College Basketball 1st Place Rivalry - Michigan State at Michigan



Professional sports handicapper FairwayJay hits the hardwood in the Big Ten battle for 1st place between rivals Michigan and Michigan State.

The two leading teams in the Big Ten are showcased Sunday on CBS in what will be one of the most watched and biggest bet games of the college basketball season. Tipoff is at 3:45 ET from Crisler Center in Ann Arbor. 

What’s at Stake?

First place in the Big Ten is on the line as both Michigan (24-3) Michigan State (23-5) are 13-3 in conference play and tied for first place. Purdue won at Nebraska Saturday and is also 13-3. Michigan is 16-0 at home and one of 12 teams remaining that is undefeated on their home court. Four games remain in Big Ten play, and Michigan will play at Michigan State in the Spartans last home game on March 9. 

Michigan Michigan State free pickCurrently, Joe Lenardi's bracketology has Michigan and Michigan State both as No. 2 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. 

The Line and ATS Results

Michigan is a 4-point favorite at the leading online sportsbooks and -4.5 in Las Vegas at the Westgate SuperBook, CG Technology and Station Casinos. The total is 130.5. 

Michigan State is 19-8 ATS this season for one of the best point spread records in the country. Michigan has not only gone 16-0 SU at home this season, but the Wolverines are 14-0 ATS the past 2+ seasons at home when favored by less than 8 points. Michigan knocked Michigan State out of the Big Ten Tournament last season as the Wolverines won as a 5-point underdog on their way to winning the Big Ten conference tournament. 

The Match-up and Stats

Both teams are ranked top-10 in the AP Poll and each is a defensive dominator. Michigan State is stronger statistically in a number of categories with a dominant edge in rebounding. Kenpom rates Michigan State’s adjusted offensive efficiency No. 6 in the country and the Spartans defense No. 7. Michigan ranks No. 33 on offense and No. 2 on defense.

Michigan MSU bettingMichigan allows a league-low 59.9 points per game in conference play, but they will not hold the Spartans league-best shooting (47.2% FG) below 60 points. The Spartans efficient offense is scoring nearly 75 points per game in Big Ten play and their balance inside and out is keyed by Big Ten Player of the Year favorite PG Cassius Winston, who leads the league in assists and is No. 2 in scoring at 19.6 points per game. Forwards Nick Ward and Xavier Tillman are two of the top FG shooters in the league hitting nearly 58% FG. 

While Michigan's scoring defense leads the league, it's Michigan State that has the league's best FG defense allowing just 37.1%. That includes a league-low 29.4% from the arc, and the Spartans lead the league in blocked shots and their strength on the boards minimizes second chance points. Michigan State holds a plus-9 rebounding edge over Michigan, and that's significant as the Spartans ability to shoot and also rebound also allows them to get to the free throw often; the second most in the Big Ten while hitting a league-best 76.2% from the free throw line in conference play. 

Matt McQuaid and Winston are strong 3-point shooters hitting better than 41%. Michigan PG Zavier Simpson is No. 2 in the league in assists behind Winston, and Simpson has the league's best assist-to-turnover ratio. His defense on Winston was key in the Wolverine's victories last season. However, this season Michigan State is not only focused, motivated and the better team, but also an underdog catching a good price.  

The Picks and Bets

Undefeated home teams have been falling often over the past three weeks, going from 22 to 12 remaining. Michigan (16-0) is one of them and a top team, but Michigan State is better and getting points. Thus, we'll suggest adding some moneyline to your Michigan State wagers and take the Spartans plus the points as your play of the day on Sunday. 

FairwayJay is a leading national sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. Read more great insights from Jay here and follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay