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College Basketball Odds, Expert Picks, Prediction for Rutgers vs. Michigan State (Thursday, Jan. 19)

College Basketball Odds, Expert Picks, Prediction for Rutgers vs. Michigan State (Thursday, Jan. 19) article feature image

Pictured: Head coach Steve Pikiell of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

  • Michigan State hosts Rutgers in an enticing Big Ten contest on Thursday night.
  • Our expect is expecting a low-scoring affair and sees value in backing one of these strong defenses.
  • Shane McNichol breaks down the game and offers up his best bet below.

Rutgers vs. Michigan State Odds

Thursday, Jan. 19
6:30 p.m. ET
Rutgers Odds
-110o / -110u
Michigan State Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute college basketball odds here.

Remember the days when every Big Ten team could pencil in wins over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights?

Tom Izzo probably does. After Rutgers joined the Big Ten in the fall of 2014, Izzo's Michigan State Spartans won their first 10 meetings against Rutgers and went six full seasons before dropping a game to the Scarlet Knights.

Those days are history as Rutgers is now in the top half of the Big Ten and finding its way into the AP poll.

Michigan State wishes the Rutgers of old was visiting as Sparty has lost two straight. Instead, a hungry Scarlet Knights squad storms into East Lansing with something to prove.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

There was no doubt when Steve Pikiell left Stony Brook for Rutgers that he was a capable basketball coach. No matter how well he arranged X's and O's, it was an uphill climb to compete at Rutgers.

Prior to Pikiell's arrival, Rutgers had not posted an above .500 record in conference play since 1991 — 26 seasons, six coaches and three conferences ago!

Pikiell has now managed a .500 or better record in three straight years in the Big Ten and has Rutgers playing like a top-20 team.

The Scarlet Knights' success is built on the defensive end where they rank third in the nation in defensive efficiency. Rutgers has allowed just two opponents to top 70 points.

Clifford Omoruyi is a high-level rim protector and defensive rebounder. Caleb McConnell might be the best on-ball perimeter defender in the sport right now. Every shot by a Rutgers opponent comes with a hand nearby and takes real offensive effort.

Rutgers has found its own trouble offensively, yet is scoring enough to start 5-2 in Big Ten play. Loyola (MD) transfer Cam Spencer is an elite shooter and swingman Paul Mulcahy has a YMCA pick-up game style that creates looks for his teammates when they need a bucket.

It's not pretty and it's not perfect, but Pikiell has his team grinding out victories in one of America's toughest conferences.

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Michigan State Spartans

Tom Izzo's team was just 5-4 on December 5. Sparty then took advantage of a soft spot in the schedule and ripped off seven straight victories. Now, Michigan State finds itself knee deep in a brutal stretch of conference play.

The Spartans will play nine straight games against top-50 competition, with the majority of those being away from home. This stretch will determine if Sparty has an NCAA Tournament future or is bound for the bubble (or worse). So far, returns are not ideal with losses at Illinois and against Purdue.

Losing a heartbreaker to highly ranked Purdue showed the Spartans can play with the nation's best teams, but Michigan State's shortcomings in that game were a microcosm of the season.

On the offensive end, Izzo put the hands in the game of Tyson Walker, who popped for 30 points, but saw little support from the rest of the lineup. At times, there's a lack of cohesion to the Spartans offense, a rarity in the Izzo era.

There are pieces to work with on the roster. Walker can find his own shot, AJ Hoggard is a downhill driver and adept passer and Mady Sissoko can compete in the paint. However, there isn't enough shooting and play-making to score with more efficient offenses. The Spartans attempted just seven outside shots against Illinois and missed all seven. That is not a winning formula in 2023.

Rutgers vs. Michigan State Betting Pick

Both the opening spread and total feel close to spot on. Rutgers is a marginally better team than Michigan State, but few teams walk into the Breslin Center and leave with a victory. Expect a dogfight that comes down to the final possessions.

As for the total, 124 is low, yet its deserved with these two teams. Rutgers and Michigan State rank first and second in the Big Ten in points allowed per game and defensive efficiency. These are the two best defenses in a conference that prides itself on that end of the floor.

That being said, you can find some value here on Michigan State's team total. Rutgers is allowing power conference foes just 61.2 points per game this season. Drop the run-and-gun Iowa Hawkeyes (a jarring phrase for football fans to read) and that average dips beneath 60.

Rutgers' offense might benefit from some shooting regression, based on Sparty's prior Big Ten opponents hitting a league-low 28.5% from deep. However, that isn't happening the other way in favor of Michigan State, especially if Malik Hall misses another game due to injury.

I like Sparty under 64, but I'll keep an eye on that number and see if it creeps any higher closer to tip off.

Pick: Michigan State Team Total Under 64

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