College Basketball Betting: Big Ten Conference Preview

Trevion Williams #50 of the Purdue Boilermakers reacts after a play during the second half in the game against the Florida State Seminoles at Mackey Arena on November 30, 2021 in West Lafayette, Indiana.
Image Credit: Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Big Ten basketball will return to its pre-pandemic format of 20 conference games per member this season, a marathon slate that will surely separate the lot of contenders, pretenders, and cellar-dwellers by the time March rolls around.

And if recent history tells us anything, the Big Ten conference betting market figures to be flooded with money on Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Michigan, Indiana, and Purdue to win the championship. That’s because those six schools have claimed either a full or partial share of every Big Ten regular-season title since 2006. launches the first of multiple college basketball conference betting previews with a look at the Big Ten — a league that currently boasts the nation’s No. 1 team … but hasn’t produced an NCAA Tournament champion since Michigan State cut down the nets in 2000.

Big Ten odds via BetMGM and updated as of 5 p.m. ET Dec. 7.

Big Ten Conference Basketball Odds

The Favorite

Purdue guard Jaden Ivey reacts after dunking a basketball during a game against Iowa
Image Credit: Nikos Frazier-Journal & Courier/USA TODAY Network

Purdue +150 (Current record: 8-0 SU/6-2 ATS)

The Boilermakers (1-0 in Big Ten play) are enjoying their first week as the No. 1 team in The Associated Press Top 25 poll. And there’s a good chance they’ll remain in the top spot well into the new year, since Purdue (4th nationally in scoring offense at 90.5 points per game; No. 6 nationally in scoring margin) won’t encounter another ranked team until Jan. 3 (at No. 22 Wisconsin).

Purdue boasts three legitimate candidates for Big Ten Player of the Year (guard Jaden Ivey, center Zach Edey, and forward Trevion Williams), and perhaps the league’s most lethal perimeter threat in Sasha Stefanovic (46-percent shooting from beyond the arc).

The Challengers

Michigan Wolverines guard Frankie Collins dribbles down the court during a game against San Diego State
Image Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan +400 (6-3 SU/4-5 ATS)
Ohio State +600 (6-2 SU/4-4 ATS)
Illinois +600 (7-2 SU/4-5 ATS)

Michigan was ranked as high as No. 4 in mid-November. Then came a series of deflating losses to Seton Hall (67-65), Arizona (80-62), and North Carolina (72-51) that tempered expectations. And prior to Tuesday’s 102-point explosion at Nebraska, which included 15 made three-pointers, the Wolverines (1-0 in league) ranked among the Big Ten’s bottom five in scoring offense, three-point proficiency, and free-throw shooting. For Michigan’s sake, Tuesday’s breakout must become the new normal.

Ohio State (1-0 in league play) has the best résumé-building win of any Big Ten team in the early going, upending then-No. 1 Duke 71-66 last week. The Buckeyes also boast a bankable star in forward E.J. Liddell, who’s averaging 20.4 points and 7.0 rebounds. Liddell is a big reason why Ohio State has gone Over the total in seven of its last eight games.

Illinois is off to a 2-0 start in conference, suggesting the Fighting Illini will soon re-enter the AP Top 25. With four all-conference candidates in Jacob Grandison, Trent Frazier, Alfonso Plummer, and center Kofi Cockburn — who amassed 17 points and 18 rebounds in Monday’s 87-83 road victory over Iowa — Illinois’ Big Ten championship betting odds might be at peak value right now.

The Dark Horses

Indiana Hoosiers guard Parker Stewart controls the ball against the Syracuse Orange
Image Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State +800 (7-2 SU/5-4 ATS)
Indiana +1,200 (7-1 SU/5-3 ATS)
Iowa +2,000 (7-2 SU/6-3 ATS)
Wisconsin +2,000 (7-1 SU/6-2 ATS)
Maryland +2,500 (5-4 SU/2-7 ATS)

Michigan State likely doesn’t have the requisite star power to outlast the Big Ten’s biggest and deepest squads that reside in the previous two sections. However, the Spartans do have a scheduling advantage: They face No. 1 Purdue, No. 21 Ohio State, and Iowa once during the regular season. Tom Izzo’s troops also get two cracks apiece at Northwestern, Penn State, Minnesota, and Maryland. To pull off a surprising league title, MSU probably would have to go 7-1 or 8-0 against the latter group of foes.

Indiana is averaging 80.4 points per game), having tallied 70-plus points in seven of its first eight contests. The Hoosiers also have a formidable 1-2 punch in Trayce Jackson-Davis (21.0 points, 8.6 rebounds, 3.8 blocks per game) and Race Thompson (10.0 points, 8.9 boards per game). So Indiana figures to rebound nicely from last year’s disappointing campaign (12-15 overall; 7-12 Big Ten). But do the Hoosiers have enough firepower to compete with the league’s upper-echelon teams? Doubtful.

Iowa, which finished last season ranked fifth nationally in scoring offense, has picked up right where it left off: The Hawkeyes currently are fifth once again (90.1 points per game). In addition to a strong 6-3 ATS start, Iowa has topped the total in four of its last six outings. However, the Hawkeyes (0-2 start in Big Ten) cannot afford many future slipups if they expect to contend for the league title like they did in 2020-21 (14-6, third-place finish). During the most recent 20-game Big Ten campaigns (2018-19 and 2019-20), the Big Ten champion averaged 15 league victories.

Wisconsin is currently riding a five-game wining streak that includes victories over a Final Four team from last year (No. 12 Houston, 65-63) and three Power 5 schools (Texas A&M, Georgia Tech, and Marquette). Along the way, the Badgers captured their first-ever Maui Invitational title. Not bad for a team that seemingly had little quality talent beyond Jonathan Davis (averaging 20.1 points, 5.6 rebounds) and Brad Davison (15.9 points, 4.5 rebounds per game).

Maryland’s already-long conference-title odds might soon be getting longer. Head coach Mark Turgeon resigned last week (with Danny Manning taking over in the interim). Turgeon’s departure came in the wake of the Terrapins dropping three straight games, including Sunday’s 67-61 home loss to Northwestern in the Big Ten opener.

The Long Shots

Minnesota Golden Gophers forward Charlie Daniels dunks against the Pittsburgh Panthers
Image Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Rutgers +4,000 (4-4 SU/1-6-1 ATS)
Northwestern +6,600 (6-2 SU/5-3 ATS)
Penn State +10,000 (4-4 SU/2-6 ATS)
Minnesota +15,000 (7-0 SU/5-2 ATS)
Nebraska +15,000 (5-5 SU/4-6 ATS)

Rutgers has been a big disappointment on the scoreboard and at the betting window, suffering consecutive losses to DePaul, Lafayette, and Massachusetts in November. Those setbacks were followed by Friday’s 35-point loss at Illinois in the Scarlet Knights’ conference opener.

Conversely, undefeated 7-0 Minnesota has been an early surprise, posting three true road wins over Princeton (87-80, 2 OTs), Pittsburgh (54-53), and Mississippi State (81-76). The Golden Gophers, under first-year head coach Ben Johnson, also warrant kudos for winning both high- and low-scoring games. Minnesota has scored 54, 55, 71, 73, 78, 81, 84, and 87 points in its seven wins.

Northwestern (1-0 in Big Ten) has a 2-2 mark against Power 5 teams (including wins over Georgia and Maryland), fueling hopes of the Wildcats’ first winning season since 2017 (the only time school history the program made the NCAA Tournament). Penn State (0-1 Big Ten) has a lengthy rebuild under first-year head coach Micah Shrewberry. But here’s one scheduling positive: Of the four Big Ten opponents currently ranked in the AP Top 25, the Nittany Lions will encounter only Michigan State twice this season.

Nebraska’s title odds will become longer with each passing week. The Cornhuskers’ upcoming slate includes No. 21 Ohio State, No. 19 Michigan State, Illinois, and top-ranked Purdue. A Nebraska victory in any of those games would be a major upset.

Jay Clemons
Jay Clemons remains the only sports writer on the planet to capture Cynposis Media's national award for Sports Blog Of The Year (beating out,,, The Players' Tribune in 2015), along with the Fantasy Sports Writers Association's pre-eminent award for Best Football Writer (2008). Through the years, Mr. Clemons has been a key figure with numerous blue-chip sports/media brands, namely the Detroit Lions, Sports Illustrated, FOX Sports, Bleacher Report and now American Affiliate's Clemons, a graduate of Michigan State University and Wayne State University, has been an on-camera Web-TV host for Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports. In 2015, he also became the first-ever sports journalism professor at Kennesaw State University in suburban Atlanta. And for the betting community, covering the last two years of the sports calendar (2019-20 / 2020-21), Clemons enjoyed a rock-solid winning rate of 59.6 percent with point-spread and over/under selections (NFL, college football and college basketball.)