Hot Picks for a Big Night in Big Ten Basketball – NCAAM January 19

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It’s a big night for college basketball in the Big Ten. While there are only three games on the schedule, all three stand out as strong betting opportunities.

Ohio State and Purdue square off. Both are 5-3 in conference play thus far and looking to stay in touch with the three teams currently ahead of them in the Big Ten standings: Michigan (6-1), Iowa (6-1) and Wisconsin (5-2).

Speaking of Michigan, the Wolverines face a potentially tough matchup in Maryland, a team that seems to be beginning to find itself after a horrible start to its conference season. And Illinois (also 5-3 in the conference) is looking to stay in the hunt as well, hosting a Penn State squad that has battled COVID-19 issues much of the season.

If you’re feeling really good about it, throw a small parlay down on the following hot picks.

6:30 p.m. ET – Purdue at No. 15 Ohio State (-5)

Teams Spread Money Line Total Points
Purdue +5 (-105) +175 O 136½ (-110)
Ohio State -5 (-115) -205 U 136½ (-110)

The 11-3 Buckeyes welcome the 10-5 Boilermakers into Columbus with hopes of evening the season series after falling 67-60 on Dec. 16 in Mackey Arena. Ohio State was without its second leading scorer E.J. Lidell in the previous matchup and it was evident with the Buckeyes being held to the uncharacteristic total of 60 points. Since that matchup, the Buckeyes have won six of eight, and have scored over 70 points in all but one of those contests. Purdue has won three in a row, including two road upsets against Indiana and Michigan State.

The key to a victory and a cover for Ohio State lies within their ability to eliminate turnovers. According to ESPN, the Buckeyes turn the ball over on 15.2 percent of their offensive possessions, ranking 17th in the country. Meanwhile, the Boilermakers force turnovers on only 16.7 percent of possessions, ranking them 306th in the nation. Doing the simple math, then, it would appear that the Buckeyes should be able to limit their mistakes and put their offense in the high gear that was missing in the previous meeting between the two. Ohio State has won its last seven home games, scoring an average of 80.4 points per game in those seven games. Purdue cannot keep up with that high-powered offense and obviously does not possess a defense that is going to put a whole lot of pressure on the Buckeyes. Ohio State will win this game by double digits.

The Bets
Ohio State -5
-115

7 p.m. ET – Maryland at No. 7 Michigan (-10½)

Teams Spread Money Line Total Points
Maryland +10½ (-110) +455 O 141 (-120)
Michigan -10½ (-110) -575 U 141 (+100)

The 11-1 Wolverines host the 8-6 Terrapins in Ann Arbor, but this may not be as big of a mismatch as it may at first appear on paper. Michigan won the previous meeting 84-73 in College Park on Dec. 31. Michigan is coming off its first loss of the season against Minnesota last Saturday. Maryland has won two in a row and pulled off a massive upset against Illinois last week. Maryland is a very deliberate in running its half-court offense and does not like to get out in transition, ranking 293rd in the country in pace. But to be truly effective with that style, the Terrapins need to step it up defensively – something they have struggled to do consistently this season as they rank 208th in the nation in defensive rating. Simply put, Maryland has to find a way to keep Michigan under 70 points if they have any chance to pull off the upset.

The Terps starting this season hot, winning six of seven nonconference games out of the gate and beating No. 10 Wisconsin on Dec. 28. But Maryland’s strength resides in their frontcourt, and Michigan matches up well against that with one of the deepest frontcourts in the nation. The Wolverines are too balanced for the Terps and in the last matchup it led to early foul trouble for the Terps in the frontcourt. Maryland tried in vain to run up and down the floor with Michigan too much and it led to Michigan dominating the second half. The Terps struggle to score 60-65 points on a regular basis, and aren’t effective enough consistently on defense to hold the Wolverines to less than 70. Take Michigan to rout them and complete the season sweep.

The Bets
Michigan -10½
-110

8:30 p.m. ET – Penn State at No. 22 Illinois (-9½)

Teams Spread Money Line Total Points
Penn State +9½ (-102) +380 O 154 (-105)
Illinois -9½ (-118) -470 U 154 (-115)

Penn State has played one game over the past three weeks. The 3-5 Nittany Lions have had numerous COVID-19 issues, and rust was on display last Sunday against Purdue in a 80-72 loss. The eight-point loss does not tell the full story, Penn State outshot Purdue by 20 shots, shooting 27-82, less than 33 percent, from the field. While Penn State ranks 236th in the nation in field goal percentage, Illinois ranks 11th. The 9-5 Illini have lost two in a row at home to Maryland and Ohio State and are going to be in no mood to mess around in this one.

Illinois was a trendy selection in the preseason to win the national championship. While the Illini have drastically underperformed when measured against those lofty expectations this season, this game is the perfect spot for them to display their full potential against an overmatched and rusty Penn State. The Illini will be anxious to show up and show the country why such high expectations were predicted for them in the first place. Penn State lacks the shooting to compete in this game and on top of that Illinois ranks 26th in the nation in rebounding. Combine all these factors together and Illinois will have no difficulty cleaning up the Nittany Lions’ numerous missed shots. Penn State is 0-4 in the Big Ten and a strong argument could be made that they are sizing up to be the worst team in the entire conference. This is a nightmare matchup for Penn State and Illinois be in total control of this one from the opening tip.

The Bets
Illinois -9½
-118
Joe Menzer / Author

Joe is an award-winning writer and editor who has covered the NBA, NFL, NASCAR, golf, various collegiate athletics and other sports for newspapers, Turner Sports, Fox Sports and ESPN. He has been on the beat for seven Super Bowls, six Daytona 500s and numerous NBA playoff series and All-Star Games. He once was dispatched to Rome, Italy to spend time with an NBA draft choice who opted to play overseas, after which he produced an award-winning series of stories. He also is passionate about fantasy sports and breaking down games in ways that even novice gamblers can use to make their most intelligent wagering decisions.