OddsUSA Top Five Prop Bets For The Big Ten Championship Game

For a brief moment, it looked like the Big Ten Championship was not going to feature the best team in the conference. But conference officials knew that to give Ohio State the best chance possible to make the College Football Playoffs, they had to get the Buckeyes into the title game.

So, they changed the rules.  

While an Indiana-Northwestern game may have been a better contest, Ohio State-Northwestern will produce a true champion. Will it be enough to get Ohio State into the Playoffs? 

Who knows, but they are favored to win by three touchdowns.

It would be the upset of the decade if Northwestern were to pull out a win.

From a betting perspective, you could just pick the winner if you want. But you will have to risk a lot to win a little with the odds weighted so heavily in Ohio State’s favor. However, if you do not like the thought of so much risk for so little reward, there is an alternative—prop bets.

The following are the top five props for Saturday’s Big Ten Championship game:

Spread  – First Half

Northwestern (#14)
+7.5 (+135)
+8.5 (+125)
+9.5 (+115)
+10.0 (+105)
+10.5 (-110)
+12.5 (-140)
+13.0 (-145)
+13.5 (-150)

Ohio State (#4)
-7.5 (-180)
-8.5 (-165)
-9.5 (-155)
-10.0 (-145)
-10.5 (-130)
-12.5 (EVEN)
-13.0 (+105)
-13.5 (+110)

Northwestern has averaged right around 14 points in the first half of every game this season. However, they have yet to play a defense as tough as Ohio State’s, so expecting them to maintain that pace this week may be asking a bit much.

Ohio State, on the other hand, has been averaging close to four touchdowns in the first half of every game this season. To be fair, the competition has not been very tough. Northwestern is going to be the most formidable defense they will see this year.

But the Buckeyes know they need to show out if they are going to convince the CFP committee to let them into the Final Four. Ohio State will lead Northwestern by at least two touchdowns at the half.

Best Prop Bet: Ohio State -13.5 (+110)

Winning Margin

Northwestern By 1-6 Points (+1400)
Ohio State By 1-6 Points (+700)

Northwestern By 7-12 Points (+2800)
Ohio State By 7-12 Points (+600)

Northwestern By 13-18 Points (+5000)
Ohio State By 13-18 Points (+425)

Northwestern By 19-24 Points (+8000)
Ohio State By 19-24 Points (+450)

Northwestern By 25-30 Points (+10000)
Ohio State By 25-30 Points (+500)

Northwestern By 31-36 Points (+10000)
Ohio State By 31-36 Points (+600)

Northwestern By 37-42 Points (+12500)
Ohio State By 37-42 Points (+1100)

Northwestern By 43 Or More Points (+12500)
Ohio State By 43 Or More Points (+1100)

Northwestern has a good defense and may be able to slow the Buckeyes down a little. However, since their offense is so bad, their defense may be on the field too much. That means the score could become a blowout in the fourth quarter.

Then again, Ohio State’s defense has been vulnerable against the pass this season. But is Peyton Ramsey good enough to take advantage of them? Probably not.

Ohio State will be going for style points in this one. Look for them to win by at least three touchdowns.

Best Prop Bet: Ohio State by 19-24 (+450) or Ohio State by 25-30 (+500).

First Score Method

Field Goal (+305)
Touchdown (-385)
Any Other (+4000)

Northwestern’s defense is good, but they are not going to deny Ohio State the first time the Buckeyes get within striking distance. The payout may not be great, but the first score in this game will be a touchdown.

Best Prop Bet: Touchdown (-385)

Points Range

Between 0 And 20 (+8000)
Between 21 And 30 (+3300)
Between 31 And 40 (+950)
Between 41 And 50 (+400)
Between 51 And 60 (+220)
Between 61 And 70 (+325)
71 And Over (+425)

Northwestern will probably not match its average scoring output (25.3 points/game) in this game. It is more likely they score in the mid to high teens.  As for Ohio State, with a desire to prove their playoff worthiness, there is a good chance they meet and/or exceed their season average (46.6 points/game).

Best Prop Bet: Between 61 and 70 points (+325)

Race To 40

Ohio State (+115)
Northwestern (+6600)
Neither (-145)

According to the odds, there is a 47.62 percent chance Ohio State scores 40 before Northwestern does. That percentage should be a lot higher. Take Ohio State and do not think twice about it. This one is a no-brainer.

Best Prop Bet: Ohio State first to 40 points (+115)

Wednesday Night College Hoops: Back ‘Nova in Big East Opener

The college basketball week rolls on with another jam-packed slate as several teams from across the country begin their conference schedule.  Last evening was a nice bounce-back night for yours truly as well, as I went 2-1 on my Best Bets last night with the lone blemish being that I believed Iowa State wasn’t as terrible at basketball as Kansas State.

Spoiler alert:  They are.

Doesn’t matter though, we’re going to take a winning night and move forward!  Here are two of the games that will likely get a lot of attention from bettors tonight, and the bets I like in each.

Butler at #7 Villanova

Spread: Villanova -13.5
Total: O/U 132.5
Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET, FS1

The Butler Bulldogs head to Philadelphia to begin Big East Conference play when they meet 7th ranked Villanova.

For the Bulldogs, it will be just their second game of the new season, as the team has not played since the day before Thanksgiving due to a COVID-19 pause within their program.  Their lone game of the season was a 66-62 victory over Western Michigan, but considering Butler was set to be in a rebuilding season regardless of any pandemic schedule shuffling, it’s difficult to read a whole lot into their lone performance of the year.

Since their opening loss to Butler, Western Michigan has gone on to lose three of their last four including a 79-61 blowout at the hands of #8 Michigan State and a pair of home losses to Detroit Mercy and Wisconsin-Milwaukee, who are ranked 201st and 254th respectively in the latest batch of rankings from Ken Pomeroy. 

In other words, Butler’s only win of the season was a four-point home win over a 1-4 team from the MAC that figures to finish towards the bottom of the conference.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

Villanova, on the other hand, has a bigger sample of games to work off of, and outside of their early overtime loss to Virginia Tech, they’ve been every bit as advertised heading into the new season.

Jay Wright’s team is the most balanced team in the Big East Conference, and their offensive efficiency is a sight to behold when everything is clicking.

Considering Butler hasn’t stepped on the floor in 21 days, LaVall Jordan’s squad is in for one difficult opponent to face fresh off a long layoff.  

Butler Players to Watch

Butler enters tonight’s game looking like an entirely different group than we saw take the floor last season when the Bulldogs found themselves ranked in the Top 10 of the country.  The Bulldogs lost nearly 63 percent of their scoring from a season ago, including three of their top four scorers headlined by seniors Kamar Baldwin and Sean McDermott.  Replacing that production will be an ongoing challenge for LaVall Jordan all season.

Fortunately for Butler, the cupboard wasn’t left entirely bare.   Jordan returns three seniors to the team with guard Aaron Thompson expected to make the biggest leap in comparison to his play from a season ago.  Thompson passed his first test by contributing 21 points and four assists in their win over Western Michigan, but he will face much stiffer competition this evening when he meets a stingy Villanova defense.

Bryce Nze (9.0 ppg) and Jair Bolden (15.0 ppg) are the other seniors on this team and the other players to pay close attention to this evening, though Nze may miss tonight’s game with an ankle injury.  Freshmen Myles Tate and Chuck Harris also figure to be key contributors for Jordan’s team but had quiet debuts in the game against Western Michigan.

The Bulldogs are not an especially deep team, as they used only nine players in their season-opening victory, so this could also be of some importance in the event foul trouble occurs or Butler is flat out rusty in their first action in three weeks.

Villanova Players to Watch

While there are still a lot of questions swirling around the Butler side of things, Villanova’s roster is much easier to answer questions about. 

The catalyst for the Villanova attack is that of the team’s leading scorer, senior point guard Collin Gillespie (15.2 ppg, 44.1% 3PM) along with budding star sophomore Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (15.0 ppg, 8.2 rpg).  The inside-outside tandem was named to the Top 50 Wooden Award watch list at the start of the season and each player could find themselves lacing up their sneakers in the NBA before too long.

As is typically the case with a Jay Wright coached Villanova team, the ‘Cats have a bevy of dangerous shooters from the outside.  Gillespie shoots the three-ball at a blistering 44 percent clip, but guard Caleb Daniels (12.7 ppg) shoots it even better at nearly a 47 percent rate from distance, with Cole Swider (37.9% 3PM) and Justin Moore (34.6% 3PM) giving Wright four shooters hitting the perimeter shot at about 35 percent or better.

To make matters more difficult for their opponent tonight, Villanova plays a very clean style of basketball.  They have the 4th most efficient offense in all of college basketball and only turn the ball over on less than 13 percent of their possessions (9th best in NCAA).

If the three-ball is dropping, few teams in the country can hang with Villanova.  If they’re cold from the outside, however, that opens the door for opponents to control the glass and get quick run-outs on long misses to convert into easier buckets.  This is the recipe Virginia Tech used (along with red hot shooting from the outside) to score their earlier upset of Villanova, and it’s the one Butler will try its best at replicating tonight.

Butler – Villanova Prediction

The Butler Bulldogs have quietly been one of the steadier college basketball programs of the past decade, even since Brad Stevens departed the program several years ago to leap into the NBA.  This season marks their first true rebuilding test in quite some time, but as stated previously, their cupboard is not entirely bare and as the season goes on you will likely see a much improved Bulldogs team.

Unfortunately for Butler backers, this is about the worst conference opponent you could have drawn when returning to play basketball for the first time in three weeks with a roster full of new faces.  I like Butler to keep the game close for a half, maybe even taking the lead into the break, before ‘Nova will find its outside shot and put the game far out of reach.

Look for the ‘Cats to win their conference opener and cover the spread in the process.

Prediction: Villanova 80, Butler 64
Best Bet: Villanova -13.5

#20 Ohio State at Purdue

Spread: Purdue -5.5
Total: O/U 133
Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET, Big Ten Network

The 20th ranked Ohio State Buckeyes put their perfect 5-0 record on the line when they open up conference play tonight against the Purdue Boilermakers, but they will need to do so tonight without their leading scorer E.J. Liddell, who will miss the game with mono.

While Ohio State enters tonight’s game with a perfect record, they’ve skated by with the 254th overall non-conference schedule.  In their most recent action, the Buckeyes narrowly escaped an upset bid by Cleveland State with a 67-61 victory in a game they were favored by 23 in. 

Ohio State did defeat Notre Dame 90-85 last Tuesday, by far their most impressive win of the young season, but they’ve yet to truly face a test this year.  

Meanwhile, the Boilers are in a similar situation as their opponent tonight.  While Purdue has performed well in games against better competition, they did fail each test with losses to Clemson and Miami, FL sandwiched in between wins over lesser competition.  Purdue sits at 4-2 on the season with their most impressive win being a 77-64 victory at the hands of Liberty in the season opener.

Ohio State Players to Watch

Barring a last-minute change, the Buckeyes leading scorer E.J. Liddell will miss tonight’s action leaving Chris Holtmann to rely on his trio of formidable secondary players – Duane Washington (14.8 ppg, 38.2% 3PM), Justice Sueing (14.0 ppg, 40% 3PM), and CJ Walker (13.2 ppg).

Should Liddell miss tonight’s game, 6-8 frosh Zed Key is most likely to receive his minutes in the lineup, as the young forward chipped in a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds in just 21 minutes in their win over Cleveland State.  When you take a look at the Purdue roster, you’ll quickly see why Key is (no pun intended) a major key to the Buckeyes scoring a big road win to kick off the conference slate.

As far as tempo goes, Ohio State plays at a very methodical pace.  They won’t be confused for the Ohio State football team, they like to take their time running through their offense.  They will attack the offensive glass (average one offensive rebound on 36% of their possessions) and are great at limiting mistakes (10th best NCAA).  If there is an Achilles’ heel to be found that Purdue (and almost every other Buckeyes opponent) will try to exploit it’s their abysmal defense from three-point range, as teams are shooting at an eye-popping 40 percent clip from downtown (279th overall in NCAA), with a lot of those looks being uncontested. 

Purdue Players to Watch

Remember when we mentioned that Ohio State’s Zed Key would be very important to tonight’s game? 

Well, that’s because Matt Painter’s Boilermakers once again feature two imposing bigs on their frontcourt, and everything Purdue hopes to accomplish runs right through them. 

Junior Trevion Williams is Purdue’s leading scorer (13.3 ppg) and rebounder (10.3) and is coming off of a dominant 30-point, 11 rebound night in the Boilers 80-68 win over Indiana State. 

He’s joined in the frontcourt by one of the biggest Canadians you’ll ever see – 7-foot-4 freshman Zach Edey.  The long-armed Edey is also averaging 13.3 points per contest while shooting a ridiculous 75 percent from the floor.  It’s not that Edey is especially skilled, it’s just that he’s usually the tallest man on the floor by several inches.

If there’s a bugaboo in Edey’s game, however, it’s that he’s still figuring out how to play defense at the collegiate level.  While Edey does average roughly one block per contest thus far, he’s had an especially difficult time staying out of foul trouble.  As a result, Edey sees the floor for about 15 minutes per game.  If he gets into foul trouble once again, that puts a lot of weight on the shoulders of their star forward Trevion Williams.

Where Ohio State could feel extra pressure comes from Purdue’s sharpshooting duo of Sasha Stefanovic (12.0 ppg) and Brandon Newman (9.2 ppg), as Stefanovic shoots a ridiculous 53 percent from three-point range while Newman chips in 41 percent three-point shooting.  Considering the Buckeyes treat the perimeter like it’s coated in lava, this could be a major obstacle to the Bucks’ chances of success this evening.

Ohio State – Purdue Prediction

As of this writing, all indications are that Ohio State will once again be without leading scorer E.J. Liddell, but the Buckeyes still have plenty of firepower to light up the scoreboard.

On paper, this matchup looks to favor a Purdue side that’s played much better at home than away from East Lafayette, though that too will be put to the test in a fanless Mackey Arena.

I think the Boilermakers have the mismatches in their favor and ultimately eke out a close cover, but I believe the much safer play tonight is the over. 

Prediction: Purdue 79, Ohio State 72
Best Bet:
OVER 133

Big Ten College Basketball 2020/21 Preview

When COVID-19 swept over the United States, the Big Ten’s banner season was also unfortunately washed away.  We’ll never know what the conference would have done in the NCAA Tournament, but we do know the Big Ten was on the brink of sending at least 11 of the 14 members of the conference to the dance, with the outside possibility of a 12th team playing their way in with a strong showing in the conference tournament.

Fast forward eight months and the Big Ten is still as deep as ever, and should once again be the deepest conference in college basketball.

A record seven teams from the same conference appear in the preseason college basketball rankings, and this year looks just as promising as a season ago for the Big Ten to potentially send two teams to the Final Four.

How does this mammoth of a conference look heading into the new season?  Let’s take a look at each team in the conference and how they figure to fare in what is sure to be another chaotic season of college basketball.

The Contenders

#5 Iowa (+265 to Win Big Ten)

Two words can best summarize why Iowa is a legit contender this season.

Luka. Garza.

The 6-11 center had a junior season to remember before COVID-19 prevented Garza and the Hawkeyes from their appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

Garza was selected as the Sporting News’ National Player of the Year and the Big Ten Conference player of the year in addition to being named as a consensus first-team All-American.  And in looking at Garza’s stats it’s not difficult to see why the big man brought home a lot of awards last season.  Luka averaged a practical double-double (23.9 ppg, 9.8 rpg) while shooting 54% from the floor and nearly 36% from three-point range.  The 6-11 big man was the Hawkeyes’ best three-point shooter a season ago.

Iowa fans will be ecstatic to find out that most of last season’s team is back with the exception of two senior bench contributors (Ryan Kreiner and Bakari Evelyn), meaning the Hawkeyes are locked and loaded for a potentially deep run in March.

Fran McCaffery’s Hawkeyes will have senior point guard Jordan Bohannon (8.8 ppg, 3.3 apg) back in the lineup this season after he only played in 10 games a season ago, and will still have the services of the team’s second-leading scorer, Joe Wieskamp (14.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg) along with sophomore guard CJ Fredrick (10.2 ppg, 2.8 apg).  This should provide the Hawkeyes with an explosive offensive unit that will play a quicker tempo than many of the schools in the conference.

If there’s a cause for concern with this Iowa team, however, it does come on the defensive end of the floor where Iowa is… passive to say the least.  Iowa’s guards can shoot the lights out, but their defense is subpar at best.  Luka Garza is a versatile weapon that few teams have an answer for offensively, but on the defensive end of the floor, he has shown a tendency to struggle in defending outside of the paint.

Additionally, the Hawkeyes’ reserves are extremely young with six freshmen, one sophomore, and a lone junior (Connor McCaffrey).  How much depth this team actually has won’t be known until several games into the season. 

If Bohannon can avoid injury and Iowa can find a gem or two on their bench, there’s no reason to believe Iowa won’t be a Top 10 team when it’s all said and done.  But if the bench doesn’t progress the way McCaffrey hopes it will, this could be a team that becomes extremely reliant on Luka Garza and Joe Wieskamp once again.

At the very least, expect Iowa to be one of the more entertaining teams in the Big Ten this season, and a likely strong over team given their ability to light up a scoreboard.

#7 Wisconsin (+350 to Win Big Ten)

Before COVID-19 canceled conference tournaments around the country, and then subsequently the NCAA Tournament, the Wisconsin Badgers were in the middle of an eight-game winning streak to close out the season and take the Badgers from a middling 6-6 record in conference to clinching the top seed in the Big Ten tournament.

The bad news for Badger backers is that we didn’t get a chance to see one of the hottest teams in the country during March Madness, the good news for Badger backers is that no other team in the conference will have the experience Greg Gard will have at his disposal this season.

Wisconsin returns six seniors to their team including their entire starting lineup from a season ago.  The program’s only two losses entering the 2020/21 season are that of guards Brevin Pritzl (8.0 ppg) and Kobe King (midseason transfer to Nebraska).

The loss of King, one of the best recruits that Gard has brought to the program, stung initially especially when seeing him link up with a conference foe in Nebraska (though he has since departed the Nebraska program as well), but Gard did a masterful job of righting the ship after losing the team’s most talented player.

There’s a lot of reasons to be excited for this iteration of Wisconsin basketball.  We mentioned the talent they’re bringing back, but possibly the most exciting development to come with this basketball team is getting Micah Potter (10.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 45.1% 3PM) for a full season.  Of the Badgers’ ten losses a season ago, five of them came before Potter was eligible to play.  The moment the 6-10 transfer from Ohio State entered the lineup, Wisconsin was an entirely different team.  Potter provides Gard exactly what Wisconsin hopes to get from their big men – a long-player that can light it up from distance.  Potter was a 45% shooter from distance a season ago.

Three-point shooting will be a running theme with the Badgers all season, as Wisconsin shot 36.1% from three-point range in conference play, only trailing Ohio State (36.2%) in three-point shooting efficiency.  Gard has six players on his roster that shoot the three at a 35% clip or better.  If the three-ball is dropping, the Badgers are going to be a very difficult team to beat.  

Gard is one of the best coaches in the conference and given this senior-laden lineup, it’s hard not to envision the Badgers being a serious contender to the Big Ten crown once more. 

#8 Illinois (+355 to Win Big Ten)

The Illini are back in the Top 10 for the first time since 2012, and while they don’t have the barrage of offensive firepower that Iowa possesses or the experience that Wisconsin brings, they will still be one of the main contenders to win the conference.

Brad Underwood’s team gets Big Ten Conference Player of the Year Candidate Ayo Dosunmu (16.6 ppg) back for his junior season after the guard flirted with the idea of entering the NBA Draft, along with their sensational 7-foot sophomore Kofi Cockburn (13.3 ppg, 8.8 rpg). 

In addition to this terrific tandem, the Illini will count on senior guard Trent Frazier (9.1 ppg) and former Holy Cross guard Jacob Grandison (13.9 ppg in 2018/19) for additional offensive support. 

Underwood does lose the rangy shooting forward Alan Griffin (8.9 ppg, 41.6% 3PM) who transferred to Syracuse, but four-star recruit Adam Miller could immediately start for the Illini and fill that vacancy in the stat sheet.

The fate of the new Illini season in all likelihood rests on Underwood finding another shooting threat to alleviate the pressure on his two future NBA’ers.  If Frazier, Grandison, or Miller can become that dependable piece the Illini should play to the expectations of their preseason ranking.  If they are unable to find consistency outside of their best two players, however, the Big Ten is monstrous enough to send Illinois tumbling down the standings.

Either way, Brad Underwood’s team should still be playing in mid-March.  How far they will go remains to be seen.

#13 Michigan State (+360 to Win Big Ten)

Tom Izzo enters the new season looking to replace one of the best players to ever come through Izzo’s program in guard Cassius Winston.  Arguably no player meant more to their team, at least from a leadership level, than Winston meant to the Spartans.  Most college basketball fans (myself included) were saddened to see Winston’s career end in the sudden manner it did, but he has since graduated and the Spartans are now left to try to fill his absence.

Don’t feel too bad for Izzo’s Spartans, however, as they are poised to reload their roster and once again be a force in the Big Ten Conference.

Michigan State pulled in the 8th best recruiting class of 2020, but it’s Marquette transfer Joey Hauser that may excite Izzo the most.  Hauser is a 6-9 forward that can score inside and out (42.5% 3PM in 2018/19) and in true Izzo fashion look for the rangy sharpshooter to have a lot of pick-and-pop plays drawn up for him this season.

Playing alongside Hauser in the Spartans’ small-ball type of lineup will be guards Rocket Watts (9.0 ppg) and Aaron Henry (10.0 ppg), but the real X-factor to Sparty’s season is that of fifth-year senior Joshua Langford. 

Langford missed all of last season with a nagging foot injury and had his 2018/19 campaign cut short for the same reason, but when Langford was able to play he was a very potent scoring threat as he averaged 15.0 points per contest during his junior season.

If Langford can give the Spartans a full season, or close to it, Michigan State goes from a very good team to a legit contender. 

The Dangerous Dark Horses

#23 Ohio State (+1000 to Win Big Ten)

The Buckeyes 2019/20 season was almost like three separate seasons rolled into one.

Ohio State came out of the gates scorching hot with an 11-1 record and blowout wins over then #10 Villanova, #7 North Carolina, and a narrow 71-65 victory over #6 Kentucky in Las Vegas.

Ohio State would see their ranking soar up to #2 overall before they’d meet Bob Huggins’ #22 West Virginia team.  West Virginia would go on to hand Ohio State their second loss of the season, leading to a 1-6 spiral for the Buckeyes.

Sitting at 13-7 on the year and an ugly 3-6 in conference, Ohio State would find their earlier form and end the season winning nine of their last 12 games before COVID-19 would stop the season dead in its tracks.

Now Chris Holtmann’s team enters the new season with a lot of roster turnover, but still enough talent to at least put Ohio State on the likely path to another NCAA Tournament bid in 2021.

The Buckeyes lost Luther Muhammad, D.J. Carton, and Alonzo Gaffney to the transfer portal but have transfers Seth Towns (16.0 ppg with Harvard), Jimmy Sotos (11.5 ppg with Bucknell), and Justice Sueing (14.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg with Cal) ready to step right in.

Holtmann will not have the luxury of the Wesson twins this season, as Kaleb Wesson turned pro and Andre Wesson graduated, so the top returning player to Columbus this season figures to be that of junior guard Duane Washington Jr. (11.5 ppg).  

While it’s unlikely that Ohio State is a National Championship contending team, they can still make a lot of noise in a loaded Big Ten.  Holtmann will likely need a bit of time to get all of his new players to gel, but come February and March this may be a team that no one in the Big Ten wants any part of.  A Sweet 16 run is certainly not out of the question with this group.

#25 Michigan (+1100 to Win Big Ten)

Juwan Howard’s first season in Ann Arbor was met with mostly positive results.  The first-time collegiate head coach brought Michigan to a 19-12 record overall and a very respectable 10-10 in conference play. 

The Wolverines began the season a perfect 7-0 including wins over then 6th ranked North Carolina and a blowout win in the Maui Invitational Final over 8th ranked Gonzaga.

As the season would go on, we’d eventually discover the North Carolina win wasn’t as impressive as we first thought it was, but their win over Gonzaga would become more impressive with each passing week.

Once Michigan entered Big Ten Conference play, however, the limitations of Michigan’s roster began to emerge.  While Howard’s group was tenacious on the defensive end of the floor, they were a mixed bag offensively. 

After climbing up to #4 in the polls following their blowout over Gonzaga, the Wolverines would go on a 4-8 skid that left them sitting at 11-8 overall and 2-6 in conference play.  In a similar manner to Ohio State, Michigan seemed to rediscover the play they had to start the season and would rattle off eight wins in their last 12 games, putting the Wolverines comfortably in the field of 68. 

Now the Wolverines enter the new season as one of the more dangerous sleepers in not only the Big Ten but in all of college basketball.  The biggest question facing the team is if they will be able to find a point guard to run the offense.  Zavier Simpson graduated from the program and Simpson’s heir to the throne, David DeJulius, shocked the program when he transferred to Cincinnati this offseason.  That leaves Michigan potentially dangerously thin at the most important position on the floor.

Howard will now hope that either senior Eli Brooks or grad-transfer Mike Smith (22.8 ppg with Columbia in 2019/20) can fill the very large shoes left behind by Simpson.  If either guard is up to the task, Michigan is in great hands once again. 

Beyond their question marks at the point, Michigan returns top player Isaiah Livers (12.9 ppg) and 2019 standout frosh Franz Wagner (younger brother of former Michigan star Mo Wagner) to a very athletic and long Wolverines roster.

The floor for Michigan this season is likely where they ended the 2019/20 campaign, but the ceiling could be very high if they’re able to seamlessly replace their backcourt from a season ago.  Look out for this Wolverines team this season.

Indiana (+2000 to Win Big Ten)

This very likely will be a make or break year for Archie Miller in Bloomington. 

Since coming to Indiana in 2017, Miller has not made a single NCAA Tournament appearance and has a meager 55-43 record overall and a sub .500 record in conference play at 26-32.  COVID-19 may have even prolonged his coaching tenure with the Hoosiers a bit further as Indiana needed at least a couple of victories in the Big Ten Tournament (though they did have one under their belt before the cancellation) to safely get into the field of 68.

Fortunately for Archie Miller, this season’s Hoosiers team should fare better than last season’s, and the temperature of his seat should cool off as the season goes on.

The straw that stirs the Hoosiers drink is that of future NBA’er Trayce Jackson-Davis (13.5 ppg, 8.4 rpg).  The 6-9 lefty is a fantastic defender and a tireless glass eater for Archie Miller’s squad.  Jackson-Davis will team up with senior Joey Brunk and junior Race Thompson to give Indiana one of the best frontcourts in the Big Ten. 

While junior Rob Phinisee figures to start for Archie Miller to begin the season, five-star point guard Khristian Lander may eventually take that job by the time conference play begins.  Lander was widely considered as the best recruit to come out of Indiana and was the 27th overall recruit according to ESPN.  So Archie landing him is a pretty big deal for the Hoosiers.

The Hoosiers’ also recruited four-star talent Jordan Geronimo, giving them the 15th best-recruiting class in the country.  If Miller can get the talented freshmen on this team to gel with the talent already in place, Indiana’s NCAA Tournament drought should be coming to an end.   

#24 Rutgers (+3000 to Win Big Ten)

Add Rutgers to the growing pile of teams that were devastated by the cancellation of college basketball eight months ago.

The Scarlet Knights were in the middle of the best season they’ve had in a long time, winning 20 games in a season for the first time since 2004, and were almost surely headed for a trip to the NCAA Tournament.  Now Steve Pikiell is hoping to replicate last season’s success and officially end Rutgers’ 30-year tournament drought.

Replicating last season’s success should be made easier by the return of Rutgers’ two best players in forward Ron Harper Jr. (12.1 ppg) and guard Geo Baker (10.8 ppg), in addition to the signing of Pikiell’s best recruit ever in Cliff Omoruyi (6-10 center, ranked 49th overall).

The Scarlet Knights were ferocious defensively a season ago, ranking 6th in the country per KenPom.  That will need to continue this season if Rutgers is to meet their new expectations.  One cause of concern for Rutgers this season is their woeful 2-10 road record a year ago. 

However, their road woes may be greatly assisted by the fact that there will likely not be any fans for most Rutgers road basketball games this season.  Conversely, that can also work against the Scarlet Knights, as Pikiell’s group was a sensational 18-1 at home last year. 

I don’t believe Rutgers is a title contender or even a threat to win the Big Ten, but they have enough talent to get close to 20-wins once again and that would be a practical automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament given how stacked the Big Ten is this season.

Middle of the Pack

Purdue (+3000 to Win Big Ten)

Matt Painter faces a difficult road if he hopes to take Purdue back to the NCAA Tournament.

Weeks after the COVID-19 pandemic officially ended the Boilers season, Painter watched his two best players Matt Haarms and Nojel Eastern transfer to BYU and Howard respectively, leaving Purdue with  Trevion Williams as their main threat in the low post – a position that holds greater importance in Painter’s system than with other members of the Big Ten.

However, this can also be seen as a blessing in disguise.  Haarms and Eastern both chewed into the playing time and touches for Williams (11.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg), and now Williams will not have to deal with either of those issues as he becomes the focal point of the Purdue offense.

In addition to Williams, Painter will also have the services of junior guards Eric Hunter (10.6 ppg) and Sasha Stefanovic (9.1 ppg), so offensively the Boilers should remain quite the formidable group.  Where Painter will run into some potential issues comes on the defensive side of the floor, as Haarms and Eastern were both outstanding rim protectors. 

Purdue’s bench will be very young with five freshmen, so it remains to be seen how deep Painter’s rotations will be.  If any of the freshmen happen to pop and emerge as a capable depth piece, however, Purdue is likely going to be heading back to the NCAA Tournament. 

Maryland (+5000 to Win Big Ten)

Out of all the teams in the loaded Big Ten, no one lost more from the 2019/20 season than Mark Turgeon’s Maryland Terrapins.

The timing of the COVID-19 pandemic couldn’t have been worse for the Terps eight months ago, as Maryland was in the middle of their best season since their Juan Dixon National Championship team and had just captured a share of the Big Ten regular-season crown.  Maryland was likely in the mix for a 2 or 3 seed in the tournament, and who knows what kind of run they could have eventually gone on.

The holes on this roster are evident, as Turgeon is faced with the daunting task of replacing star guard Anthony Cowan Jr. and NBA’er Jalen Smith.  The Terps also had the worst recruiting class in the conference, not exactly what you hope to achieve in this gauntlet of a conference.

In a best-case scenario, the Terps greatly overachieve and get themselves in the mix of a possible bubble spot.  The more likely scenario is they fight off Minnesota and Purdue for 10th place in the conference.

The Long Shots

Minnesota (+15000 to Win Big Ten)
Penn State (+30000 to Win Big Ten)
Nebraska (+50000 to Win Big Ten)
Northwestern (+50000 to Win Big Ten)

If you dropped any of these four teams into a weaker conference, the outlook for their seasons would probably look much differently.  Unfortunately, though that’s not how college athletics work so these four teams are in for a tough slog in this behemoth of a basketball power conference.

Minnesota adds stand out transfers Liam Robbins (Drake), Brandon Johnson (Western Michigan), and Both Gach (Utah), but loses 2019 star Daniel Oturu in what is a make or break season for Richard Pitino.  Marcus Carr and Gabe Kalscheur return to Minnesota’s backcourt and offer one of the most experienced guard tandems in the conference.  One name of note here is that of 2020 recruit Jamal Mashburn Jr.   Mashburn Jr. is of course the son of former NBA great Jamal Mashburn, so if you want to feel even older than you do after living during a global pandemic, be sure to catch a Gophers game if you can.

Penn State is in for a potentially rough season, as head coach Pat Chambers abruptly resigned in late October.  Former Duquesne head coach Jim Ferry has now become the team’s interim coach, but he will have his hands full after the Nittany Lions had already lost their two best players from a season ago in Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins.  Myreon Jones (13.4 ppg) is the name to look out for here, as he’s the best returning player to Happy Valley.

Nebraska enters year two of the Fred Hoiberg era hoping it goes a lot better than the 7-25 (2-18 Big Ten) showing the Huskers had in his debut season.  Good news for Husker fans is the talent is getting noticeably better, and they shouldn’t be nearly as bad as they were a season ago.  However, Nebraska has the unfortunate luck of their football program uprooting its basketball program into the strongest conference in the United States.  The Huskers will be a team to watch in 2021 and beyond, but this season expect more growing pains in Lincoln.

Northwestern at least has a good football team to cheer for this season.  They won’t have much else besides Mike Greenberg annoyingly reminding you that’s where he went to college.  

Big Ten Projected Order of Finish

  1. Wisconsin
  2. Iowa
  3. Michigan State
  4. Michigan
  5. Illinois
  6. Ohio State
  7. Indiana
  8. Rutgers
  9. Minnesota
  10. Purdue
  11. Maryland
  12. Nebraska
  13. Penn State
  14. Northwestern

No. 9 Indiana Hoosiers at No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes Betting Preview

Saturday, November 21, 2020, Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio, noon. ET

Hoosiers at Buckeyes Betting Preview: Hoosiers (+20.5), Buckeyes (-20.5)

No. 9 Indiana Hoosiers Betting Preview

For the first time in program history, the No. 9 Hoosiers (4-0, 4-0 Big Ten) will be included in a regular-season, Top-10 matchup when they play No. 3 Ohio State (3-0, 3-0 Big Ten) with first place at stake in the East Division of the conference.

Indiana has its highest ranking since it was No. 4 on Nov. 27, 1967, the season the Hoosiers got a share of the league title and made their only Rose Bowl appearance.

“We are not focused on the hype or the rankings. We are just trying to control what we can control,” Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. said. “We need to go out and play Indiana football, tough, physical football, and that is what we are going to do each and every week.”

While Indiana was winning 24-0 at Michigan State last week, the Buckeyes only practiced because their game at Maryland was canceled following a COVID-19 outbreak in the Terrapins’ program.

“Indiana had an opportunity to play and now they’ve played for four straight weeks and they got a little bit of rhythm going,” Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said. “We didn’t. When you miss out on preseason, you miss out on the spring, it certainly hurts when you’re not playing games.”

Penix will test Ohio State’s inexperienced secondary. He has completed 60.1 percent of his passes for 267.5 yards a game and is 9-1 in his past 10 starts. His favorite target is Ty Fryfogle, who had 11 catches for 200 yards and two touchdowns vs. Michigan State.

Fryfogle has 24 receptions for 424 yards and four touchdowns for the season.

The Hoosiers haven’t beaten the Buckeyes since 1988 but did earn a tie in 1990. Coach Tom Allen doesn’t want that history to overwhelm his players.

“To me that is the key,” he said. “We need to learn how to handle that and manage that if we want to be a top-10 football program.”

No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes Betting Preview

Buckeyes’ quarterback Justin Fields has put himself in the forefront of Heisman talk in completing 86.8 percent of his 83 pass attempts for 908 yards. He has the same number of touchdowns (11) as incompletions and has not thrown an interception but figures to be tested by Indiana’s defense.

The Hoosiers are is tied for seventh nationally with 10 interceptions, which leads the Big Ten. Jaylin Williams has three of those interceptions and Tiawan Mullen has two.

Fields has relied heavily on Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave as targets. The two are the only Buckets in double figures in receptions and have combined for 42 receptions for 632 yards and six of Fields’ touchdown tosses.

Master Teague III leads the Buckeyes in rushing with 220 yards and four touchdowns.

The Hoosiers are 4-0 in Big Ten play for the first time since 1987 in notching wins over Penn State, Rutgers, Michigan, and Michigan State. The win over Michigan ended a 24-game losing streak to the Wolverines.

“I think their ability to play all four quarters really stood out to me,” Ohio State defensive end Tyler Friday said. “Indiana, every year, every week is getting better. Their record speaks for itself.”

Hoosiers at Buckeyes Betting Pick

The Buckeyes have won 76 of the 93 meetings, the Hoosiers 12, and five have ended in ties. The Buckeyes have won 25 consecutive meetings since a 27-27 tie in 1990, and Indiana’s last win in the series was 41-7 in 1988. The Hoosiers’ last win in Columbus was 31-10 in 1987.

Hoosiers at Buckeyes Betting Pick:

Buckeyes 38, Hoosiers 20

Hoosiers at Buckeyes Best Bet

The Hoosiers are coming off their season scoring low after a 24-0 win at Michigan State. The Buckeyes have averaged 46.3 points a game with their season low a 38-25 win at Penn State, a team Indiana edged 36-35 in overtime to open the season.

Hoosiers at Buckeyes Best Bet: UNDER 64.5

–Field Level Media

The OddsUSA College Football Best Bet of the Week: Indiana at Ohio State

Indiana at The Ohio State University Betting Breakdown

  • Spread: Ohio State -20.5
  • Moneyline: Ohio State -1115; Indiana +650
  • Over/Under: 64.5

*Odds via DraftKings.com

Prior to the start of the Big Ten season, there is no way anyone would have said Ohio State-Indiana would be the must-see game of the year. But no one would have guessed Indiana would be 4-0 and ranked No. 9 in the nation, either.

The Hoosiers have been surprisingly good, though. Ohio State, on the other hand, has been as good as expected—which does not bode well for Indiana.

Despite the success Indiana has had this season, the expectation for them heading into this game is still the same—Ohio State will blow them out of the water. But with how well they have played this season, it is not hard to wonder if the Hoosiers can do it.

Can they pull off the upset of the century and beat Ohio State in the Horseshoe?

Indiana Hoosiers Betting Preview

After getting off to a 3-0 start that included wins over Penn State and Michigan, the stage was set for Indiana to have a let-down game last week against Michigan State. If they came out flat and/or struggled to get on track, the Spartans appeared good enough to steal a win from the Hoosiers.

But Indiana took care of business, forcing three turnovers (that led to points) in the first half and cruised to a 24-0 win. So, they did not have a let-down game, after all—but that doesn’t mean they are ready for the Buckeyes.

The press has been nice to Indiana, but few (if any) have tried to compare Indiana to Ohio State. No, the expectations have remained largely the same. They are not just underdogs; they are big underdogs. So big that even diehard fans are probably choosing Ohio State.

Consequently, the team could fall into a common underdog trap. They may buy into what people say and go into the game expecting to lose. But if they can use those low expectations as fuel to fire the game of their lives, an upset could be possible.

Ohio State’s defense is good this year, but not the great unit the team often fields. Their weakness happens to be what the Indiana offense does best—pass (224.3 yards/game; 51st). Indiana is averaging 267.5 yards/game but will likely need another 300+-yard day from Michael Penix Jr. as they got out of him last week.

The key, however, will be on defense. Indiana has done well against the pass and run so far this season. But they have yet to face an offensive attack as potent as Ohio State.   

Ohio State Buckeyes Betting Preview

As usual, the expectations were high for Ohio State once the season started. So far, they have lived up to them. Justin Fields is playing like a Heisman frontrunner, they have won all three games by double-digits, and the defense is getting the job done.

It is hard to find a flaw. On paper, there does not appear to be anything the Hoosiers will be able to exploit.  Ohio State is running for over 200 a game and passing for over 300. Defensively, they are only allowing 356 total yards/game and 23 points.

Anyone who will beat them will need to score more than 23 points (Indiana is averaging 33).

However, there is a glimmer of hope. Nebraska was able to run through the Ohio State defense to the tune of 200+ yards. While the Ohio State defense has done a good job this year, they have played three terrible offensive teams.

So, maybe they are not as good as they look?

Indiana at Ohio State Betting Prediction

There is not a football fan in the country outside of Ohio that wants to see the Buckeyes win this game. Everyone loves a good underdog story; should Indiana win, it would be a great one. But it is hard to see how the Hoosiers are going to pull it off.

Like the Buckeyes, the Hoosiers defense has looked good against some bad teams. Facing one with the offensive firepower like Ohio State is going to be a rude wake-up call. At the same time, the Buckeyes have yet to encounter an offense as good as Indiana’s.

But to try to say the offenses are comparable—well, they are not. Michael Penix Jr. is good, but Justin Fields is better. 

So—how should you bet?

Take Ohio State to win but look for Indiana to keep it competitive and win against the spread. As for the over/under— take the over. Both teams are going to put on an offensive show.