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Big Ten Conference Basketball Betting Report: Has Rutgers Played Its Way into the Big Dance?

Big Ten Conference Basketball Betting Report: Has Rutgers Played Its Way into the Big Dance? article feature image

Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images. Pictured: Caleb McConnell (Rutgers)

Welcome to the final stretch.

The Big Ten race is coming down to the wire. The top four teams are within two games of each other, and any of those programs could pull down the regular-season crown in the final weeks.

Meanwhile, nine of the 14 Big Ten teams are projected to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

There are plenty of storylines to look at. So, let’s take a peek at the State of the Big Ten Conference as we enter March.

Odds are as of February 20, and via DraftKings.

The Favorites

Purdue Boilermakers-220
Wisconsin Badgers+300
Illinois Fighting Illini+350

Purdue Boilermakers

Somehow, someway, Purdue is now back atop the Big Ten standings.

Well, the Boilermakers are in a tie with Illinois for that title. But after a mid-season slide, it’s impressive that Matt Painter & Co. are back in contention for this title.

To be fair, the Boilermakers deserve to be here. Outside of a disastrous 24-point loss to Michigan — in a letdown spot — the Boilermakers have won eight of their last nine games.

Interestingly, the offense has taken a step back in recent games. The Boilermakers haven’t cracked 1.00 points per possession in three straight outings.

Before this stretch, there was just one game Purdue failed to reach that mark.

I’m slightly worried about this team. Coach Painter has a reputation for blowing big games, and all the pressure is on the Boilermakers in the last few weeks.

Illinois Fighting Illini

Therefore, I think it’s worth taking a slight position on Illinois at +350 to take home the regular-season title.

Purdue has Michigan State and Wisconsin on the road in the final four games. Plus, it has to play a Rutgers team that refuses to lose.

Meanwhile, Illinois has three of its final four regular-season games at home.

If the Illini can beat Michigan in Ann Arbor next Sunday, they likely run the table.

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At-Large Teams

Ohio State Buckeyes+7000
Iowa Hawkeyes+30000
Michigan State Spartans+40000
Michigan Wolverines+40000
Indiana Hoosiers+50000

Michigan Wolverines

Michigan won’t repeat as Big Ten regular-season champions, but the team has played its way back into tournament contention.

It’s astounding. Michigan was 11-9 overall and 5-5 in conference play on Feb. 5. Since then, the Wolverines have won three of four, including a monstrous upset victory over Purdue and a road win over Iowa.

Four of the Wolverines’ final six games will be in Ann Arbor. Given the way Hunter Dickinson is playing, look for Michigan to storm its way to an at-large bid to the Big Dance.

Michigan State Spartans

It’s been quite a fall from grace for Tom Izzo & Co.

After starting the conference season 5-0, the Spartans have now lost four of their last five games.

However, the early-season schedule for Sparty was cookie-cutter soft, and this level of regression was expected.

But losses to Rutgers and Penn State were not expected, even though both came on the road.

Izzo generally has his teams playing their best near March. So, don’t count the Spartans out during the final stretch — or during the conference tournament.

Rising Bubble Team

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

The Scarlet Knights are the biggest story in college hoops right now.

No unranked team had ever beaten four straight ranked teams before Rutgers accomplished that feat last Wednesday. Rutgers has stormed past Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Illinois during the streak.

The Scarlet Knights have found their recipe for winning again. That recipe is made up of two ingredients: good defense and Ron Harper Jr.

Rutgers has allowed less than 65 points in all four of these wins. Meanwhile, Harper has averaged 15 points per game during the stretch — which includes a six-point dud against Ohio State.

When Harper is running the offense and the defense is suffocating, the Scarlet Knights can be the best team in the Big Ten.

It’s also worth pointing out Clifford Omoruyi, who has broken out in the second half of the season. Over his last five games, he’s averaging 15.4 points, six rebounds and two blocks a night.

He’s been a force on the interior, and the production has come in huge matchups with Marcus Bingham Jr., E.J. Liddell and Kofi Cockburn.

Right now, Rutgers is on the bubble. But if it can beat Wisconsin, Indiana and Penn State to close out the regular season, the Scarlet Knights should earn an at-large bid.

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