Thursday Big Ten Tournament Odds & Picks: Michigan-Rutgers, Iowa-Minnesota, Purdue-Ohio State

Thursday Big Ten Tournament Odds & Picks: Michigan-Rutgers, Iowa-Minnesota, Purdue-Ohio State article feature image
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Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images. Pictured: Luka Garza #55 of the Iowa Hawkeyes

We have officially hit uncharted and uncertain territory in the Big Ten conference tournament.

The conference announced that the rest of the tournament would be played without fans due to coronavirus concerns. Nebraska coach Fred Hoiberg was hospitalized with the flu, but as of Thursday morning, the second round of the Big Ten tournament is set to go on as scheduled.

Here’s how I’m betting three of the four games.


Odds as of Thursday morning and via PointsBet. Get up to $25 FREE and $250 in free bets at PointsBet today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.


No. 9 Michigan v. No. 8 Rutgers

  • Spread: Michigan -2.5
  • Over/Under: 135
  • Time: 12 p.m. ET
  • TV: BTN
  • Location: Indianapolis, Ind.

Michigan and Rutgers will meet for a third time this season, with the Wolverines winning by an average of seven points. Interestingly enough, this game will the second time these teams are meeting on a neutral floor, with the Wolverines besting the Scarlet Knights on Feb. 1 at Madison Square Garden, 69-63.

The great equalizer here is the sheer awkwardness of this game. This is the first major basketball game, college or professional, being played in front of no fans this season. This will be a weird, uncomfortable environment for both teams.

Other teams that play later games can get a sense of what it will feel like by watching Michigan-Rutgers, but these two teams will have to undoubtedly adjust over the course of the game.

I’ve watched a ton of coach Steve Pikiell’s team this year as a Rutgers alum, but I’ll tell you why I’m not confident in Rutgers’ offense today. While the Scarlet Knights have likely qualified for their first NCAA Tournament since 1991, they rely far too much on their stellar defense to keep them in games — and their guard play can be especially streaky.

This lack of offensive consistency for Rutgers rears its head especially away from Piscataway, as the Scarlet Knights are 2-12 on the road or on a neutral floor. Maybe playing in front of no fans will fix Rutgers’ road woes, but I’m not comfortable backing them here.

I’d bet the under here. These teams scored 132 and 112 points, respectively, during their last two meetings. Add in a global pandemic in the background and the debut game in front of no fans today, I think we will go even lower.

I’d also consider betting the first half under of 63.5. Given that this is the first game without fans, the theory is that the awkwardness of playing a post-season game will result in a lack of offensive comfort.

I can see the angle, but given the unprecedented nature of the environment these players will be facing, we really don’t know how they will respond.

Pick: Under 135

No. 12 Minnesota v. No. 5 Iowa

  • Spread: Iowa -1.5
  • Over/Under: 149.5
  • Time: 2:25 p.m. ET
  • TV: BTN
  • Location: Indianapolis, Ind.

A few times during a college basketball season, casual bettors will look at a spread and think, “why is this spread so low?” This is one of those games.

Minnesota is 15-16 and facing an Iowa team that is 20-11. The Gophers haven’t beaten a Big Ten team not named Nebraska or Northwestern since Feb. 5.

Iowa has Big Ten Player of the Year and Naismith Player of the Year candidate Luka Garza (23.9 ppg, 9.8 rpg), and has at least won some meaningful games down the stretch.

So why is this spread so low? Minnesota grades out very high in advanced metrics, especially compared to its record. According to KenPom, Minnesota is ranked No. 25 overall in total adjusted efficiency. The next ranking of a team with an under .500 record is No. 54 Washington.

The problem in backing Minnesota is that the Gophers just doesn’t close games. Iowa is a dynamic offensive team, with an offensive efficiency rating good for No. 5 in the country, but defensively has mitigated Minnesota’s best player in previous matchups.

The last time these two teams played in Minnesota, standout Sophomore center Daniel Oturu (20.0 ppg, 11.4 rpg) was held to 15 points and 4 rebounds while committing four turnovers.

Look for Iowa to do the same today — keep Oturu in check while comfortably cruising to a quarterfinal match-up against No. 4 Illinois.

As of writing, 86% of the spread tickets are on Iowa, which indicates a very public choice in Iowa. However, 84% of the money of all spread tickets are also on Iowa, which indicates that there isn’t much sharp action on Minnesota.

Yesterday, I talked about fading the sharps who were backing Northwestern against Minnesota, but today, you can be your own sharp — jump on Iowa at the lowest number you can find. I’d bet this all the way up to Iowa -3.

Pick: Iowa -1.5

No. 10 Purdue v. No. 7 Ohio State

  • Spread: Ohio State -1.5
  • Over/Under: 128.5
  • Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
  • TV: BTN
  • Location: Indianapolis, Ind.

Ohio State is receiving 89% of the spread tickets and 90% of the money on all spread tickets against Purdue, as the public and sharps alike seem to be hammering the Buckeyes.

Ohio State is very good, and a potential dark horse in this tournament. Coach Chris Hotlmann’s team is No. 8 nationally in adjusted efficiency, and is 6-2 in its last eight games.

Purdue is a team headed in a different direction, having lost five of its last eight to end their regular season. The Boilermakers struggle offensively with a 45.7% effective FG rate, worst in the Big Ten.

This could potentially be a look-ahead game for Ohio State with the winner of this game earning a matchup against tournament favorite Michigan State, but I’d trust Ohio State to take care of business against Purdue here.

The matchup favors the Buckeyes as well. Ohio State’s only glaring weakness this season has been defending the 3-pointer, but Purdue only shoots 31.1% from behind the arc, No. 11 in the conference.

Watch the availability of Buckeyes Junior forward Kyle Young (7.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg), who is a game-time decision tonight. Young scored 16 points in a rout against Purdue in the only meeting between these two teams this year.

If Young can’t go, I’d see if the line moves in Purdue’s favor, but I’d still likely trust Ohio State to win a favorable match-up here.

I’d bet Ohio State up to -2.5.

Pick: Ohio State -1.5