Big Ten home teams are covering the point spread at over a 70-percent clip in conference play this season, winning games by a double-digit average margin.
Programs playing host in the 14-team league – one of college basketball’s deepest and most competitive – are 25-4 straight up and 20-8 against the spread, covering the pregame line by an average of nearly seven points per contest.
Trends are often more narrative than predictive, especially when the betting public gets ahold of them. But a legitimate case can be made that hostile home environments in the Big Ten carry more weight than the marketplace is properly taking into account.
The importance of home-court advantage in college basketball has lessened over the years. With more efficient player conditioning and better travel, visiting teams are better equipped to deal with the rigors of life on the road. However, different schools certainly enjoy varying levels of fan engagement and unique surroundings, and programs in the Big Ten that are littered with talent across the board makes visiting any campus on any given night a difficult endeavor.
The key for us as bettors is properly pricing home court, and it can be tricky. At some points in time we have to stop and ask ourselves: is the marketplace overcompensating for this advantage by adding even more of a point spread tax than necessary?
Three of Saturday’s four Big Ten home teams are favored on betting boards heading into a wall-to-wall weekend of college hoops. Here are odds, analysis and picks for the day’s four Big Ten contests and some other compelling action.
No. 11 Ohio State (-2, 135) at Indiana
Tip-off: Noon ET/11 a.m. CT (FOX)
Betting records: Ohio State 11-4 SU, 10-5 ATS; Indiana 12-3 SU, 7-8 ATS
KenPom prediction: Ohio State 69-66
The banged-up Buckeyes are struggling lately, and they limp into Bloomington after losing three straight games, having gone winless since before Christmas.
Junior forward Kyle Young is a game-time decision for Ohio State, and if he is unable to play, Indiana’s length advantage will be further exacerbated. The Hoosiers rank top 10 in the country in offensive rebounding and allow opponents to clear the offensive glass at a low rate of just 23.3%. They are also one of the nation’s best teams at getting to the free throw line, and should have an excellent chance to get to the charity stripe with regularity at home on Saturday.
We lean with the Hoosiers here, but the market is sharp in making this line a one-possession game. If this line ticks up to 3, then a small position on the home underdogs is warranted, with something bigger at +4.
Rutgers at Illinois (-5.5, 134)
Tip-off: Noon ET/11 a.m. CT (BTN)
Betting records: Rutgers 12-3 SU, 9-4-1 ATS; Illinois 11-5 SU, 8-6-1 ATS
KenPom prediction: Illinois 68-64
The Fighting Illini are coming off an important conference road win at Wisconsin on Wednesday night, rallying at the end to win and cover as a 4-point underdog. They look to continue to build their momentum against a Rutgers program that has covered the point spread in six straight games.
Wisconsin at No. 20 Penn State (-3, 135)
Tip-off: 2:15 p.m. ET/1: 15 p.m. CT (BTN)
Betting records: Wisconsin 9-6 SU, 7-8 ATS; Penn State 12-3 SU, 8-6-1 ATS
KenPom prediction: Penn State 68-64
Penn State plays fast, but most of the games where they have lit up the scoreboard have come against poor teams this season. It is about to face a strong defense in Wisconsin that ranks No. 26 in adjusted defensive efficiency.
Expect the Badgers to slow this one down with their leisurly pace and frustrate the Nittany Lions. Wisconsin is the fifth-slowest offense in the nation in adjusted tempo, according to KenPom.
Pick: Half unit on UNDER 135
Nebraska at Northwestern (-5.5, 145.5)
Tip-off: 4:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. CT (BTN)
Betting records: Nebraska 7-8 SU, 7-8 ATS; Northwestern 5-9 SU, 6-8 ATS
KenPom prediction: Northwestern 75-69
Nebraska is 2-2 in conference play. UNDER bettors have cashed in the Cornhuskers’ last five games and in four of the last five matchups between these two teams.
2020 NCAA Tournament odds update: Field remains wide open
No. 4 Baylor at No. 3 Kansas (-7.5, 131)
Tip-off: 1 p.m. ET/Noon CT (CBS)
Betting records: Baylor 12-1 SU, 8-5 ATS; Kansas 12-2 SU, 8-6 ATS
KenPom prediction: Kansas 69-61
Saturday’s premier matchup involves two programs that are ranked top seven in defensive efficiency. Baylor is holding opponents to just 85.2 points per 100 possessions, while Kansas sits right behind at 85.8.
Both teams are also in the bottom half of the country in adjusted tempo, where Baylor ranks No. 242. Kansas has held five straight opponents to 57 points or less, and only one team has posted more than 58 points in Baylor’s last seven games.
This total is a few points too high, and bettors looking to get into play on the UNDER should look to diversify their play by putting a portion of their wager on the 1st Half UNDER as well.
Pick: UNDER 131.5
No. 13 Louisville (-3.5, 136) at Notre Dame
Tip-off: 2 p.m. ET/1 p.m. CT (ESPN)
Betting records: Louisville 12-3 SU, 8-7 ATS; Notre Dame 10-5 SU, 6-8-1 ATS
KenPom prediction: Louisville 68-64
The Fighting Irish have been outperforming market expectations lately, going 4-2 ATS in their last six games. They have also won nine out of 10 at home this season. On Saturday they welcome a Louisville program that is 1-6 ATS in its last seven trips to South Bend.
No. 22 Texas Tech at No. 17 West Virginia (-4.5, 127.5)
Tip-off: 6 p.m. ET/5 p.m. CT (ESPN)
Betting records: Texas Tech 10-4 SU, 6-8 ATS; West Virginia 12-2 SU, 8-6 ATS
KenPom prediction: West Virginia 67-61
Saturday’s other intriguing Big 12 battle pits two of college basketball’s best coaches against one another in Morgantown. Both of these teams excel in making opponents work to put up a shot, but they each struggle to put points on the board against strong defenses.
Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard is fine with making it ugly, but his team will have a hard time on the boards against a West Virginia team that is terrific on the offensive glass. The Mountaineers have covered the point spread in five of their last six.
At 127.5, this total appears to be a few points too high in a game that pits up two of the nation’s best defenses against one another. West Virginia is No. 2 and Texas Tech is 13th in adjusted defensive efficiency. The total has gone UNDER in the Mountaineers’ last seven games, but the betting market still hasn’t caught up to a defense that is improving with each passing week, rounding into form right as they enter the meat of their conference schedule.
Pick: Half unit on UNDER 127.5
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