A key contest on Tuesday's college basketball betting card takes place in East Lansing where the Michigan State Spartans open Big Ten play against conference newcomer Maryland.
Breaking the seal on Big Ten schedules is becoming old hat for Tom Izzo who participates in his 20th Tuesday afternoon as head coach of the Michigan State Spartans. That's in direct contrast to Mark Turgeon and the Maryland Terrapins who find everything about the Big Ten to be brand new.
Maryland's first B1G hoops season tips in front of what should be a raucous Breslin Center crowd. ESPN2 cameras will begin rolling at 5 PM (ET), this matchup between the Spartans and Terps following the Illinois-Michigan contest. Michigan State is 6 point chalk after the spread briefly climbed to -6½ overnight; SBR's live NCAA basketball odds was first to report 134 for the total.
The inaugural meeting as conference foes is the sixth clash all-time between Sparty and the Terps, and first since 2010 when they collided in the second round of the Midwest Region in Spokane. Fifth-seeded Michigan State posted an 85-83 win over No. 4 Maryland, a Korie Lucious trey at the buzzer thwarting the Terrapins' late rally.
Izzo's Spartans were favored by one slim point in that contest that easily sailed past a 147 point total to give MSU a 3-2 edge in the series vs. Maryland.
Terps Surprising 12-1 Start Has Them 11/12 In Polls
While it may be the first Big Ten conference game for Maryland, Turgeon and the Terrapins won't be newbies to big-time conference openers after coming over from the ACC. Under Turgeon, the Terps won two of three Atlantic Coast Conference starters, covering all three against Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and North Carolina State.
The Terrapins were afterthoughts in the Big Ten race and for the national title before this season opened, drawing only a modicum of interest from pollsters and 12/1 picks on the college basketball futures odds to win the conference crown. That put them well behind Michigan State (2/1), seen as a bona fide contender along with Wisconsin (7/4) and Ohio State (2/1), and even behind the likes of Michigan and Nebraska, each at 8/1.
That has since changed with Turgeon's ballers off to a 12-1 start and ranked 11th in the latest coaches poll, second-highest among Big Ten teams behind Wisconsin. Maryland has strung together five consecutive victories since the lone setback to Virginia, and the Terps are a perfect 3-0 (2-0-1 ATS) away from College Park.
Can Izzo, Spartans Get It Together For Conference Run?
Michigan State's play has so far resembled anything but a team picked to contend for a conference title. The Spartans entered the campaign ranked 18th in both polls before consecutive losses to Kansas and at Notre Dame pushed them out of the top 25, and a setback at home to Texas Southern prior to Christmas raised a lot of eyebrows.
That loss to TSU was part of what was supposed to be a relatively easy run-up to the Big Ten schedule, easily reflected by the spreads in State's last five games. The Spartans have been favored by at least 13½ in each of them, and were giving up 24½ that night to the Tigers. That was also their first game without starting guard Branden Dawson who suffered a fractured left wrist in a win over Eastern Michigan.
The senior out of Gary, Indiana leads Michigan State with 8.5 rebounds per game and is third in scoring (10.8 ppg), and Izzo is hopeful he can play against Maryland.
As inconsistent as the Spartans have played, I've still got a lot of confidence in Izzo righting the ship in East Lansing now that the conference slate has arrived. Michigan State will be my free NCAA basketball pick for this Big Ten battle.
NCAA Basketball Pick: Michigan State -6 at 5Dimes
Season: 5-12 (-8.20)