NCAA Basketball Picks: Add Michigan State to Build Momentum vs. Northwestern

Ted Sevransky

Thursday, January 28, 2016 6:42 PM UTC

Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016 6:42 PM UTC

Michigan State will visit Northwestern, the Spartans snapped their ugly three game skid, the longest losing streak in the last three seasons. Who will be our NCAA basketball pick?

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Michigan State -6.5
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle


Michigan State Spartans vs. Northwestern Wildcats
Michigan State snapped their ugly three game skid, the Spartans longest losing streak in the last three seasons, with a solid win and cover against #7 Maryland over the weekend.  Perhaps the most impressive thing about that victory is that Tom Izzo’s squad took care of business SU and ATS despite a poor shooting game, hitting a season low 36% of their shots. Team leader Denzel Valentine following the win: “We felt like we were on the bottom of the world. But I think we’re back.” Forward Kenny Goins: “It feels great to get over that hump. Every team has to go through it during the course of the season, but we got ours out of the way. Hopefully we can build off this and keep going.”

The Spartans certainly didn’t struggle the last time they played Northwestern, winning by 24 on this floor (as -7 favorites) when they visited Evanston last year; a game that was over by halftime when the Spartans led 38-14. In fact, the Spartans have won six straight against the Wildcats, with five of those victories coming by double digit margins. In three of those wins, the Wildcats were held to 51 points or less, an offense that doesn’t seem to work when stepping up against Izzo’s athletic defenders.

In Chris Collins first two years on the job, Northwestern went 6-12 SU and 6-12 SU in Big 10 play. This year’s squad has all the makings of another team primed for a 6-12 finish, even with all of their key rotation cogs returning. They’ve played four true ‘step-up’ games this season, losing three of them by double digits, unable to hang with superior competition. The Wildcats methodical efficiency is good enough for them to beat their weaker foes. But the fact that they’ve lost six straight against the Spartans, five of them by big margins, tells us very clearly that the Wildcats aren’t going to have an easy time hanging tough tonight.

And Northwestern is trending in the wrong direction. This team opened up the campaign with a 13-1 SU mark, beating up numerous non-conference patsies while going 3-0 in OT games during that span. But, as is often the case for the Wildcats, once the rigors of the Big 10 campaign begin, the Wildcats SU and ATS success ends. They’re 2-5 SU, 3-4 against the NCAA basketball odds  in their last seven games. That includes home losses by margin to Penn State, Ohio State and Maryland. Saturday’s complete no-show at Indiana – a 32 point defeat that was essentially over by halftime – doesn’t leave the Wildcats with much confidence moving forward. 

Michigan State’s defense on the perimeter is nothing short of outstanding, holding opponents to 28% shooting from three point range for the entire season. That’s bad news for a Northwestern team that takes more than 40% of their shots from beyond the arc. Look for Sparty to grind this one out, as the NCAA basketball pick and seal it at the free throw line where they shot 15% better than Northwestern over their last five games.

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