NCAA Basketball Picks: Valparaiso vs. Michigan State

Steven Suarez

Tuesday, March 19, 2013 2:52 PM GMT

In an extremely tough Midwest Region, the Spartans are going to have their work cut out for them in the tournament. Can they skate past Valparaiso in the first round?


Odds Overview

The Spartans are 10.5-point favorites at the top online sportsbooks ahead of this first-round battle in Auburn Hills. The total is trading at 126.5.

This year Michigan State didn't light the world in fire in terms of ATS performance. Tom Izzo's team went 12-16-2 ATS, while the underdog Crusaders were rather successful at 17-12-1 ATS for the season.

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[gameodds]14/224999/43/us[/gameodds]

Michigan State Spartans

Izzo did it again, coaching the Spartans to a 25-8 record and 14-6 mark in the conference. They fell short in the Big Ten tournament however, losing by three to Ohio State in the semi-finals.

There were plenty of standout wins for Michigan State throughout the season though. They topped Kansas early on and then overcame Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan and Wisconsin during conference play.

A lock-down defense keyed the Spartans' successful season. They held opponents to 59.4 PPG on average and were terrific defending the perimeter, holding teams to 30.2 percent shooting from three-point range.

Personnel wise, Michigan State has a very talented backcourt duo in Keith Appling and Gary Harris, though Appling has disappeared far too often this season. Izzo also has toughness in spades in the form of Adreian Payne, Derrick Nix and Branden Dawson.

The Spartans, however, are just 2-5-1 ATS in their previous eight games overall and have covered in just one of their last six neutral-site matchups.

Valparaiso Crusaders

The Crusaders cruised in the Horizon this season, going 13-3. They ended up with a 26-7 overall record and won the conference tournament by beating Wright State 62-54 in the finals.

This team wasn't afraid to test themselves, as they faced off against Saint Louis and New Mexico during their non-conference schedule.

Ryan Broekhoff is the one you're going to want to keep an eye out for. He did a little of everything for the Crusaders, averaging 15.9 PPG and 7.3 RPG while shooting 43.2 percent from beyond the arc and 87.8 percent from the line.

Broekhoff is the primary option on offense, but one of the Crusaders' biggest strengths is their depth. They have nine players that averaged at least 15 minutes per game during the regular season.

Valparaiso has gone 4-1 ATS in their past five non-conference battles and will be doing everything in their power to score an upset over a powerhouse program in Michigan State.

Let SBR be your 2013 NCAA Tournament betting headquarters.

College Basketball Pick

As good as the Spartans have looked at times this season, especially defensively, we're not so sure we trust them to cover such a big number against a scrappy team like Valparaiso.

The Crusaders are not pushovers whatsoever and we think they can keep this game close enough for a cover. They've been quite good defensively themselves (62.6 PPG allowed) and are going to make Michigan State work for each and every point. They were efficient offensively too at 71.7 PPG on 48.9 percent shooting, the sixth-best percentage in the nation.

At 9-5-1 ATS in games away from home, Valparaiso has shown they can trouble teams regardless of where they're playing. We like the points in this spot, and for that reason we are adding Valparaiso to our NCAA Basketball picks.

Free Basketball Pick: Valparaiso Crusaders +10.5 at 5Dimes