Michigan State at Rutgers (-3)
Michigan State has not played in over two weeks because of COVID, last playing on Dec. 8. Rutgers ended a five-game losing streak with a 74-70 win over Indiana on Sunday, a much-needed for the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers enters this matchup 8-6 on the season with a 2-4 record in conference, while Michigan State is 8-4 and 2-2 in the Big Ten.
Michigan State leads the all-time head-to-head series, 11-0, and has won all 10 meetings since Rutgers joined the Big Ten (2014-15). Michigan State won two straight before losing 55-54 versus Purdue. Michigan State is 2-2 on the road this season with a loss to Minnesota and an upset loss to Northwestern. Rutgers has lost the last three home games to Iowa, Ohio State and Wisconsin.
The Spartans roster features a balanced enough attack to keep it within two possessions of Rutgers. Michigan State has two players scoring in double figures and five scoring at least 7.5 points per game. Nine total players are averaging at least 10 minutes per game and seven with 5.0 points or more. Rutgers has three players in double-digit scoring this season but only saw two in their win over Indiana. MSU plays at a much faster pace than Rutgers and if they push the pace, Rutgers could struggle.
Rutgers lost to Michigan State earlier in the season 68-45 despite trailing 28-22 at halftime. Rutgers went 3-of-12 (25%) from three and were out rebounded 37-16. MSU handled Rutgers and in the second meeting, I will give Rutgers the benefit of the doubt since they are at home and better there, but +3 to MSU seems like too much. MSU could arguably be the favorite.
The last five games in this series have been decided by an average of 9.6 points per game. Michigan State is one of just two Big Ten schools (Michigan) that Rutgers is yet to defeat since joining the Big Ten in 2014-15. Rutgers has been elite at home but after an 18-1 record at home in New Jersey last season, the Scarlet Knights 2020-21 6-3 home mark is not as impressive.
There have been quite a few teams that have taken COVID breaks and come out playing better than before. Based on that and Rutgers never beating Michigan State, I have to take Sparty with the points.
Game Pick: Michigan State +3 (1u)
Stanford at Arizona (-8)
Stanford and Arizona meet for the second time this season and revenge is on the mind of the Wildcats. Stanford beat Arizona in Santa Cruz, California, 78-75. The Cardinals are coming off an emotional 73-72 buzzer-beating OT win versus UCLA. Arizona is fresh off three straight wins, including a back-to-back set over Arizona State.
Bryce Wills, Daejon Davis and Ziaire Williams will be out for Stanford. In the first meeting, the three starters recorded a combined 40 points, 15 assists and 11 rebounds. They went 15-for-33 (45.4%) from the field and 3-for-7 (42.8%) from three. Outside of them, Stanford as a team shot 63.6% from the field and 66.6% from three. The team with those three starters shot 52.7% from the field and 53.8% from three.
That is blazing and the chances Stanford shoots above 50% from the field or three is not likely. In the five previous meetings, Arizona held Stanford to 3-of-17 (17.6%) from three, 3-of-18 (16.6%), 1-of-8 (12.5%), 4-of-12 (33.3%) and 4-of-17 (23.5%).
In the win over UCLA, Stanford shot 5-of-18 (27.7%) from three. The Cardinals rank 269th in the nation with a 30.8% three-point percentage. The Wildcats are knocking down the three at a 37.6%-clip, 38th in the nation. Williams (25.8%) and Davis (23.8%) are the second and third-highest usage players on the roster, next to Oscar De Silva, who hit the buzzer-beater versus UCLA.
De Silva scored 26 points, tying his third-highest points in that outing, next to 31 and 32 points. Only two Stanford players outside of De Silva scored more than nine points, Jaiden Delaire (19) and Spencer Jones (13). In the first meeting, Delaire scored five points and Jones' nine. De Silva had 21 points so if there are any player props available, those are the three you should target.
Without three starters, Arizona should walk away with a win this time around, but by how much? Most models peg Zona as a -6 and -7 point favorite, cutting this spread close, but I like the Wildcats by double-digits. Stay tuned on my Twitter @Voneysports for a player prop or another play on this game as my night cap.
Game Pick: Arizona -8 (1u)