Merry Christmas sports fans! The college hoops slate is a light one today, with the Big 10 being the only league in action. But, if you had to pick just one league to be playing today in all of NCAA Men’s College Basketball, I am sure it would be the Big 10, as it is the best league in the land this year. The league boats seven teams ranked in the top-25 of the latest AP Poll, and all but one of the Big 10’s 14 teams are currently ranked in the top-60 on Kenpom.
The early game comes to us from East Lansing as the Michigan State Spartans host the Wisconsin Badgers. Tom Izzo’s Spartans opened as small homecourt favorites, but the early betting action has pushed the number towards the Badgers, and with tipoff just a few short minutes away, it’s looking like Wisconsin will close out as road favorites in a blockbuster game.
Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!
— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) December 25, 2020
Next up in the Big 10, we have Maryland playing at Purdue. Both of these teams are expected to be down this year, and the Boilermakers are currently -6-point homecourt favorites over the Terps. Shockingly, Purdue will be the only home favorite today out of the four games on the slate.
The late game features the upstart Minnesota Golden Gophers as they play host to the Iowa Hawkeyes. Minnesota is coming off of their biggest win of the season, over the Saint Louis Billikens, and the Gophers have managed to play themselves into the top-50 nationally. A win tonight over a top-5 Iowa team would likely catapult them into the top-25 of next week’s AP Poll. For our free daily betting pick, we will head to Lincoln, Nebraska, where the Cornhusker play the Michigan Wolverines.
- Michigan Wolverines (6-0) at Nebraska Cornhuskers (4-4)
- Pinnacle Bank Arena, Lincoln
- 3:00 PM PST
- TV: BTN
The Michigan Wolverines will look to keep their unbeaten record alive tonight as they head to Nebraska to play the Cornhuskers. Big Blue has benefited from a soft start to their schedule to run up a 6-0 record, and tonight will mark the first time the Wolverines have played outside on Ann Arbor this season. Michigan is 1-0 in Big 10 play, defeating Penn State in their last game by just four points.
— Nebraska Basketball (@HuskerHoops) December 25, 2020
For Nebraska, the Cornhusker are seemingly the only team in the Big 10 this year that won’t have at least some shot at an NCAA tournament bid. After winning three out of their first four games, the Cornhuskers have now lost three of four and are looking for their first conference win of the season tonight at home. After a 2-18 league record last year, most expect Nebraska to be improved this year, and in reality there is only one direction to go when you are that bad, and it’s up!
Nebraska Cornhuskers (4-4)
Fred Hoiberg has his hands full at Nebraska. Hoiberg did a great job at turning around Iowa State in his time with the Cyclones, and I think he is the right guy to do just that in Lincoln too. But last year, things got off to a slow start for the Cornhuskers with their new head coach, as they finished the season by losing their final 17 games of the year.
This year they are clearly improved, jumping up nearly fifty places in the Kenpom rankings, but the question is, will it be enough for them to be competitive in the Big 10, the toughest conference in the country?
Dalano Banton is emerging as a potential all-conference player for the Cornhusker, as he is averaging 13.9 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 5.5 assists a game. Banton came over from Western Kentucky as a transfer, and after sitting out a year and getting acclimated to this Fred Hoiberg style of basketball, he looks to be the leader of this team. Banton dropped his first-ever triple-double two games ago against D2 team Doane, when he scored 13 points, with 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. Nebraska needs a big game out of Banton tonight if they want any shot at picking up the upset victory.
Michigan Wolverines (6-0)
The Michigan Wolverines head out on the road tonight, hoping that they can be better in league road games this year, than they were last year. Last season, the Wolverines were just 4-7 straight up and ATS in conference road games, keeping them from finishing in the top half of the Big 10 standings, with a disappointing 9th place finish.
This year, the Wolverines are again expected to be a contender for the regular-season title in the Big 10, but they will need to find a way to take care of business on the road if they want to truly compete at the top of the league.
Isaiah Livers was expected to be the star of the show for Big Blue this season, and so far, he has delivered. Livers is scoring 15.2 points per game and is shooting a sizzling hot 43% from 3-point land and 94% from the charity stripe. Liver’s ability to score the basketball has masked the struggles of Franz Wagner, the other side of the Big two for Big Blue, as Wagner has seen his scoring decline from last year’s breakout freshman campaign.
Who Do I Like?
Home teams have won 73% of the time in league play this season in the Big 10. Last year, the Big 10 was by far the most home court dominated power conference, as home teams won 69% of league games. Quite simply, it is nearly impossible for teams to win outright on the road in conference play. That being said, I still see Michigan winning this game. But it’s going to be closer than most people expect.
Having to play your first road game of the season on Christmas Day is going to prove to be a tall order for Michigan. It seems that basically every year, the Wolverines come into a season with a ton of hype, play a soft schedule early and rack up a bunch of wins, only to struggle in conference play and fizzle out as we get near March. I see the same trend happening tonight, with Michigan coming out flat and not playing well early in this one.
Michigan is going to win this game, but they aren’t going to blow it out. Home teams are just too competitive in the Big 10 to get blown out on their own floor, and I expect the Cornhuskers to keep this game tight most of the way. This should be an entertaining game, as both teams like to play fast, and they can both score a bunch of points.
I see this one being a one or two-possession game until the 10-minute mark of the second half, where the Wolverine’s depth will take over, and they will start to pull away. But Nebraska is going to be playing hard at home, and they will do enough to stay within shouting distance, which is all that they will need to do to cover this number and cash our ticket. Give me the Nebraska Cornhuskers tonight as home dogs, getting +8.5-points, as they keep it close with the Michigan Wolverines!