Michigan State-Iowa Betting Preview: Are the Spartans Finally Due For a Letdown?
Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Michigan State Spartans forward Nick Ward (44), Iowa Hawkeyes forward Tyler Cook (25) and Michigan State Spartans forward Kyle Ahrens (0).
Wednesday’s college basketball docket provided some intriguing finishes down the stretch, including Georgia’s backdoor cover at LSU (sorry, Randle), but those games don’t hold a candle to Thursday’s contests.
Among the two ranked matchups, No. 6 Michigan State travels to No. 19 Iowa in a critical Big Ten showdown. Which sides have more value? Let’s break it down.
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Betting Odds: Michigan State Spartans at Iowa Hawkeyes
- Spread: Michigan State -4.5
- Over/Under: 157.5
- Time: 7 p.m. ET
- TV: FS1
The Spartans (15-4 against the spread) have covered in each of their past eight affairs, but are they due for a setback in Iowa City?
The Hawkeyes (10-9 ATS) own the 10th-highest Adjusted Offensive Efficiency (118.8 points per 100 possessions) in the country, and it’s spurted by getting their opponents into foul trouble.
They boast the second-highest free-throw rate (FTA/FGA), led by their leading-scorer Tyler Cook (16.5 points per game) generating the 19th-highest percentage in that department.
Nevertheless, he’ll face Michigan State’s extremely physical frontcourt, which includes Nick Ward — one of the top two-players in the Big Ten.
The Spartans are also limiting teams to the lowest two-point percentage (40.1%) in Division I, and Iowa has thrived via playing inside-out through Cook and Garza. Expect the Hawkeyes to struggle to initiate their offense.
At the other end, Fran McCaffrey’s squad not only presents one of the worst interior defenses in the conference, but their opponents have amassed 53.0% of their scoring from inside the arc — the 59th-highest rate in the country.
Michigan State has a very balanced unit, but they run a large chunk of their sets with Ward (15.7 ppg) and Naismith Player of the Year candidate Cassius Winston (18.0 ppg) attacking the paint.
Iowa couldn’t handle Ward in their first matchup, as he hammered Cook and Garza for 26 points via 10-of-10 shooting from the field. While plenty of teams find ways to adjust in rematches, Ward is a dominant presence because he’s constantly wearing down opponents in the low-post. Look for a similar result this time around.
MSU won’t be welcoming back sharpshooter Josh Langford (foot), who will miss his seventh straight game, yet it’ll have Matt McQuaid at their disposal. The Spartans top wing defender didn’t suit up in their 22-point beatdown of the Hawkeyes on Dec. 3 with a thigh bruise.
He’ll play a major role in slowing down Joe Wieskamp (11.9 ppg) and Isaiah Moss (10.0 ppg), respectively. Remember, he limited Nebraska’s leading-scorer James Palmer Jr. to the tune of 6-of-21 shooting in a six-point victory last Thursday.
According to our Bet Labs data, Tom Izzo’s bunch is 5-1 (83.3%) ATS as a single-digit road favorite this season. Lay the points in what’ll be an intriguing contest until MSU pulls away down the stretch.
Plus, the Spartans have hit the under in seven of their past 10 road games against teams with a home winning percentage of .600 or better. That trend should continue as well, especially with both units providing a top-100 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency — despite their respective high-tempo attacks.
THE PICKS: MSU -4.5; Under 157.5