Bradley vs. Michigan State Betting Guide: Will Braves Test Hobbled Spartans in NCAA Tournament Opener?

Bradley vs. Michigan State Betting Guide: Will Braves Test Hobbled Spartans in NCAA Tournament Opener? article feature image
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#2 Michigan State vs. #15 Bradley NCAA Tournament Betting Odds

  • Spread: Michigan State -18.5
  • Over/Under: 133.5
  • Time: Thursday, 2:45 p.m. ET
  • TV: CBS
  • Location: Des Moines, Iowa

>> All odds as of Wednesday evening. Download The Action Network App to get real-time odds and live win probabilities on your bets.


Michigan State is one of the best teams in college basketball at covering the spread, posting a 24-10 record against the spread this season. The Spartans won the Big Ten Tournament despite injuries across the roster, losing Kyle Ahrens in the championship game against Michigan.

Bradley (16-17 ATS) was an unexpected winner of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. As the No. 5 seed, the Braves upset Missouri State, Loyola-Chicago and then Northern Iowa in the finals. The Braves rely on a slow pace of play, rebounding and an experienced roster. Bradley has pulled upsets in the NCAA Tournament before, beating Kansas as a No. 13 seed in 2006.

Bradley is looking for a snail-paced game, Michigan State has also had its share of low-scoring games, going under in 20 of 34 contests this season. But with a strength of schedule rank of third for the Spartans and 205th for the Braves, it is safe to say Bradley may not have the chance to dictate the flow of the game.

Bradley Wants to Slow It Down

There is a reason this point spread is pushing 20. There just are not many statistical categories where Bradley as an advantage. The Braves have excelled in blocks, 3-point percentage and defensive effective field goal percentage. But Bradley is 302nd nationally in 2-point percentage and 231st in free-throw percentage, two stats vital to tournament success.

The Braves have an average height of 185th in the country, and that will be trouble against Michigan State’s excellent, sizable interior defense. While Bradley does have a top 60 three-point percentage rank, it is important to note that Michigan State is top 50 in perimeter defense. The only true advantage Bradley may have over the Spartans is health.

Bradley’s Issues Play Into Michigan State’s Hands

A blind resume of these two teams is eye opening. We mention Bradley’s issue with 2-point field goal percentage, and that plays into the hands of Michigan State. The Spartans are third in the country in opponent 2-point field goal percentage. It’s really tough to get inside on them.

Along with the advantages in blocks and average height, Michigan State should have their way on the offensive glass. The Spartans are top 25 in offensive rebounding and take on a Braves defense that is 104th in that category.

The Pick

The advanced stats are heavily in favor of Michigan State — it’s hard to find anything good to pull out of this Bradley team’s statistical profile. If this was an opponent that had a quick tempo and relied on a ton of 3’s in its point distribution, we may be talking upset.

The ingredients for a Michigan State upset are there between injuries and possible fatigue from selling out to win the Big Ten Tournament, but Bradley isn’t a team that will push the pace and challenge Sparty in that way.

For the Braves to come close to winning this game, Michigan State would have to have its worst shooting day of the season combined with no effort on the glass. Even in that scenario, Bradley is not a great shooting team and would have to play its absolute best game.

Take Sparty.

Collin’s Pick: Michigan State -18.5, up to -19


Projected Spread

Get point spreads for this game and every possible tournament matchup with our bracket simulator built by Sean Koerner, our Director of Predictive Analytics, a former oddsmaker and FantasyPros’ most accurate in-season fantasy football ranker from 2015-2017.

  • Spread: Michigan State -22
  • Total: 135.5
  • Proj Score: Michigan State 79 | Bradley 57
  • Win Probability: Michigan State 98.9% | Bradley 1.1%

Editor’s note: The opinions on this games are from the individual writer and are based on his research, analysis and perspective. They are independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.

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