2013 Big Ten Tournament Picks and College Basketball Odds
by Robert Ferringo - 3/13/2013
It has become a generally accepted theory that the Big Ten is the best college basketball conference in the country. That hypothesis has been spewed by the bobblehead media for months and has now become indoctrinated into the general college basketball betting public.
I have news for you: the Big Ten is not the best conference in America. The Big East is the best conference in America.
However, the Big Ten will get its opportunity to prove me wrong over the next two weeks beginning with its conference tournament. The Big Ten Tournament begins Thursday, March 14, and is being held at the United Center in Chicago. The championship game will tip off at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday.
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Michigan State is the defending champion and one of the favorites to cut down the nets again this season. But No. 1-seed Indiana – who has never won the Big Ten title – will have a touch of history on its side: the No. 1 seed has cut down the next three straight times and six of the past eight seasons. Michigan, Ohio State and cagey Wisconsin are also lurking. And this should be one of the most competitive and hard-fought of all of the league tournaments this week.
Here is Doc’s Sports Big Ten Tournament picks and college basketball odds:
The Favorite: Indiana (+175)
The Hoosiers have been flirting with the No. 1 spot in the polls and a top seed in the NCAA Tournament all season long and are considered one of the best teams in the country. They seized the outright regular season title thanks to a gutsy 72-71 road win over Michigan on the regular season’s final day, and Tom Crean’s crew has all the tools to win a title this March. Center Cody Zeller and swing forward Victor Oladipo give IU a pair of all-Americans to rally around. Senior Christian Watford is a big-time player as well, and guards Jordan Hulls and Will Sheehey can score in bunches from the outside. Indiana is ranked No. 2 in the country in scoring, No. 6 in field goal percentage and No. 3 in three-point shooting. They are nearly impossible to stop. But the Hoosiers have some chinks in their armor defensively. And if they want to win IU’s first ever conference tournament title they will need to stay focused on that end of the court.
The Contender: Michigan State (+250)
Even though Ohio State is the No. 2 seed, the Spartans are the defending champions in this tournament. And if there is anything Tom Izzo has proven in his career, it is that he understands what it takes to win in March. Sparty’s weakness is that they have the worst backcourt of any of the top teams in the Big Ten. But they make up for it with an overwhelming frontcourt that includes twin towers Adreian Payne and senior Derrick Nix. Depth is a concern for Izzo’s group. But they have the athleticism to hold up for three wins, and they fear no one. Michigan State’s last four losses – twice to Indiana, at Ohio State and at Michigan – were by an average of just 4.5 points per game, so they will be in every contest to the end. And if they can get past Ohio State in the semis, then I think it would be hard for Indiana or Michigan to beat them again in the title game.
The Dark Horse: Michigan (+300)
A dirty little secret about Michigan, which had a cup of coffee as the No. 1 team in the country this year, is that they have not scored a convincing win over a quality team since Thanksgiving. Their two best wins came at home, by a combined three points, against Ohio State and Michigan State. The Wolverines are the type of team that relies almost entirely on its perimeter offense to set up everything else they do. If they get hot from the outside then they could definitely win four games in four days. They have one of the best backcourts in the league, led by all-American Trey Burke, and I’d like to think this group would have a chip on its shoulder. But Michigan is also woefully inexperienced. And I wonder if they will play with the level of determination that other more veteran teams will have.
The Spoiler: Illinois (+1000)
Admittedly, the Illini’s stay could last all of two hours in this tournament, and they could be gone before most of the Big Ten faithful have settled into their seats. But Illinois is playing close to home on a court they are familiar with and should get a strong local showing. They have also proven that they can beat the top-tier teams in the conference, taking down Indiana and Ohio State already this year. Illinois has an explosive backcourt led by seniors Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson. And if those two play with focus and purpose, this team can do some damage. Or they could flame out and lose by 20 in their opener. Nothing is shocking with this crew.
No. 8 Illinois (+2) vs. No. 9 Minnesota (Noon, Thursday, March 14)
It doesn’t get much shakier than this. Both of these teams have been maddeningly inconsistent, and it is anyone’s guess which team is going to show up. Minnesota is playing tis way out of the NCAA Tournament thanks to losses in 10 of its last 15 games. They play horribly on the road, and Illinois should get a boost playing closer to home. Ironically, the teams split their regular season matchups with each winning on the other’s home turf. This game is still important to Illinois as well, as their place in The Big Dance is hardly secure. This game should be pretty intense despite its early tip off. And the team that can keep its composure in the final five minutes will advance.
No. 5 Michigan (-14.5) vs. No. 12 Penn State (2:30 p.m., Thursday, March 14)
Three weeks ago the Wolverines looked like they would be one of the top two seeds in this tournament. Now they are playing on the opening day. Penn State is a fringe program at best. But, believe it or not, they actually beat Michigan as 13-point underdogs back on Feb. 27. Penn State lost by just eight in the first meeting (as 21-point dogs), and they have only lost by double-digits once in the last eight meetings. Michigan is 15-6-1 ATS in the last 22 times they have faced the Nittany Lions and will be focused on revenge. But the role of heavy favorite does not suit this squad.
No. 7 Purdue (-5.5) vs. No. 10 Nebraska (5:30 p.m., Thursday, March 14)
Talk about a game only the mothers could love. This matchup gives everyone in Chicago a chance to get dinner. Those that stay will be treated to a slogging, plodding slugfest between two teams that never met a shot they couldn’t miss. Purdue won at Lincoln this year and has taken all three matchups with their new Big Ten cohort over the past 13 months, covering the spread in all three games. Tim Miles has done yeoman’s work with the Huskers this year, and they are 6-3 ATS in their last nine games. But Purdue is a more balanced team, with some decent young talent, and the Boilers have been playing some of their best ball over the last three weeks.
No. 6 Iowa (-9.5) vs. No. 11 Northwestern (8 p.m., Thursday, March 14)
The Hawkeyes are firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble, and they will be looking for a convincing win to build some steam. Iowa will likely need to win at least two games, and maybe even three – and get help – to have a legit shot at receiving an at-large bid. But they can start here. Northwestern has been decimated by injuries and is just playing out the string. They have lost eight straight games and have been terrible away from home this season. Iowa swept the regular season series, winning by 14 and 20 points, and they will be motivated for a blowout here. But Northwestern loves to slow the game down and could frustrate the young and desperate Hawkeyes with their style of play.
Big Ten Tournament Picks and Betting Predictions: The No. 1 seed has won the championship three straight years and five out of the last six seasons. And just once in the last 11 years – Purdue in 2009 – has someone that wasn’t the top or second seed cut down the nets. However, that’s what I’m calling for here. I think that one of the two Michigan schools will do enough to take the title. Indiana doesn’t exactly have a difficult road to the finals. But no one in this league is scared of this team either. I think the bottom of the bracket is tougher. And whoever survives that gauntlet will be a tough out in the finals. If Michigan heats up from the outside, they can run the table as well. So look for the Wolverines are Spartans to take the hardware here.
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