far their best player off last year’s club, Keita Bates-Diop, and were selected to finish eighth in the Big Ten.
While these schools do play a home-and-home set this season, they played just once last year and No. 1 Michigan State was upset 80-64 in Columbus. That was no fluke as OSU led by 14 at the half and by as many as 25 in the second. Sparty shot just 39 percent. Bates-Diop was the best player on the floor with a career-high 32 points along with seven rebounds and three steals. It was the Buckeyes’ first win over the nation’s top team since 2007, when the then-No. 2 Buckeyes beat Wisconsin 49-48.
Both Unbeaten In Big Ten Play
Ohio State’s lone loss was by 10 at home to Syracuse on Nov. 28 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Hard to know if the Buckeyes are actually any good as they haven’t played any ranked schools. Their best wins were at Cincinnati, vs. Minnesota (the Big Ten started its schedule early) and at a neutral site against hugely disappointing UCLA.
Coach Chris Holtmann’s two stars are sophomore forward Kaleb Wesson (16.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and senior guard C.J. Jackson (13.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.8 apg). The 12-1 start is the best for a Holtmann-coached team and Ohio State’s best since a 15-0 start to the 2013-14 season. OSU shoots a solid 48 percent from the field and has topped 50 percent four times. On the flip side, opponents are hitting just 37.7 percent from the field vs. the Buckeyes, 11th nationally.
Michigan State was very impressive Wednesday in crushing a decent Northwestern team 81-55 as 11.5-point favorites. Sparty broke it open with a 21-2 run over a span of 5:07 in the first half. Nick Ward had all 21 of his points in the first half, while Cassius Winston had 13 points and 12 assists, his fourth double-double of the season.
Joshua Langford, who had started MSU’s previous 73 games, sat out with a left ankle problem and is expected to see a specialist. Langford is averaging 15.0 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game while shooting 44.3 percent. Seems unlikely he plays Saturday. Kyle Ahrens scored 11 points starting in place of Langford vs. NW. Sparty ranks sixth nationally in field-goal percentage defense with foes hitting just 37.4 percent.
- Spartans are 2-6-1 ATS in their last 9 Saturday games.
- Home team is 5-0 ATS in the last 5 meetings.
The Spartans rarely play well in Columbus, losing four of their past five there, and have been just so-so in three true road games this year (2-1 ATS), losing in OT at Louisville, winning by just 11 at Rutgers and by four at Florida. Plus, likely no Langford. Take the Buckeyes for a Saturday NCAAB bet.