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Penn State vs. Michigan College Basketball Odds & Picks: Take the Better Defense at Home

Penn State vs. Michigan College Basketball Odds & Picks: Take the Better Defense at Home article feature image

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images. Pictured: Franz Wagner

  • Check out our betting preview for Sunday's college basketball matchup between the Penn State Nittany Lions and Michigan Wolverines.
  • Below, you'll find Tanner McGrath's comprehensive betting guide, including updated odds and his pick for today's game.

Penn State vs. Michigan Odds

Penn State Odds +7 [BET NOW]
Michigan Odds -7 [BET NOW]
Moneyline +250 / -305 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 150.5 [BET NOW]
Time 2 p.m. ET
TV Big Ten Network
Odds updated Sunday afternoon and via FanDuel, where you can get a $1,000 risk-free bet.

Welcome to the start of Big Ten play.

The Big Ten is ruthlessly competitive and this game is no different, as both teams would have been six seeds in the NCAA Tournament had it been played. Both rosters feature experienced players and both teams played well during non-conference play.

However, over the past few seasons, home teams have had a big edge in the Big Ten. That will be a trend to watch closely as the best conference in college basketball starts their league season.

Penn State Nittany Lions

Penn State is a bit of a mystery.

The Nittany Lions have two excellent wins this season, over VCU and Virginia Tech, paired with a bad upset home-loss to Seton Hall.

The Seton Hall loss was painful to watch (especially as someone who had Penn State -2.5). Penn State led 79-73 with 3:40 to play and then 84-76 with 1:58 left. Then came a total collapse, as Seton Hall forced overtime and went on to win by six.

Penn State (-2.5) led 79-73 with 3:40 left to play in the 2nd half 😬

— Action Network Colleges (@ActionColleges) December 7, 2020

Penn State is just 2-8 against the spread (ATS) in their last 10 games. And this season, free-throw shooting has been an issue, as they get to the line at one of the lowest rates in the nation. Per KenPom, the Nittany Lions rank 275th in the country in FTA/FGA.

Additionally, Penn State ranks outside the top-200 in Defensive Rebounding Percentage, as they only pull down 24.8 defensive rebounds per game (244th in the nation per Sports Reference).

However, the one area where Penn State has an advantage is ball security and forcing turnovers. Penn State averages just 11.5 turnovers per game while forcing 16.8, good for a +5.3 margin, while Michigan is much closer to a wash in net turnovers.

Michigan Wolverines

With Zavier Simpson gone, Isaiah Livers and Franz Wagner are the leaders of this Michigan team.

However, the emergence of 7-foot-1 freshman Hunter Dickinson has been a welcome surprise for the Wolverines. Dickinson is averaging 14.8 points and 7.4 rebounds per game while shooting 70.8% from the field.

The success of Juwan Howard’s NBA-style offense will rest on Livers’ shoulders, though. The two-way forward is scoring 15.8 points per game while adding two combined steals and blocks. The Wolverines are a different beast when Livers is playing well.

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Michigan is very efficient on the offensive end. The Wolverines rank seventh in KenPom Offensive Efficiency, with most of their success coming from inside the arc. They rank 10th in 2-point FG% (62.4%) on the backs of Dickinson and Wagner, who are scoring a combined 25 points per game on 68% shooting.

Michigan went undefeated in non-conference play, sitting at 5-0 straight up and 4-1 against the spread. The Nittany Lions will be Michigan’s first KenPom top-100 opponent and their first real test this season.

Betting Analysis & Pick

Michigan has had recent success against Penn State at 8-2 straight-up and 6-4 ATS.

However, I see value in Michigan because they are the better defense playing at home. Michigan ranks 43rd in KenPom Defensive Efficiency while Penn State ranks 63rd. Michigan’s Effective Field Goal Percentage against is just 43.4% while Penn State’s is 50.7%.

Over the past few seasons, Big Ten teams have been dominant at home. Last season, Big Ten teams won 68.6% of their home games, the fourth-best home-win percentage among all 32 conferences.

Moreover, since the beginning of the 2017-18 season, Big Ten teams are 350-282-20 ATS (55.4%) when playing at home, per our SportsInsights database. If you had bet $100 ATS on every Big Ten team playing at home over that span, you would be up over $4000.

In this matchup, the smart bet is on the home team with the better defense. I’m expecting this line to open at Michigan -6 and would play it up to -7.5.

Pick: Michigan -6 (-110). Play up to -7.5.

[Bet now at FanDuel and get a $1,000 risk-free bet.]

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