2012-13 Big Ten Basketball Odds and Betting Predictions
by Robert Ferringo - 10/23/2012
The Big Ten experienced a revival last season, with peak performance and parity resulting in a solid season for the boys in the Great Lakes region. Ohio State earned a trip to the Final Four, and the league finished with five teams ranked in the Top 16 in the final Associated Press poll of the 2011-12 season.
But perhaps the most significant indicator of the Big Ten’s exceptional 2011-12 season was its performance against the spread. Eight teams from the Big Ten posted winning ATS seasons last year, including a 22-12 mark from Michigan State and an 18-12 ATS year from Indiana. That was up from just five profitable teams in 2010-11 and a humiliating two profitable teams from this league back in 2009-10.
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We will see if the value is able to hold in this conference this season. I have long been alone in my belief that compared to the Big East, Big 12 and ACC, the Big Ten is the most overrated and overvalued conference in the nation. They haven’t produced a National Champion in 12 years, and each season this group seems to be a perpetual NCAA Tournament disappointment. But maybe after last year’s renaissance they can maintain the momentum and produce another solid season at the window.
Here are my 2011-12 Big Ten basketball predictions to help you with your college basketball picks, with each team’s odds to win the Big Ten Conference in parentheses:
The Favorite: Indiana (+175)
The Hoosiers aren’t just the Big Ten favorites – they are the national favorites. Indiana begins the 2012-13 college basketball season as the preseason No. 1 and the chalk to win the National Championship. (I’d like to point out that last year I predicted IU would be a surprise team both in the league and nationally!) Indiana returns its top five scorers and adds three Top 50 recruits. They also welcome 6-5 junior Maurice Creek, a former 17-point-per-game scorer, back into the fold. This group was one of the only teams to beat Kentucky last season, and now they are a year older, wiser and more familiar. There will not be a ton of value betting on this team as they transition from the role of surprise underdog to overwhelming favorite. But this is an excellent all-around team with the talent and experience to do some serious damage. Given the state of the other top programs in the Big Ten, anything other than a conference title would be a huge disappointment for this group.
The Challenger: Michigan (+500)
John Beilein’s group earned the school’s first regular season Big Ten Championship in 25 years last season (the Wolverines were tri-champs with Ohio State and Michigan State) and enters this season with even loftier expectations. That may not pay out much for backers, though, as Beilein’s teams perform much better in the underdog role. The backcourt of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. is one of the best in the country. And Beilein enters the campaign with one of the physically strongest, most athletic frontcourts that he has had in the last decade. Returning starter Jordan Morgan should continue to improve. And he will team with a pair of forwards with unquestioned pedigree: freshman Glenn Robinson III (Big Dog’s spawn) and sophomore Jon Horford (brother of Al). Mix in Top 30 recruit Mitch McGary, another power forward, and the Wolverines have among of the best young nuclei in the nation. But that is the weakness: youth. The Wolverines don’t have any senior leaders. And it may take a while for the young pups to learn Beilein’s intricate offense. This team lost a lot of experience from last year’s group, and I worry about their depth. But the talent is undeniable here.
The Dark Horse: Wisconsin (+500)
The Badgers lost one of the top players in the nation in Jordan Taylor. However, Taylor was a bit lackluster through most of last season and the Badgers still went 26-10. They enter this year without a breakout player on the level of Taylor, Jon Leuer, or Devin Harris. But this team has excellent experience with two juniors and three seniors expected to start. You almost can’t spend three or four years in a Bo Ryan system and NOT become a player. Three-year starter Josh Gasser will assume the leadership role, and teams with sharpshooting Ben Brust to form the all-junior backcourt. Last year’s No. 2 scorer, Ryan Evans, will start at small forward and then a pair of stretch-fours, Mike Bruesewitz and Jared Berggren, round out the first five. His team also has some nice young pieces off the bench, including Top 10 freshman Sam Dekker. All Ryan does is win. And the Badgers have failed to turn a full season’s profit for bettors just one time in the past six years. That is the type of consistency that handicappers like myself adore, and this should be another quiet, efficient, solid season for one of the top programs in the nation.
The X-Factor: Michigan State (+300)
A lot of college basketball teams lost critical senior starters from last year’s squads. But no one player may have meant more to their team than Spartans forward Draymond Green. He was one of the top players in school history and leaves a huge void in the starting lineup and in the locker room. I’ve seen Sparty in the Top 10 of a lot of preseason magazines, and they are No. 14 in the opening USA Today Coaches Poll. But this team lost two other starters in addition to Green, and this year’s most crucial player, Branden Dawson, is trying to make his way back from an ACL tear back in March. If Dawson is healthy he could be the program’s next great player. Regardless, despite the losses this is still a Tom Izzo team. That means they will be among the toughest, most physical teams in the nation and they will simply overwhelm weaker opponents. Adreian Payne (6-feet-10, 240 pound) and Derrick Nix (6-9, 270) are beasts in the post. Three-year starter Keith Appling will work to get them the ball while providing some perimeter cover. But this team has zero depth. And the talent level after the starting five is actually pretty low. I think this is a clear rebuilding year in East Lansing. But that doesn’t mean they will roll over this winter.
The Surprise Team: Minnesota (+1200)
The Gophers have been pretty feeble the last three years. They have played cupcake nonconference schedules only to crumble through the rugged Big Ten slate. Their biggest problem during Tubby Smith’s checkered tenure has been pathetic guard play. However, Julian Welch and Andre Hollins give Smith a pair of capable returning starters. (That this is noteworthy, despite the fact that they combined to average just 18 points, speaks more to how horrid the previous guards were.) And if stud power forward Trevor Mbakwe is fully recovered from last year’s knee injury then this team can make some noise. They welcome back five of the top six scorers from a team that made the NIT Finals last March, and the Gophers could sneak into the league’s upper tier while the powerhouses rebuild.
The Disappointment: Ohio State (+500)
I do not expect Ohio State to drop off the map this season. Thad Matta is too good of a coach, and there is still some talent here. But the Buckeyes are a preseason Top 5 team, and I don’t think that they are anywhere close to that. Ohio State made the Final Four last year despite having four players average 30 or more minutes per game. They had zero depth, and their bench combined to chip in just 11 points per game. Two of their top three players, Jared Sullinger and William Buford, are gone. DeShaun Thomas is a stud. But I have to think his incredible efficiency will drop some without Sullinger garnering most of the opponents’ attention. Aaron Craft, love him or hate him, is a player. But beyond that there really isn’t a lot to work with. I’m sure Matta will develop some of the sophomore skill that he has on the roster. But there are a lot more questions than answers right now, and I’m not sure that they should enter the season as a Top 20 team, much less a Top 5 club. They should be dancing again. But I am walking sideways away from the Buckeyes.
Iowa (+2000) – I was a lot higher on Iowa’s earning potential as an underrated sleeper team in the Big Ten last year. They did finish ahead of Minnesota and Illinois, but Iowa went just 16-14 ATS and lost their best player, Matt Gatens. This team is kind of stuck in a holding pattern. They have some nice pieces, like Roy Marble, Melsahn Basabe and Aaron White. But they don’t have any standout guards to run the show, and they lack a true top-end, go-to guy that can help them elevate in the standings. Fran McCaffery is collecting some really nice talent. And there is just one senior, Eric May, among the top eight players. Next year might be Iowa’s breakout. In the meantime they won’t be able to cover spreads until they learn to play some defense.
Illinois (+1300) – Bruce Weber is gone to Kansas State, and former Ohio front man John Groce takes over this season in Champagne. He will lean heavily on senior three-year starters D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul. Paul and Richardson look like ballers. And they put some impressive numbers down on paper. But their overall lack of basketball intelligence and their lack of basic basketball understanding has been an anchor around this program for the past three years. Maybe Groce can get it out of them. I don’t know. But these two are still more likely to blow a bet than they are to go out and cash a ticket for you. Illinois has less than nothing in the frontcourt and no other seniors on the roster with any experience in the program. Groce’s first season hinges solely on the senior backcourt. Good luck with that.
Northwestern (+1800) – I was one of the few college basketball analysts in the country that took a realistic look at the Wildcats and predicted that they would miss the NCAA Tournament – again. This year I’ll do the same, which isn’t exactly a bold maneuver for a program that has never gone dancing. John Shurna has moved on. And Bill Carmody has had more talented teams come up short in the past. I really like underrated senior Drew Crawford, and Jer’Shon Cobb has some potential. But this year’s team comes down to two questions. First, can transfers Jared Swopshire (Louisville) and Nikola Cerina have an impact, physically, on this team? Second, just how accurate can their stable of small, unathletic guards be from three-point range?
Purdue (+1500) – Robbie Hummel’s graduation (finally) marked the end of an era for Purdue basketball. And now this team is among the youngest and least experienced in any BCS conference. Purdue has just two players back that averaged over six points per game last year, and neither of them managed more than 10 per night. The Boilermakers have nine freshmen and sophomores on the 13-man roster, and they are in a complete rebuilding mode. Matt Painter is an excellent coach and will soak the most out of this group. They will defend and play physical football. But the talent level is woefully low for this group.
Penn State (+4000) – Tim Frazier had THE most underrated breakout season in the country. He averaged 18.8 points, 4.7 rebounds and 6.2 assists on a team where he had absolutely squat to work with. The Nittany Lions were No. 332 in the country in shooting and No. 294 in scoring, and they were just a gross team to watch, outside of Frazier. This year should be more of the same; with only starting guard Jermaine Marshall and so-so Southern Miss transfer D.J. Newbill available for support. This team is awful. Again.
Nebraska (+6000) – You have to be pretty terrible to be rated lower than Penn State. But Nebraska is that bad. New coach Tim Miles steps into a program that lost six players and returns just three scholarship letter winners from last year’s club. Nebraska was a hard-luck team in its first trip through the Big Ten, mainly because of injuries. But now they are just pathetic. I have never been a big fan of Miles’ in-game work. But he was able to build a little something at Colorado State. We will have to wait and see if he can do anything in Lincoln. But this might be the worst team in any BCS conference this year.
Projected Big Ten Standings:
4. Michigan State*
5. Ohio State*
11. Penn State
*Projected NCAA Tournament Teams
Robert Ferringo is a writer and a professional sports handicapper for Doc’s Sports. He is considered one of the best college basketball handicappers in the country and has earned his $100-per-Unit clients over $30,000 in the last five years with his nonconference handicapping. He has produced three consecutive profitable seasons and four of five winning years overall. You can sign up for his college basketball picks and get more information here.
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