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Buffalo vs. Michigan State Odds, Expert Picks | College Basketball Betting Guide (Friday, Dec. 30)

Buffalo vs. Michigan State Odds, Expert Picks | College Basketball Betting Guide (Friday, Dec. 30) article feature image
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Pictured: Buffalo Bulls guard Devin Ceaser. (Photo by Williams Paul/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

  • Buffalo visits Michigan State as each squad looks to finish up non-conference play on a high note.
  • The Spartans are heavily favored, but our analyst thinks the Bulls may be able to keep this game close.
  • Tanner McGrath previews the game and shares his best bet below.

Buffalo vs. Michigan State Odds

Friday, Dec. 30
6 p.m. ET
Big Ten Network
Buffalo Odds
Spread Total Moneyline
+15.5
-110
144.5
-110o / -110u
+1000
Michigan State Odds
Spread Total Moneyline
-15.5
-110
144.5
-110o / -110u
-2100
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute college basketball odds here.

Buffalo finishes its demanding non-conference schedule with a Thursday night trip to East Lansing, where Tom Izzo’s Spartans await.

Michigan State is looking to conclude an overall successful non-conference slate, although they’re behind the eight-ball after dropping their conference home opener to Northwestern.

Although these teams play very different styles, both play through their backcourt. The matchup to watch is Buffalo’s Zid Powell and Curtis Jones against Michigan State’s Tyson Walker and AJ Hoggard.

Although the latter duo is much more impressive than the former, this game could be closer than the massive spread suggests.

Let’s take a closer look.


Buffalo Bulls

Watching Buffalo this season, you’d be surprised to learn Jim Whitesell is in full rebuilding mode.

The Bulls lost their top seven scorers from last season, including All-MAC players Josh Mballa and Jeenathan Williams. Yet the Bulls carry on, playing up-tempo, downhill basketball.

The Bulls are impressively lengthy. They run between 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-8 at the guard and forward positions, ranking 53rd nationally in average height.

Perhaps the length has helped Whitesell install his Xs and Os with an entirely new roster. The Bulls haven’t missed a beat and are using over nine steals per game (91st percentile) to ignite their 18.8 fast-break PPG (99th percentile) and 36.7 paint PPG (82nd percentile).

The Bulls force turnovers, get the ball to their lengthy wings and truck toward the rim. Whitesell’s system is working, as there’s arguably not a college hoops team that better combines paint frequency and efficiency.

Image credit: CBB Analytics

The constant downhill driving also leads to plenty of free throws.

However, Buffalo can’t shoot and is one of the worst spot-up teams in the nation (.786 PPP, 7th percentile). That lack of shooting means the Bulls often stall out in the halfcourt, although their pick-and-roll and handoff metrics are solid.

The best way to stop the Bulls is to turn them into jump shooters.

Additionally, there are serious defensive issues. Buffalo is vulnerable to transition buckets and post-ups, and it’s sub-285 in two-point defense (53.7%).

Also, don’t expect Buffalo to rebound much.

But all-in-all, the Bulls are performing. They’ve taken down George Mason, St. Bonaventure and Colgate, and covered against West Virginia and Drake. They’re battle-tested after staring down UConn, James Madison and Tulane.

I adore Whitesell’s X’s and O’s, but the Jimmies and Joes are worth a mention. Jones and Powell combine for 27.5 PPG, 8.8 RPG and 5.4 APG.

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Michigan State Spartans

The early-season shine has worn off, and Sparty is settling into its pre-season expectations.

Michigan State brought back its savvy, veteran guards, so I expected it to be ultra-competitive out the gate. On queue, the Spartans went punch-for-punch with Gonzaga, then beat Kentucky, Villanova and Oregon.

However, Michigan State has dropped 25 spots in KenPom since the Villanova win. Alabama handled them relatively easily, and dropping games to Notre Dame and Northwestern is a bad look.

The nine-point road win over Penn State looks good until you see the Nittany Lions shot 8-for-27 from deep.

Sparty runs a slow-paced, ball-screen-heavy offense that attempts to get the ball in the interior. Hoggard and Walker are two of the best pure guards in the nation and Michigan State is always near the top of the country in assist rate.

But the interior scoring isn’t there. Despite taking 40 two-point attempts per game (75th percentile), Sparty is making just 47% of them (15th percentile).

Image credit: CBB Analytics

For starters, Marcus Bingham was a much-better post player than Mady Sissoko, and the post-up efficiency took a dive year-over-year (.889 PPP last season to .763 PPP this season, 70th percentile to 30th percentile).

I also don’t trust Jaden Akins, Joey Hauser or Pierre Brooks driving to the bucket.

This has all resulted in a very three-point-reliant offense. Sparty has moved the ball very well, and the Walker/Hoggard duo always finds the open shooter, so I don’t see the 34th-ranked 3-point rate as an anomaly (37.7%).

However, the lack of consistent interior offense is something I’m noting. You can see this show up in their results, as Michigan State shot poorly from deep in each of its losses:

  • Gonzaga: 3-for-16
  • Alabama: 4-for-14
  • Notre Dame: 4-for-12
  • Penn State: 8-for-22

Michigan State is a top-30 defensive team by almost every metric. In particular, Akins has been elite defensively, pacing the Big Ten in Evan Miya’s DBPR metric.


Buffalo vs. Michigan State Betting Pick

For all its defensive success, Michigan State has struggled in one area: Transition defense.

Sparty allows 1.036 PPP in transition, which ranks in the 30th percentile. That’s a death sentence against Whitesell’s squad.

Additionally, Michigan State’s inability to score efficiently on the interior is excellent news for Buffalo, as the Spartans won’t be able to take advantage of the Bulls’ biggest vulnerability. Buffalo ranks in the 23rd percentile in post-up PPP allowed, but Michigan State ranks in the 28th percentile in post-up PPP.

As for Buffalo’s interior weaknesses, the Bulls have been solid at running guys off the three-point line (95th in three-point defense, 107th in three-point rate allowed).

Additionally, Buffalo can go punch-for-punch with Michigan State on the interior because it can match up size-wise.

The worry is Michigan State dominates the boards and takes excellent care of the ball, which could take Buffalo out of transition and tilt the game toward Sparty’s pace.

But we are catching 16 points, which I project as too many. KenPom makes this spread Michigan State -15, while VSIN’s Greg Peterson makes it Michigan State -13.

I’ll take a shot with Buffalo and the points on Friday night.

Pick: Buffalo +15.5 | Play to +15

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