Michigan State vs Gonzaga Odds, Picks: 5 Best Bets for Friday’s Game
Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Drew Timme of the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
Michigan State vs No. 2 Gonzaga
Unlike last year when the Champions Classic was the official opener of the new campaign, the first few days of the 2022-23 college hoops season has been light on marquee matchups.
So, which team has the edge? And how should we bet this game? Our staff has a complete betting guide with picks for you.
Michigan State vs. Gonzaga Odds
|Michigan State Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
Our Best Bets for Michigan State vs. No. 2 Gonzaga
|Michigan State +10.5
Michigan State +10.5
This isn’t the same Gonzaga from the last couple of years. The Zags don’t have the rim protection with Chet Holmgren now in the NBA, or the multitude of scorers like they did with the trio of Jalen Suggs, Corey Kispert and Drew Timme back in 2020-21.
There’s a lot more question marks for Mark Few’s squad. Aside from the Bulldogs’ lack of rim protection because of Holmgren’s departure, Gonzaga’s point guard Andrew Nembhard graduated.
That leaves a heavy workload for sophomore Nolan Hickman and Chattanooga transfer Malachi Smith. While Smith is a talented scorer, he’s facing consistent Power Five competition in a more physical, fast-paced style of play. Gonzaga remains a run-and-gun offense this season.
Efton Reid (LSU) also joined Gonzaga via the transfer portal, looking to shore up Few’s issues at the 5. Though a big body and highly-recruited, Reid wasn’t as dominant a rim protector as expected with the Tigers.
The Bulldogs may be vulnerable around the paint without Holmgren’s versatility and length. It’s a stark drop off from the 7-foot-1 big to Timme and Reid, who averaged just 19.6 minutes per game last year.
To me, this is just too many points for Tom Izzo and the Spartans, especially on a neutral floor — or ship, I guess.
Tyson Walker and A.J. Hoggard return to make up a talented backcourt. Walker was a prolific scorer at Northeastern and should be handed a larger role in his senior season and second under Izzo.
While the Spartans lack a true star, what Michigan State does have is depth and potential.
Malik Hall and Joey Hauser are veterans that have proven to be consistent scorers. Jaden Akins should take a sophomore leap and top-50 freshman Jaxon Kohler is extremely talented and a much-needed boost in the frontcourt.
These are two well-coached squads with a lot of veteran experience and a sprinkle of youth. The Spartans’ athleticism and physicality should match up well with Gonzaga, and they shouldn’t be run off the court.
KenPom projects this game as an eight-point Gonzaga win.
I expect Sparty to go blow-for-blow with one of the country’s best before the Bulldogs eventually pull away late.
By D.J. James
Gonzaga and Michigan State come together for one of the first marquee games of the season.
Drew Timme came back to Gonzaga in surprising fashion. Chet Holmgren went to the league, but the Bulldogs supplemented losing him and Andrew Nembhard with Efton Reid from LSU and Malachi Smith from Chattanooga, two highly-regarded transfers.
Meanwhile, Michigan State returns some solid contributors. They did lose some size in Julius Marble (now at Texas A&M), Marcus Bingham Jr. and Gabe Brown, though.
With Timme, Reid, Anton Watson and Julian Strawther, MSU may struggle to keep up with the Zags' size. The Spartans had 46 boards in game one, but Gonzaga is not Northern Arizona. This will be a handful.
In addition, this will impact MSU’s defensive approach. Gonzaga should find some interior scoring options, as this team shot 69.1% against North Florida on 2-pointers.
MSU is obviously a better team, but Mark Few has been using a similar scheme, like the following, with Timme on the perimeter for years:
Continuity Ball Screen x Gonzaga Death Lineup pic.twitter.com/eYa9LUdmVn
— Jordan Sperber (@hoopvision68) December 26, 2020
This will open up plenty of opportunities against the shorter Spartans.
MSU also struggled immensely with turnovers in the backcourt (18.8%), and Gonzaga turned North Florida over 22 times. A.J. Hoggard and Tyson Walker are the usual suspects with coughing up the ball for MSU, so this will be another spot to exploit for the Bulldogs.
Strawther is one player to watch because he averaged 2.4 free throws per game last season.
If he and Timme can draw fouls, Joey Hauser or Malik Hall could be riding the pine for a good portion of the game, forcing Mady Sissoko to log heavy minutes in the post against the nation’s best.
Pick: Gonzaga -9.5 (Play -11)
Listen, I get that it’s Gonzaga and Michigan State, two teams who have consistently been among the best scoring teams year in and year out. And Gonzaga has been among the top 10 in pace of play in each of the last two seasons.
But this is a new year. These are new teams. Oh, and this game is literally being played on an aircraft carrier outdoors.
After opening at an insane 155.5, this total has dropped like a rock down to where I was able to grab it at 149.5 on Thursday night.
Both Gonzaga and Michigan State rank outside the top 250 in return minutes for this season. They are both talented teams, but possess youth and inexperience.
Not to say anyone has a ton of experience playing a basketball game on an aircraft carrier, but we do have some experience when it comes to betting on them.
The original Carrier Classic each had one game played in 2011 and 2012. In 2011, the total landed at 122 while in 2012, Syracuse and San Diego State finished with just 111 points.
I don't think this game will go that low necessarily, but any number better than 145.5 should field a wager.
Anytime a game is played in an unorthodox stadium, my first instinct is to look at the total.
In this case, college basketball returns to play this matchup on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier.
This is an important factor because it can be difficult for shooters to adjust their depth perception playing in a wide open environment.
We know that Gonzaga will want to get out in transition and push the tempo. We saw that in the season opener, as the Zags put up 104 points against North Florida.
Tom Izzo also took note of that, and as a result, will have his program playing with the opposite tempo — not wanting to turn this game into an up-and-down shootout.
Last season, the Spartans ranked 147th in Tempo — according to KenPom — and it will be even slower in this matchup.
Though both programs are poised to be contenders late in March, we still don’t know how good these young teams truly are. Filling in the holes left by Chet Holmgren and Andrew Nembhard is no easy feat for Gonzaga.
I’m expecting a bit of an offensive struggle from both offenses, given the unfamiliar outdoor conditions in the middle of the Pacific.
These are two good teams and we should all be excited to see them play. And yet, I’m throwing all basketball knowledge out the window and betting the under for one simple reason: the game is being played outdoors on a boat!
The USS Abraham Lincoln is certain to be a great atmosphere for a game played on Veterans Day, though it is a far departure from the venues where both teams typically play and practice.
We have some prior data, though from an incredibly small sample size.
In 2011, Michigan State played North Carolina in a similar setting. The final score was just 76-55, thanks to dismal shooting on both ends.
The teams combined to make just 6-of-32 from long range, good for 19%. Michigan State shot 30.6% from the field and only scored 0.82 points per possession.
Those 2011 Tar Heels averaged over 81 points per game and only scored fewer points than their seaside output in three of 38 games that year. That Michigan State team only failed to hit 55 points twice all season.
Toss out the record books and the analytics. If you’ve hooped outdoors before, you know this is the play.