Family. Jesus. Big 10 Basketball. These are the pillars which Christmas day is predicated upon. Well, this year at least. Finally, after what has been a long and treacherous year, it seems as though the universe has finally answered our prayers. That’s right, a full slate of Big Ten Basketball on Christmas day. The one thing you can turn on in your household that no one can complain about, as you enjoy the much-needed family time. Sure, most people are going to talk about the “star-studded” NBA slate, or even a holiday movie, but who wouldn't prefer to watch some slow-paced, grit n’ grind defensive battle between kids who play the game out of pure passion and love of the game? I mean, seriously, it’s a no brainer for me. Also, college basketball is much more fun to bet than the NBA, and much more entertaining than ‘Home Alone’ for the 1500th time. With that being said let’s dive into the matchups:
Game 1: #9 Wisconsin (-1) at #12 Michigan State
The Big Ten came out swinging by making this heavy-weight matchup the first on their slate on Christmas morning. This game between the 7-1 Badgers, fresh off a win in their first conference game against Nebraska and the 6-1 Spartans, who could not seem to get it going in their first conference game against a hot Northwestern team. These teams are going in two different directions, as the Badgers carry a 4-game win streak, with the Spartans playing their worst ball of the year. With that being said, Michigan State as a home-underdog has ‘trap game’ written all over it, but I’ll take the bait. The Badgers consist of a top 5 defense (KenPom) and high ball security, two keys to beating this Spartan team.
Final Score: 71-66 Badgers
Bets: Wisco -1, under 140
Game 2: Maryland (+4.5) at Purdue
The second game of the day features a 5-2 Maryland team, who is still trying to figure out how to put it all together after losing Smith and Cowan Jr. to the NBA, and 6-3 Purdue, who relies on a relentless interior attack each game. This season, Maryland has only played two Power 5 teams (Clemson and Rutgers), where they lost by an average of 15 ppg. In the end, the Boilermakers will have too much size inside, combined with enough perimeter defense to contain Maryland stars Ayala and Wiggins, and capture their first Big 10 win of the season.
Final Score: 67-60 Boilermakers
Bets: Purdue -4.5, under 137.5
Game 3: #19 Michigan (-8) at Nebraska
If there were a time to take a break from the action and enjoy a nap, it should be at 6:00 pm when this game tips off. Michigan is riding high at 6-0, while Nebraska is a less-than-stellar 4-4, including a couple of games with blown double-digit leads. Nebraska, although much improved, continues to struggle against ranked opponents. The Cornhuskers have played two ranked teams this year, losing by an average of 19 ppg, and often find themselves unable to score (63.5 ppg in these games). This will only get more difficult against a stifling Michigan defense (30th KenPom), whose offense has also been rolling and efficient (9th KenPom). Give me the points and the Wolverines.
Final Score: 79-66 Wolverines
Bets: Michigan -8, under 147
Game 4: #4 Iowa (-7) at Minnesota
For the night cap, we have two of the best players in the Big Ten squaring off: Luka Garza, who is the front-runner for the Wooden Award, and Marcus Carr, do-it-all guard for the Golden Gophers. Iowa sits at 7-1, and #4 in the country, with Minnesota also sitting at 7-1. Though their records should not be treated the same, as Iowa has had a much more difficult schedule to begin the year. I believe that it will be the inside-outside brand of basketball that the Hawkeyes are known for that will cause trouble for the Gophers defensively. Also, I do not believe that the Gophers have enough scoring threats to keep up with the up-tempo, high scoring Hawkeyes, outside of Carr (23.9 ppg). This one could get ugly early, much like the Illinois-Minnesota matchup (92-65 Illini). Give me the Hawkeyes and the points.
Final Score: 89-79 Hawkeyes
Bets: Iowa -7, Over 163.5
Best of Luck and Merry Christmas.