Big Ten Odds, State of Conference Betting Report: Does Rutgers, Penn State Offer Value?

Big Ten Odds, State of Conference Betting Report: Does Rutgers, Penn State Offer Value? article feature image

Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images. Pictured: Cam Spencer (Rutgers)

As expected, the Big Ten is a completely crazy. There are still 10 teams that can win this league, and everyone is fumbling and bumbling around the middle of the pack.

We thought Purdue had risen behind Zach Edey and turned into a true No. 1 national team, but a home loss to Rutgers quickly dashed those dreams.

It was the win heard round the world … but what does @RutgersMBB’s upset of No. 1 Purdue actually mean for @B1GMBBall? @TheAndyKatz gives his reaction. 🤘

— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) January 3, 2023

Rutgers, by the way, is playing unbelievable basketball.

Conversely, Indiana isn’t, Iowa is 0-3 in conference play and Michigan is 2-0 in conference play despite dropping a home game to Central Michigan.

That’s Big Ten basketball, baby. It’s wide open.

Given the lack of clarity in the conference, I’m placing all 14 teams into three made-up tiers to try and organize who is good, who is bad and who is figuring it out.

This list will change rapidly between now and the next conference update article in two weeks because that’s Big Ten basketball, baby.

I’ve added the betting odds to win the Big Ten regular-season title next to each team, courtesy of Caesars.

Tier 1: In The Running

Highlighting: Rutgers Scarlet Knights

The Scarlet Knights are good.

They’re up to third in KenPom’s defensive efficiency, forcing as many turnovers as anyone in the nation.

Cliff Omoruyi is turning into the “Big Man That Was Promised.”

And after a slow start, Cam Spencer is starting to turn into the scorer he was at Loyola (MD), while also becoming the primary ball-handler at times.

We know what the Scarlet Knights get from Paul Mulcahy, and Caleb McConnell is the best on-ball defender in the conference not named Seth Lundy.

But Spencer is the difference maker in Piscataway. He’s Ron Harper Jr. 2.0, and just like with Harper, the Scarlet Knights win when they play defense and run the offense through Spencer.

In Power Six losses this season, Spencer has scored:

  • 3 against Miami (FL)
  • 11 against Ohio State
  • 4 against Seton Hall

In Power Six wins this season, Spencer has scored:

  • 3 against Indiana
  • 15 against Wake Forest
  • 14 against Purdue

OOOOHHH MY, @RutgersMBB takes the lead back 😱

— FOX College Hoops (@CBBonFOX) January 3, 2023

After his game-winner against Purdue, I’m expecting more Spencer injected into this offense in big-time moments. After all, he has a ridiculous 133.1 ORtg, so Steve Pikiell should be using him more.

More Spencer will lead to more wins. And I expect more wins, given Rutgers’ last two losses came by a combined three points.

Back Rutgers going forward, and I’d consider them to win the conference at +1000 or better.

Other Notes & Observations:

  • I was wrong about Purdue in my preseason conference preview, as Edey is doing more with his extra minutes than I ever expected. However, the Boilermakers still have problems defending dribble-drive penetration.
  • Brice Sensabaugh has been a revelation for Ohio State, as the freshman leads the second-best KenPom offense in scoring (15.9 PPG). Chris Holtmann-led teams still don’t play defense, however.
  • Indiana is not the best team in the Big Ten, as I predicted in my preseason preview. But don’t be fooled if it takes care of business over the next week (at Iowa, vs. Northwestern).
  • Illinois will either be a Final Four team or be knocked out early in the Big Ten Tournament. The Illini’s 3-point reliance (24th in 3-point rate) and talent level have made them high-variance.

Tier 2: Figuring it Out

Highlighting: Penn State Nittany Lions

Jalen Pickett is a true All-American guard. Penn State’s 10-3 start — which includes wins over Iowa, Illinois and Butler — has been propelled by Pickett leading the team in points, rebounds, assists and steals.

Marcus Sasser is the only guard that ranks above Pickett in KenPom’s Player of the Year ratings.

Pickett also epitomizes what this year’s Penn State team is all about. After losing John Harrar in the offseason, Micah Shrewsberry abandoned Penn State’s blue-collar, play-defense-and-rebound mentality in favor of an up-tempo, perimeter-oriented attack.

Penn State has jumped from 354th in tempo to 275th, and the Nittany Lions are now 12th in 3-point rate, first in offensive turnover rate and 17th in eFG%.

And Pickett is the engine that propels the Penn State attack, ranking second in Assist Rate while firing off big-time shots like this one:

This Jalen Pickett step back 3 from last night. 🥶

— Dylan Burd (@Sports_Burd) November 15, 2022

Penn State is 2-1 in conference play, with a road game against Michigan and home games against Purdue and Indiana on deck.

Penn State is a conference contender, folks, and it’s thanks to Pickett.

+3000 is still a solid price to take a shot on the Nittany Lions to win the Big Ten regular-season title.

Other Notes & Observations:

  • Michigan is an impossible team to project. I don’t think the Wolverines are very good, and the Maryland win was a perfect letdown game for the Terps. There’s a lack of offensive and defensive cohesion.
  • Wisconsin is always a dark horse in the Big Ten regular-season race because it plays a consistent brand of basketball in a wide-open conference. But I’m struggling to decide how good their record is, given the Badgers have five wins by five points or less. On the flip side, the Badgers have six KenPom top-100 wins.
  • Michigan State’s early-season Spartan shine has worn off. I projected in my preseason preview that Sparty would excel in the early season due to their all-world veteran backcourt, but they’re quickly coming back to earth. The next two games — vs. Michigan and at Wisconsin — will tell us a lot about Sparty, but I think they will lose at Illinois.
  • Maryland has lost four of the last six games after a dominant non-conference campaign. It looks like the Terps are going through some shooting regression, but they’re also not crashing the offensive boards like they did early in the season. All-in-all, their four-factor efficiency has collapsed.

Tier 3: Bad at Basketball

Highlighting: Iowa Hawkeyes

The Hawkeyes started the season 5-0, with wins over Seton Hall and Clemson.

Since then, Iowa is 3-6, with losses to Eastern Illinois and Nebraska. The Hawkeyes' best win during that stretch is at home over Iowa State.

Even Kris Murray’s return hasn’t stopped the bleeding. He returned from injury and compiled 49 points against Nebraska and Penn State, but both ended in losses.

The offense has fallen off a cliff. Excluding the SEMO game, Iowa is averaging an un-Fran-like 71.8 points per game since the Iowa State win. Instead of the normal up-tempo, off-ball-screen heavy offense that results in efficient shot-making, the Hawkeyes have settled for too many 3-point jump shots.

Game 8 on this graph is the Iowa State victory:

Image Credit: CBB Analytics

It’s made the Iowa offense more high-variance and ultimately stale, resulting in disaster when shots don’t fall. The Hawkeyes went 7-for-33 from deep against Eastern Illinois, scoring only 30 points in the game’s middle 20 minutes.

And of course, the defense will always be bad in Iowa City. Iowa has allowed .970 PPP over the last five games, most recently allowing over 1.150 PPP to Penn State.

Those are disastrous numbers.

Iowa is bad at basketball right now. Coach McCaffery and Murray still have the firepower to turn this ship around, but the Hawkeyes are about crash if it doesn't change quickly.

Other Notes & Observations:

  • Surprisingly, Northwestern has exceeded expectations. The Wildcats have the best 2-point defense in the nation behind Matthew Nicholson and Tydus Verhoeven, and the perimeter defense has been surprisingly active. Of course, we’ve seen the movie where Chris Collins starts hot and ends the season by losing seven of eight.
  • Sam Griesel’s scoring and efficiency have taken a big hit, and Nebraska has suffered. Wins over Creighton and Iowa look impressive, but Creighton had no Ryan Kalkbrenner, and Iowa is … you know.
  • Minnesota isn’t just 6-7 and 0-3 in conference with zero wins over KenPom top-175 teams, the Gophers are also the league’s least profitable team at 4-8-1 ATS.

How would you rate this article?

This site contains commercial content. We may be compensated for the links provided on this page. The content on this page is for informational purposes only. Action Network makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy of the information given or the outcome of any game or event.