Big Ten Basketball Betting: Weekly Notebook
by Matt Severance - 03/03/2009
I don't know about you, but when I think of Big Ten basketball I think of Michigan State as being the conference's pre-eminent program.
Yet Tom Izzo's Spartans haven't won the Big Ten regular season title outright since 1999, something that no doubt will be rectified this week. MSU's magic number to do so is one, with second-place Purdue two games back with two to play.
And boy, are those Boilermakers big fans of state rival Indiana for a night. On Tuesday, the Hoosiers host Michigan State, and an upset could turn Sunday's Purdue-Michigan State game into a winner-take-all for the regular season title (this is assuming the Boilermakers handle their business against Northwestern on Wednesday).
Indiana has won the last four meetings against the Spartans in Bloomington, and the home team is 16-1 in regular season meetings since the 2000 season. However, an IU victory Tuesday seems unlikely since the Hoosiers fell to MSU by 28 earlier this season (although it was 33-30 early in the second half) and have just one conference win.
MSU clinched at least a tie for the Big Ten crown with a 74-66 win at Illinois on Sunday. That improved the Spartans to 21-0 this season when holding opponents to fewer than 70 points.
A huge positive Sunday was the play of junior forward Raymar Morgan, who had his best game since getting the flu following a win over Illinois on Jan. 17. That illness lingered for more than a month and cost Morgan three games and most of two others. His 14 points Sunday were the most since he scored 17 at Penn State on Jan. 14, and his 22 minutes were the most since the first meeting with the Illini.
"It's all coming back," Morgan said to reporters. "I felt like I had to man-up and push myself because this was huge."
OHIO STATE: The Buckeyes are squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble, and Saturday's 25-point loss to Purdue won't help matters. It was OSU's worst loss to a Big Ten opponent in five years.
The Buckeyes' over-reliance on Evan Turner is a problem on offense, while the Ohio State defense also leaves a lot to be desired - only Indiana has given up more points and a higher three-point shooting percentage in conference play.
OSU probably needs to go 2-0 this week and is at Iowa and home to Northwestern. Carver-Hawkeye Arena is one of two Big Ten venues where Ohio State has not won under coach Thad Matta, going 0-3 with the losses by a combined 12 points.
MINNESOTA: The Gophers, currently 20-8 overall and 8-8 in the conference, also could use a 2-0 week to bolster their NCAA Tournament hopes. The good news is that games with Wisconsin and Michigan are both at home, where Minnesota is 15-2 this season (7-5 ATS).
The Gophers were at their zenith the last time they played the Badgers, improving to 16-1 when they came back from a 12-point deficit with under five minutes to win 78-74 on Jan. 15. Since then, however, Minnesota is 4-7.
The Gophers generally succeed when Lawrence Westbrook, the only player averaging double figures in points, plays well - they are 9-1 when he leads the team in scoring. However, he has been held to six points or fewer in five of the past seven games, and Minnesota is 2-5 (1-6 ATS) in that stretch.
WISCONSIN: The Badgers have righted the ship and have won six of seven games (4-3 ATS) following the worst month ever under coach Bo Ryan. Sunday's win over Michigan probably salted away an NCAA bid for Wisconsin and killed the Wolverines' chance.
UW is allowing an average of just 51.9 points per game during its last seven games and has now won at least nine games in nine consecutive seasons. The Badgers will finish with at least a .500 record in the Big Ten for the 11th consecutive season.