The Michigan State Spartans may be entering a desperate stretch in their season right now. And they are in a peculiar psychological position as they go into their Tuesday night matchup against the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
You see, the Spartans were seemingly on the road to a comfortable Big 10 victory on Saturday, leading Iowa by 13 points with just 94 seconds left. Then they collapsed, allowing the Hawkeyes to rally, incredibly, for a tie, then losing the game (and the cover, as some BetOnline patrons know) in overtime.
Now, with only a couple of days in between, the team must bounce back and face a Nebraska Cornhuskers team that is seething for revenge. And the natives are restless.
Fans have given up on the Spartans. And they have laid a lot of the blame on coach Tom Izzo’s feet. Izzo, who has been down almost every road imaginable, has tried calming down the anger, as he has told the fan base, “don’t give up on us.” Still, with a 17-11 record (9-8 in the Big Ten), they are quite possibly going to have to hold their breath on Selection Sunday unless they can do something dramatic the rest of the way.
But time is running out for them to make the big statement.
The Big Ten, indeed, is one of the two or three best conferences in college basketball, which might put them in a favorable light with the Selection Committee. But the list of outstanding non-conference victories isn’t especially long (Kentucky was a double-overtime victim of theirs in November), so you can imagine the sense of urgency.
In the NBA basketball odds that have been posted on this game by the folks at BetOnline casino, Michigan State is a favorite on the road:
Michigan State Spartans -4
Nebraska Cornhuskers +4
Over 138 Points -110
Under 138 Points -110
Nebraska may have some work to do just to get to a tournament like the NIT or CBI. They are 15-14 on the season, and they are upside down (8-10) in the Big Ten. They have a couple of big wins to their credit, keeping the odds high at some of the best basketball betting sites. They are currently on an uptick, having won four games in a row for Fred Hoiberg, who won 20+ games four times at Iowa State but is looking for his first winning season in Lincoln.
We know that Michigan State is a strong defensive team (#33 in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency) and gets out well to contest three-pointers (allowing 30.4%). But the Huskers don’t generally rely on “longball” anyway. Nebraska has to defend the Spartans out on the perimeter (as MSU shoots 38.5% from downtown), and there is a big edge for Izzo’s team at the free throw line, as Nebraska is shooting just 63.7%, making them one of the more inaccurate Division I teams.
There is a big payback motivation on the part of Nebraska here. On January 3, Michigan State mauled the Huskers 74-56 as Nebraska made just two of 16 from beyond the arc in East Lansing and missed 12 of 20 free throws. Michigan State also had the 46-29 rebounding advantage, but frankly, Izzo’s team is not as dominant as it used to be on the glass (only four offensive rebounds against Iowa).
Nebraska has saved some of its better efforts for the home floor, scoring extremely credible wins over Iowa, Penn State, and Maryland. And they have the ability to slow their opponents down and make them take more time to get shots off. And if Michigan State has some problems putting the Iowa loss in the rearview mirror, Hoiberg’s squad is more than capable of pulling the minor upset.
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