NCAAM Pick January 5, 2021 – Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Michigan State Spartans

While the college basketball schedule is a bit light today with just 30 total games on the docket, there are some really exciting matchups on the board. Clemson and NC State square off in a battle between two surprising teams in the ACC. Neither team was expected to compete at the top of the league this season but with a combined record of 14-2, both of these teams are playing quality basketball.

Another team that most didn’t expect a lot out of this season, the TCU Horned Frogs, play host to the Kansas Jayhawks, trying to prove to everyone that their 9-2 record isn’t a fluke. TCU was expected to finish in the basement of the Big 12 this year but are hoping that they can take advantage of a reeling Kansas team that is coming off of a 25-point homecourt beat down at the hands of the Texas Longhorns.

Other ranked teams that will be in action today include Texas Tech hosting Kansas State, Texas playing Iowa State, Mississippi State and Missouri matching up in Starkville, and Rutgers taking their show on the road to the Breslin Center, against Michigan State in Big 10 conference play. For our free daily betting pick, we will head to East Lansing for the game between the Spartans of Michigan State and the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers.

Today’s Game

  • Rutgers Scarlet Knights (7-2) at Michigan State Spartans (7-3)
  • Breslin Center, East Lansing
  • 6:00 PM PST
  • TV: ESPN2

The Michigan State Spartans host the Rutgers Scarlet Knights tonight, trying to turn around their slow start to Big 10 conference play. The Spartans were 6-0 in the non-conference before losing their first three league play games. Michigan State rebounded in their last game, picking up their first conference win of the season over Big 10 doormat Nebraska. A win today over the 15th ranked Scarlet Knights would go a long way into getting the Spartan’s season back on track.

For Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights are coming off of a razor-close homecourt loss to Iowa in their last game, and after starting the season by winning their first six games, they have now lost two out of their last three. A win tonight over Michigan State would be the 5th win over the national top-50 already this year for Rutgers, as the Scarlet Knights have done a great job of beating quality competition.

Spread:

  • Michigan State Spartans (-1.5)
  • Rutgers Scarlet Knights (+1.5)
Money line:

  • Michigan State Spartans (-120)
  • Rutgers Scarlet Knights (+105)
Total Points:

  • Over 149.5 (-110)
  • Under 149.5 (-110)

Michigan State Spartans (7-3)

A lot of the preseason hype on Michigan State surrounded their guard combo of Rocket Watts and Joshua Langford. Watts showed a lot of potential last year when he was a breakout as a freshman for Michigan State, and Langford was a guy that was playing at an All-American level before seeing his career get derailed by various injuries and missing significant playing time. It seemed that this year all of the stars were aligning for Sparty to have the best guard combo in the Big 10, and Michigan State rose to as high as 4th in the nation early in the year.

But as we near the midway point of the season, both of those guys just haven’t been able to play up to their expectations. Watts started the year playing well, as he scored double-digit points in four out of the Spartan’s first five games, including dropping 20 points in the upset win over Duke. But since then, Watts just hasn’t been able to find his shooting stroke as he was an atrocious 5-29 from the field in Michigan State’s first three Big 10 games, and his poor shooting was a major contributing factor as to why the Spartans lost all three games.

And while I’m not sure that anybody expected Langford to get back to his former all-conference level self after all of his injuries and missed time, but even with reduced expectations, it’s hard not to be disappointed with how he has played. Langford did score a season-high 15 points in his last game, so maybe the senior leader is finally starting to get back up to speed after missing more than a full year’s worth of action. Michigan State fans sure hope so, as their dreams of a trip to the Final Four are dashed if Langford can’t improve.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (7-2)

Rutgers was oh so close to knocking off Iowa at home in their last game. Rutgers led 75-74 with just 16 seconds left to play but couldn’t hold the Hawkeyes off and ended up losing the game late. Nobody is going to fault the Scarlet Knights for losing to an Iowa team that has spent much of the year ranked in the top-5, but after finding themselves just outside of the top-10, Rutgers has now lost two out of their last three games, and life in the Big 10 is proving to be difficult.

Things aren’t going to get any easier anytime soon for Rutgers as they have only one game left on their schedule against a team ranked outside of the top-100. If you throw out a bad Nebraska team, the lowest-ranked team in the Big 10 in Northwestern at 56th. The league has a whopping nine teams ranked in the top-25 of the latest AP Poll and could get as many as eleven teams into the NCAA tournament in what is the best conference in the country.

Who Do I Like?

The Big 10 is as good right now as any league I have ever seen play. Winning Big 10 games is going to be a tall task this year, particularly on the road. The league is always homecourt dominated, and this year, 71% of the time, the home teams has won in Big 10 play. No other major conference in the country comes close to that level of homecourt dominance. So, knowing that home teams are always the side to be on in the Big 10, it’s hard not to like Michigan State to find a way to win tonight at the Breslin Center.

I really like this Rutgers team. I have backed them a lot this year, and they have cashed several tickets for me, but I think this is just one of those spots where you have to fade them. Winning in East Lansing has been the toughest thing to do in the Big 10 for the last couple of decades, and despite the Scarlet Knights having their best squad in recent memory, I think they are still going to struggle on the road in league play. We saw that last week when they played poorly and lost by 12 points at Ohio State, and I expected a similar outcome tonight.

The Bet

Another day, another play on a Big 10 home team. If you can get any team not named Nebraska at home, either getting points or laying less than a bucket, you need to bet it blind at this point. If you pull the Cornhuskers out of the Big 10 equation, home teams have won outright in the Big 10 play 76% of the time. That is as close to automatic as you are ever going to see in sports.

I wouldn’t want to lay a bunch of points in this one as this game is going to be tightly contested and highly competitive, but at the end of the day, I see the Spartans doing what they have always done over the years, and that is win games at home against quality competition. Expect Langford to continue to look improved as the rust is finally starting to shake off, and if Rocket Watts can find a way to start knocking down shots again, this Spartans team could still find themselves cutting down the nets in March. Give me the Michigan State Spartans tonight at home, laying a point and a half; I’ll call it a 77-68 final score from the Breslin Center!

The Bet: Michigan State Spartans -1.5

My Pick
Michigan State Spartans -1.5
Jason Gray / Author

Jason is a true Las Vegas insider as he has called the sports betting capital of the world his home for sixteen years. Jason started out his career in gaming by running the biggest poker tournaments in the world and managing some of the biggest sportsbooks on the strip. Jason has transitioned out of casino operations and has been covering sports betting for the sports geek for just over two years. His main focus is on baseball, college basketball, and the NFL