Free Picks: Michigan Wolverines vs Michigan State Spartans

Michigan vs Michigan State NCAAB
Michigan Wolverines vs Michigan State Spartans, NCAA, Crisler Center

The No. 2 Michigan Wolverines (18-2,, 13-2 Big Ten) are coming off a disaster performance on Tuesday night in their sanctuary, the Crisler Center. The Wolverines hadn’t lost there all season, and now they must quickly shift their attention to the Michigan State Spartans (13-10, 7-10 Big Ten), who will hope to spoil senior night on Thursday. The Spartans are playing their best basketball at the right time, and a win over Michigan would be their third over a top 10 team in the past 10 days.

Michigan State might be catching rival Michigan at the right time

If you’re a Michigan fan, you’ve got to be pretty worried about Thursday’s senior night matchup with Michigan State, right?

Maybe if we’d surveyed the Wolverine faithful a few days ago, they wouldn’t have blinked twice. After all, the No. 3 Wolverines entered Tuesday’s home matchup with No. 4 Illinois as winners of seven straight (and all 12 home games this season), with recent defeats of No. 5 Iowa and No. 7 Ohio State. But then the Illini rain over the Wolverines, and now a shadow of doubt has crept into Michigan’s façade.

Michigan State, meanwhile, have beaten both Illinois and Ohio State in the past week and a half. The Spartans haven’t been their usual dominant selves this year, but Tom Izzo’s bunch always seems to find an extra gear in March. Now, the Spartans project to be fascinating underdogs on the NCAA basketball odds for Thursday’s matchup, where they are just as likely to play the role of pest or punching bag against the Wolverines. In this BetPicks prediction, we’ll try to figure out which one of those roles feels like a better fit.

The Spartans’ 14-10 record doesn’t jump off the page, but consider that since Feb. 6 they are 6-3, with losses to Iowa, Purdue and Maryland (all top 30 in KenPom), while they’ve also beaten some aforementioned excellent teams, too. Michigan State is second in the nation at offensive assist rate, but their shooting is substandard (246th in NCAA Division I in effective field goal percentage). Defensively, they don’t force many turnovers but they’re 41st in adjusted defensive efficiency.

Michigan is great in almost every metric — except they allow a high assist rate on defense — but everything fell apart on Tuesday. The Wolverines had no space to shooting against Illinois, and they ended up going 34.7 percent from the floor. They were also minus-16 in the rebound battle. Really gross.

The only other time Michigan was embarrassed like this (a 75-57 loss to Minnesota on Jan. 16), they rebounded with a 24-point win at home versus Maryland — who, coincidentally, just beat Michigan State.

The Spartans might be relatively hot right now, but they’re in prime position to be the Wolverines’ punching bag on Thursday. Any point spread of 15 points or under is intriguing on Michigan’s side.

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  • Michigan is 7-3 ATS in its past 10 games
  • The UNDER has cashed in eight of the Wolverines’ past 10 games
  • Michigan State is 5-5 ATS in its past 10 games
  • The UNDER has cashed in six of the Spartans’ past nine games

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Jordan Horrobin is a freelance sports journalist based in Toronto, Ontario, who enjoys sports-related research and telling engaging stories. His work can also be found at Sportsnet, Forbes and elsewhere. Though he abandoned most of his team-specific fandoms in the interest of unbiased analysis, Jordan roots hard for his fantasy football/hockey teams (and he's a complete homer for all things Ohio University).