Michigan State-Michigan Betting Guide: Spartans Face Tough Test Without Ward

Michigan State-Michigan Betting Guide: Spartans Face Tough Test Without Ward article feature image

USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Jordan Poole and Cassius Winston

Michigan State-Michigan Betting Odds

  • Odds: Michigan -4
  • Total: 133.5
  • Time: 3:45 p.m. ET
  • TV: CBS

>> All odds as of 7 a.m. ET. Download The Action Network App to get real-time odds and win probabilities on your bets.

Two bitter Big Ten rivals meet on Sunday afternoon tied atop the conference standings at 13-3 (along with Purdue). This game will go a long way in determining the conference’s regular season champ, though they meet again on March 9.

Michigan has won and covered the last three meetings between these teams, twice as an underdog. But which team has the edge Saturday in Ann Arbor? Let’s break it down.

Market Moves for Michigan State-Michigan

Nearly 75% of betting tickets are on Michigan, which has moved from -3.5 to -4. Some books have even gone to -4.5. 

A flood of over money hit the market shortly after 10 a.m. ET, moving it from 130.5 all the way to 133.5. — Steve Petrella

Trends to Know

Michigan State is 18-8 against the spread (ATS) this season and since 2013, the Spartans are 104-70-2 ATS (59.8%) during the regular season, the third-most profitable team in the country behind Villanova and Virginia. Michigan State has not fared well as an underdog though, going just 13-15 ATS, losing both games this season. — Evan Abrams

Eight of the last 10 meetings between these two teams have gone over the total. — Steve Petrella

Michigan has won 22 consecutive home games straight up (SU), including winning 34 of its last 35 home games dating back to February of 2017. Michigan’s only home loss in that span came to Purdue in January of 2018. Since the beginning of last season, Michigan is 31-1 SU (96.9%) at home, the third-best home winning percentage. — Evan Abrams

Under Tom Izzo, Michigan State has been an underdog of +3 or more against Michigan five times. Michigan State is 0-5 SU and 1-4 ATS, with four of the games resulting in a Michigan double-digit win. — Evan Abrams

Key Injuries

Michigan State has played just one game without star forward Nick Ward, who is out with a hand injury. The Spartans struggled to get going against Rutgers but ultimately pulled away late to win by 11.

While likely not quite as valuable to MSU’s success as point guard Cassius Winston, Ward is a physical inside presence who draws an insane amount of fouls and rebounds well. His participation would be welcomed against Michigan’s big frontcourt.

When Michigan State Has the Ball

While Michigan has yielded the highest 2-point scoring rate (60.5%) in the Division I, Michigan State’s interior attack isn’t as efficient minus Ward (hairline fracture). While the 6-foot-8 Xavier Tillman is a fine role player, expect the Wolverines’ frontcourt mates Jon Teske and Ignas Brazdeikis to make life difficult inside.

The Spartans have gotten away with slow starts in their past two wins over Rutgers and Ohio State, respectively, covering only the latter matchup (-12). Their biggest Achilles’ heel remains turnovers, owning the third-highest rate (19.3%) in Big Ten play.

John Beilein’s bunch has forced the conference’s fifth-highest rate (17.9%) in league play, led by Zavier Simpson and company’s elite on-ball defense. Simpson should force Spartans point guard Cassius Winston out of a rhythm early, and it’ll be tough for him and his teammates to recover without a trustworthy point guard behind him.

Michigan State’s most effective offense comes via attacking the lane and getting to the line, especially in transition, generating the third-highest free-throw rate (36.0%) in league play. But the Wolverines have let up the lowest rate in that department (23.7%).

Look for Michigan to control the tempo, aided by its elite defense, and keep the Spartans away from their strength as a result. — Eli Hershkovich

When Michigan Has the Ball

Michigan has gotten to this point in Big Ten play thanks to its defense, especially lately. The Wolverines haven’t topped 70 points in their last four games, and have had above-average offensive efficiency just once in their last six games. Most of their strong season-long metrics come from non-conference play.

Michigan makes its living on offense by not turning the ball over. It ranks fourth nationally in turnover percentage, while the Spartans don’t force any turnovers (they rank 331st).

Other than that, there’s not one thing Michigan does exceptionally well on offense, and it’s cost it in conference play to a certain extent. — Steve Petrella

Bet to Watch

It feels like John Beilein has owned this rivalry, but it’s really been only over the last two years. Michigan State won five straight (4-1 ATS) prior to Michigan’s run of three straight.

Michigan has just been so good at home over the last few years. And without a dominating force inside like Nick Ward (since the Wolverines defend the perimeter so well and should be able to take that away), the Spartans may struggle on offense.

You’re probably getting a little bit of pure value on Michigan State at +4 or better but it’s tough to bet against Michigan at the Crisler Center. I’d be willing to tie in Michigan moneyline with another favorite for a slightly plus-money parlay, but not lay -4 or -4.5. — Steve Petrella