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Every week, we're providing a betting breakdown of college basketball's biggest games. The ACC-Big Ten Challenge is this week's main attraction, headlined by a clash of perennial powers in Michigan State and Duke.
Here's a betting breakdown of the top matchups in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
No. 4 Michigan at No. 1 Louisville (-5.5, 140)
Michigan entered last week unranked but has jumped up to grab the country's No. 4 spot following impressive wins over Iowa State, North Carolina, and Gonzaga. Juwan Howard's squad has been strong on both ends of the court, ranking in the top 25 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. The Wolverines feature a balanced attack with four players averaging more than 12 points per game, led by junior forward Isaiah Livers (17.0).
The Wolverines' early run has been impressive, but they'll face their toughest test to date when they travel to No. 1 Louisville. The Cardinals have laid waste to their opponents this season, scoring over 70 points in all seven wins. Louisville ranks second in offensive efficiency, eighth in defensive efficiency, and 14th in 3-point percentage. Junior forward Jordan Nwora has dominated, averaging 21.9 points and 6.9 rebounds.
Even with its fast start, Michigan is still a little undervalued. The Wolverines are 5-2 against the spread this year and a stellar 20-9 ATS in their last 29 road games. Louisville has rolled early in the year, but the Cardinals have yet to be tested with a strength of schedule that ranks 309th. Lean to Michigan staying within the 5.5 points and the under 140.
No. 10 Duke at No. 11 Michigan State (-6, 146.5)
Michigan State and Duke have both been ranked No. 1 this year, but neither team managed to hold the top spot for very long. The Spartans already have two losses to Kentucky and Virginia Tech, while Duke was upset by Stephen F. Austin as a 28-point favorite last week.
KenPom ranks Michigan State No. 1 in offensive efficiency, but shooting from deep has been an early weakness for the Spartans, who rank 134th in 3-point percentage. Michigan State is also struggling to find consistent scoring outside of Cassius Winston, who's averaging 17.9 points through seven games. Forward Xavier Tillman (12.3 points per game, 10.0 rebounds per game) has been a force down low for a team grabbing 36.7 rebounds a contest.
Duke started the year off with a bang by defeating Kansas, but the defense has struggled lately; the Blue Devils have allowed at least 70 points over their last three games, including 85 in the loss to SFA. Duke may not have last season's top-end talent, but don't cry for head coach Mike Krzyzewski just yet. Led by freshman center Vernon Carey Jr., who's averaging 18.4 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, this squad is still loaded.
Michigan State upset Duke last season in the Elite Eight, but Coach K owns an 11-2 career record over Tom Izzo. The Blue Devils are also 18-2 all time in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and 7-1-1 ATS when catching 4 points or more since 2012. And while Duke has covered seven of its last 10 on the road, Michigan State has started the year just 2-5 ATS. Look for Duke's dominance over the Spartans to continue Tuesday night, with the Blue Devils covering six points with a shot at the outright upset.
No. 5 Virginia at Purdue
Stop me if you've heard this before: Virginia has a suffocating defense. The defending national champions rank first in defensive efficiency and have allowed just one of their first seven opponents to top 50 points.
Yet despite their stifling defense, the Cavaliers have started just 2-5 ATS. Some of that has to do with large lines, although the Cavs' offense is still trying to find its way after losing three key weapons to the NBA. Virginia's been held to under 50 points in each of its last two games and is shooting a dismal 25% from 3-point range. Mamadi Diakite has been Virginia's top scoring option early in the year, averaging 13.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.
Purdue, meanwhile, has stumbled to a 4-3 record with losses to Texas, Marquette, and Florida State. The Boilermakers do own a win over VCU, but their offense has struggled against better competition, averaging just 60 points in the three losses. Guard Jahaad Proctor leads the way for the Boilermakers with 14.6 points per game, though he's shooting only 26.9% from 3-point range. The 3-pointer has been an issue overall for Purdue, which is averaging 31% from deep as a team.
The line for this game is expected to be around Virginia -2. With both teams struggling to score, lean to Virginia's defense taking control in the second half and the Cavs covering as short road favorites.
No. 6 Ohio State at No. 7 North Carolina
One of the most anticipated matchups in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge will see unbeaten Ohio State travel to Chapel Hill to battle 6-1 North Carolina. The Buckeyes have been a covering machine early in the year, going 6-1 ATS. They enter Wednesday's matchup ranked No. 2 in defensive efficiency and 24th in offensive efficiency.
Though Ohio State has been one of the most impressive teams in the country through the first month of the season, this will be its first road test. The Buckeyes' strength of schedule ranks 302nd, though the team does have two quality wins at home over Villanova and Cincinnati. Ohio State is one of the deepest teams in the nation with seven players averaging more than 20 minutes, and freshman guard D.J. Carton has lived up to the hype with 10.4 points per game.
Any conversation about North Carolina has to start with Cole Anthony; the dynamic freshman enters this contest averaging 20.7 points and 7.3 rebounds a game. But while Anthony gets all the love, it can't be forgotten that the Tar Heels have three other players averaging at least 11 points. North Carolina is top 20 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, and it's played a tougher schedule than Ohio State, with wins over Notre Dame, Alabama, Oregon, and a nine-point loss to Michigan on a neutral court.
The Buckeyes have the talent to beat any team in the country, but playing the first road game of the season at North Carolina is a tough task. With the home team projected to be laying only a couple of points, there is some value here. Look for the Tar Heels to cover as short favorites in what should be a tightly contested, highly entertaining game.
Thomas Casale is theScore's supervising editor of sports betting. He's been following the sports betting industry for almost 30 years. A devoted fan of the wishbone offense, Thomas bets on all sports but specializes in college football, NFL, and college basketball. Find him on Twitter @TheTomCasale.