Penn State Getting too Many Points to Ignore at Michigan State

Rainman M.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018 1:50 PM UTC

Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018 1:50 PM UTC

No. 5 Michigan State (20-3) hosts Penn State (15-8) Wednesday at 6:30 ET in Big Ten action. The Spartans are favored by 13. Can the Nittany Lions repeat their upset magic from their last road game at ranked Ohio State?

Penn State at No. 5 Michigan StateFree NCAAB Pick: Penn State +13Best Line Offered: Heritage

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Michigan State's deep offense features five players who average double figures. Forward Miles Bridges leads with 17.6 points per game. Bridges is best known for his versatility because he can drive inside and shoot reliably from three. But he often receives criticism for settling for too many threes.

Point guard Cassius Winston is a major reason why the Spartans have the top-ranked half-court offense. Winston ranks third in assist rate and leads Sparty with 6.9 assists per game. He's also the top-ranked three-point shooter by percentage. However, he also leads the team with 2.7 turnovers per game and is a significant contributor to the Spartans' 259th rank in turnover percentage. Although improving on defense, he is still anything but a reliable defender. So he often gives up on defense what he helped achieve on offense. Power forward Nick Ward and freshman phenom center Jaren Jackson provide Sparty's muscle inside. Ward ranks in the top 100 in offensive and defensive rebounding percentage and block percentage. Jackson ranks 8th in block percentage.

Penn State has already equaled its win total from last season. PSU has five players averaging double-digit points. Point guard Tony Carr leads with 19.2 points and 4.8 assists per game. His team really relies on his playmaking ability: Carr ranks in the top 100 in percentage of possessions involved in and percentage of shots taken. He's especially dangerous from three, ranking 77th in three-point percentage.

Center Mike Watkins leads the team with 10.1 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game. In two of PSU's non-covers in conference play and in three of their conference losses, Watkins had four fouls or fouled out. He has stayed out of foul trouble against teams who rank higher than Michigan State in drawing fouls and will need to stay on the court tonight. He's also a dominant scorer who ranks 25th in two-point shooting percentage. Shooting guard Shep Garner and small forward Josh Reaves are major reasons why PSU ranks 48th in three-point percentage. Both rank in the top 250 in the category.

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The Verdict

Penn State has three key ingredients to make it a desirable road bet: It ranks 42nd in KenPom's defensive efficiency, has superior turnover statistics to those of MSU and has a reliable leader and playmaker in Carr.

Turnovers have considerable betting significance for MSU: in all five of its conference non-covers, it lost the turnover battle. Penn State ranks 89th in percentage of turnovers forced especially thanks to Reaves and backup guard Jamari Wheeler, who rank in the top 20 in steal percentage.

Match-up wise, the Spartans are relatively vulnerable to the three-pointer. They allow the 65th-highest point distribution from three. PSU ranks 48th in three-point shooting percentage thanks to the likes of Carr, Reaves and Garner.

Oddsmakers are asking bettors to lay too much chalk on our NCAAB Picks. Good defenses are known to travel well and PSU's gives it an edge on the road. Behind the likes of Watkins, Penn State's 'D' is strongest in the area where Michigan State's offense is most reliant -- inside the arc --although its perimeter defense also ranks 40th based on proportion of attempted threes allowed. Offensively, PSU is more ball-secure and has enough playmakers inside and outside the arc to hang tough.

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