2019 Big Ten Conference Tournament Odds: Michigan State Favored

Michigan State point guard Cassius Winston celebrating.
Michigan State guard and Big Ten Player of the Year Cassius Winston has his Spartans positioned as sizable favorites in the 2019 Big Ten Tournament. Photo by Twitter user @JonKirklandESQ.
  • Michigan State is the favorite to win the Big Ten Conference Tournament
  • The Spartans are tied for the most quadrant 1 wins in the NCAA, despite significant injuries
  • Is MSU a better bet than Purdue and Michigan at slightly longer odds?

Championship week is upon us, and one of the most compelling conference tournaments in college basketball will take place in Chicago, as three of Kenpom.com’s top-10 teams will battle for Big Ten supremacy (Mar. 13-17).

Michigan State, which was the regular season co-champ along with Purdue, tops the odds, followed by Michigan, last season’s NCAA Tournament finalists, and Matt Painter’s Purdue Boilermakers.

Odds to Win 2019 Big Ten Conference Tournament

Team Odds at Sportsbook 1 Odds at Sportsbook 2
Michigan State +130 +140
Michigan +230 +225
Purdue +320 +300
Wisconsin +570 +600
Maryland +1900 +1400
Iowa +4600 +5000
Penn State +6100 +5000
Indiana +7000 +4000
Ohio State +8900 +6600
Minnesota +8900 +6600
Nebraska +11000 +6600
Northwestern +16500 +20000
Rutgers +18700 +20000
Illinois +19100 +20000

The somewhat sizable difference between the odds for MSU and Michigan/Purdue is largely a result of the bracket, which pits the Wolverines and Boilermakers against each other in the semifinals (if the chalk holds).

MSU, on the other hand, would get fourth-seeded Wisconsin in the semis, a team they already beat by eight on the road.

Big Ten Tournament Bracket

2019 Big Ten tournament bracket.
2019 Big Ten tournament bracket.

It’s not just a favorable draw that has the Spartans favored, though.

Michigan State swept the Wolverines this season, punctuated by a come from behind win on Saturday in East Lansing.

They’ll be the number one seed this weekend and will aim to capture their third Big Ten crown in the last six years, while subsequently ending Michigan’s two year reign.

Last Five Big Ten Tournament Champions

Year Champion Seed Runner-up
2014 Michigan State 3 Michigan
2015 Wisconsin 1 Michigan State
2016 Michigan State 2 Purdue
2017 Michigan 8 Wisconsin
2018 Michigan 5 Purdue

Overcoming Adversity

One of the most impressive aspects of the Spartans 2018-19 season has been their ability to overcome adversity.  They won 20 of their final 24 games, despite losing their second and third-leading scorers for large chunks of the season.

Guard Joshua Langford was lost for the year back in December due a foot injury, while forward Nick Ward missed the final five games with a broken hand.

Ward is expected back this weekend, but even without him, the Spartans offense hardly missed a beat, winning four of five, including both matchups with Michigan.

Cassius Cashing In

The main reason for that success has been the play of Big Ten Player of the Year Cassius Winston.  The junior guard has excelled all season, averaging 19 points on just 13 shots a game, making him one of the most efficient offensive players in the nation.

He dominates the offense without dominating the shots, leading to a balanced attack and a conference best 7.6 assists per game.  His sharp shooting and elite play making has the Spartans ranked 4th in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency ratings, and has led them to an NCAA-best 11 quadrant 1 wins.

Michigan State’s high hopes for a deep conference tournament and March Madness run lie squarely on his shoulders, and he’s given them no reason to think he won’t continue to dominate.

Are the Spartans the Michigan program to back?

MSU’s +140 price is steep given the competitiveness of the Big Ten, but it’s the best bet given how the Wolverines have faltered down the stretch.  Michigan dropped two of its final four games and looked vulnerable at the defensive end for the first time all season.

They’ve allowed opponents to score at least one point per possession three times in the past four games, after allowing it to happen only four times in their first 27 games.  They’ve been without their third-leading scorer Charles Matthews for the past three contests and the offense has suffered, failing to reach their season average in points in two of those three matchups.

Their offense isn’t strong enough to compensate for an underperforming defense, and if they don’t tighten up at their own end, they could be in line for an early exit this weekend.

Pass on Purdue

The Boilermakers certainly exceeded expectations this season, earning a share of the Big Ten regular-season title, when most predicted a middle-of-the-pack finish.

They’re led by Carsen Edwards, an elite scorer, but their inexperience is concerning.  They replaced four starters from a season ago, and benefited greatly from a cupcake schedule down the stretch.  Just one of Purdue’s final 11 games was against a top-five conference opponent, which they lost against Maryland.

Wisconsin is the long shot to watch

If you can’t stomach the Spartans short odds, checkout the Badgers at +600.  Wisconsin won 11 of its final 14 Big Ten games and have nine quadrant 1 wins this season.

They’re a strong perimeter shooting team and have the stingiest defense in the Big Ten, allowing just 60 points in conference games this season.

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