Michigan State-Nebraska Betting Preview: Will Spartans Stumble in Lincoln?

Michigan State-Nebraska Betting Preview: Will Spartans Stumble in Lincoln? article feature image

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports. PIctured: Michigan State Spartans head coach Tom Izzo talks to Michigan State Spartans forward Nick Ward (44).

In the Big Ten, which is projected to tie for the most NCAA tournament bids among high-major conferences, 15-2 Michigan State (13-4 against the spread) represents one of two teams that have yet to stumble all season. Its lone losses came against Kansas and an upstart Louisville team.

But here comes 13-4 Nebraska, a team I was high on in the preseason, with an opportunity to pull off a much-needed upset to boost itself into the No. 4 seed conversation. It’s coming off a dominating win at Indiana, too.

Can the Cornhuskers (10-4-2 ATS) collect their first win over the No. 6 Spartans since January 2016? Let’s breakdown the matchup.

>> All odds as of Wednesday night. Download The Action Network App to get real-time NCAAB odds and track your bets.

Betting Odds: Michigan State Spartans at Nebraska Cornhuskers

  • Spread: Michigan State -1.5
  • Over/Under: 145
  • Time: 8 p.m. ET
  • TV: FS1

The Spartans have covered in their past six contests by an average of 8.2 points per game. They’ve responded to sharpshooter Joshua Langford’s four-game leave (foot injury) by scoring their highest percentage of points inside the arc.

Tom  Izzo’s crew runs 29.4% of its offense through the 6-foot-9 Nick Ward (16.6 points per game) — the 84th-highest rate in the country. Given Nebraska allows the eighth-highest opponents’ two-point scoring percentage (57.6%), expect Ward and Co. to continue to attack the paint.

On the flip side, Langford and Kyle Ahren’s (back sprain) respective absences have clipped the Spartans’ 3-point percentage by 4.8 percentage points over the past three games.

The Cornhuskers’ own the 14th-best perimeter defense (28.9%) in the nation, and Tim Miles’ crew will need to slow down the Spartans’ high-paced attack to keep that going, as they earn many of their 3-point looks in transition.

Expect Michigan State’s short-fused rotation to finally catch-up in this one against a battle-tested opponent. Nebraska has amassed the 70th-highest opponents’ turnover rate, and its ability to switch on ball screens at every position will be prove to be critical, especially to throw different looks at an elite point guard in Cassius Winston (17.6 ppg).

Winston has generated turnovers at times, including seven of them at Penn State on Sunday. His backup Foster Lawyer is producing a 22.7% turnover rate.

While the Spartans boast a rebounding advantage on paper, the Cornhuskers have a size edge overall and can play inside-out via wing James Palmer Jr. (19.0 ppg), who’s 30.4% possession rate ranks 49th in the nation.

Michigan State’s Matt McQuaid is a sound defender, but Palmer’s ability to attack the lane and space the floor gives him an advantage against the slower-footed McQuaid.

According to our Bet Labs data, the Cornhuskers are 13-4-1 (76.5%) ATS as an underdog, dating back to last regular season. Take the home squad for what should be a tightly-contested affair.

THE PICK: Nebraska +1.5