The college basketball slate is a bit light today, as we have just 40-games on the schedule. That being said, there are several intriguing matchups on the docket, including the headline game of the day on the west coast, between USC and Stanford. The Trojans and the Cardinal are both expected to compete at the top of the PAC-12 standings this season, and both squads are hoping to be dancing in March. Whichever team can win tonight will have a head start in the race for the PAC-12 regular season title.
On the east coast, we have an old-school rivalry game with Georgetown hosting St. John’s in a Big East Conference game. Not to be outdone, the midwest is getting in on the action as well, as much of the Big 10 is in action today, including a league game between Penn State and Michigan.
— WVU Men's Basketball (@WVUhoops) December 13, 2020
Other games worthy of note are Richmond and West Virginia squaring off in Morgantown, with both teams ranked in the top-25 and looking like Final Four threats early in the season. Arizona State will be trying to get back on track against an overmatched Grand Canyon team. Ohio State hosts Cleveland State, and Iowa hosts Northern Illinois. For our free daily betting pick, we will head to the Big 10, where the Big Blue Michigan Wolverines host the Penn State Nittany Lions.
- Penn State Nittany Lions (3-1) at Michigan Wolverines (5-0)
- Crisler Center, Ann Arbor
- 11:00 AM PST
- TV: BTN
The Penn State Nittany Lions will take their show on the road today for their first Big 10 game of the season against the Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor. Penn State is coming off of a huge win in their last game when they went into Blacksburg and blew out the undefeated Virginia Tech Hokies by 20-points on their own floor. The Nittany Lions are expected to finish in the bottom half of the loaded Big 10 this season, but a win on the road in Ann Arbor would go a long way into seeing the Nittany Lions hearing their names called on Selection Sunday.
— Penn State Men’s Basketball (@PennStateMBB) December 13, 2020
For Michigan, the Wolverines have played a soft schedule so far this year, but they have taken care of business with a 5-0 record. There aren’t going to be very many easy games in league play this year in the Big 10, and Big Blue has to find a way to handle Penn State at home today in their conference play opener.
Penn State Nittany Lions (3-1)
Penn State should be undefeated right now. The Nittany Lions blew a 19-point lead on their home floor against Seton Hall as their only loss of the season, and had Penn State not imploded in that game, they would be sitting just outside of the top-25 nationally right now. Penn State came roaring back following the loss to Seton Hall to blow out Virginia Tech, and they also have a quality victory over a VCU Rams team that should compete for an NCAA tournament at-large bid this season.
Penn State uses a deep 8-man rotation, and four guys are averaging double-digits scoring the basketball. The leader on the floor is Seth Lundy, who averages 16.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game. Myles Dread has been instant offense off the bench for Penn State, averaging 9-points a game in just over 20 minutes. He can shoot the lights out from deep, shooting 40% from beyond the arc, with a team-high 10 3-pointers on the year.
Michigan Wolverines (5-0)
Speaking of sitting just outside of the top-25 nationally, the Michigan Wolverines finished 26th in both the AP Poll and the Coaches poll last week. A win over Penn State today at home may be enough to nudge them up a spot and get them back into the top-25.
It is hard to get too excited about the Wolverines 5-0 start, as they have yet to play a single team in the top-100, but things are about to get a lot tougher for the Wolverines as they are officially in full swing in the Big 10 after this game.
Head coach Juwan Howard has his Wolverines playing elite offense as they are shooting 52.6% from the field as a team, and they love to share the basketball with nearly 20-dimes per game. Only time will tell if they can keep up this level of production against stiffer competition, but as of right this minute, the Wolverines look very much like a contender in the Big 10. Isiah Livers and Chaundee Brown and are absolutely killing it from three-point land as they are a combined 25-53 from three, good for a sizzling hot 47%. If you leave either of these guys open, they are going to punish you.
Who Do I Like?
These early-season league games in the Big 10 are going to be very interesting. Last year, taking Big 10 home teams in conference play was absolutely free money, as home teams in the league covered at higher than a 60% clip. If all you did was blind bet the home team in Big 10 league play in 2020, you made a bunch of money. But with the lack of fans in the stands, and homecourt advantage looking diminished over past seasons, it will be very interesting to see if that strong trend from a year ago holds up again this season.
I have gone on record this year saying that I think Penn State is underrated and that Michigan is overrated. I see both of these teams as NCAA tournament level teams, and I think they both finish in the top half of the league standings. I just don’t see a ton separating these two squads and feel that they are fairly evenly matched. So, it does surprise me a bit to see the Wolverines as such large favorites.
We saw in the Nittany Lions last game that they can win in hostile territory when they knocked off a very talented Virginia Tech team. It was clear in that game that the second-half collapse against Seton Hall was still on their mind, and they came out fired up. I expect much of the same tonight in a game that they are going to really want to win.
If I am picking a side straight up in this game, I am talking Michigan. Even without fans in the stands, I am hesitant to expect too many home upsets in the Big 10 this year. But when I see that I can back Penn State and get +8-points, all I really need is for the Nittany Lions to stay competitive today to cash my ticket. And that is exactly what I see happening.
Kenpom has Michigan winning this game by six points, and that feels about right. I expect a back-and-forth game much of the afternoon, and as long as Michigan doesn’t catch fire from three, and they certainly could, I see Penn State keeping this as a one or two-possession game and coasting into the easy cover. Give me the Penn State Nittany Lions today as they look for back-to-back road upset victories, getting +8-points!