Michigan Pauses Basketball Program: Where to Find Betting Value in the Big Ten

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Michigan Wolverines Head Coach Juwan Howard. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

It was a bittersweet week for the Michigan Wolverines basketball program. For the first time all season Michigan cracked the top-5 of the AP rankings, but now the team must sit out two weeks due to health and safety protocols.

All Michigan athletics were put on pause following a confirmed case of B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant within the department. There were no positive test on the basketball team, but nevertheless there will be no Wolverines games for the next two weeks.

That means Michigan will miss games against Penn State, Indiana Northwestern and Michigan State if the program misses the minimum amount of time.

The health of Michigan’s basketball team and athletic program is obviously the biggest concern here. It does, however, lead to questions for bettors surrounding the Big Ten moving forward.

Two of our college basketball experts weigh in on what’s next for Michigan and where betting opportunities may exist in the conference.

The two-week suspension of the Michigan sports program will have a direct impact on the Big Ten race. The Wolverines were the clear leader in the conference, even with a 75-57 blowout loss at Minnesota. They are currently 8-1 in conference play, but still have six road games scheduled. The pause in the season disrupts the schedule and opens the door for another contender.

I still like Illinois, currently listed with the fourth-best odds at +385. The Illini have the best balance of any team remaining in the conference, ranking eighth in offensive efficiency and 25th in defensive efficiency per KenPom. With the exception of Connecticut, the last 12 NCAA champions all ranked Top 20 in both categories. Illinois has a great inside-outside duo in Kofi Cockburn and Ayo Dosunmu, and are not overly reliant on the three-pointer to score (27.5% of points, 252nd in the country). The Big Ten is still Michigan’s to lose, but the two-week interruption will open the door for a balanced and talented Illinois team.

With the Big Ten forcing Michigan to go on a two-week hiatus, value in the betting market appears on multiple teams to win the conference.

Illinois looks to be the biggest benefactor to this news and should be worth a look at +700 to win this conference. The Fighting Illini have a dynamic duo of freshman guard Ayo Dosunmu and 7-foot center Kofi Cockburn — both projected to be NBA players next year. Dosunmu is a 6-foot-5 point guard who averages 21.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game. Paired with Cockburn, who averages 17.4 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, this duo is good enough to beat anyone in the country.

Illinois ends the season facing seven teams inside the top 30, which should help bulk its resume as well as prep them for the conference tournament. With odds of +700 at DraftKings, that implies Illinois has only a 14.29% chance of winning the Big Ten. My rankings have them as a projected 3-seed in the Big Ten Tournament and a 19.55% chance of winning the conference. That’s more than enough value for me to back this Fighting Illini squad.

At the time of writing (late Sunday night), Illinois’s Big Ten Conference Outright Futures odds were as long as +700 at DraftKings.

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