Spartan Invitational: Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers vs. Michigan State Spartans

Draymond Green and the Spartans are 12.5 point favorites over the lowly Panthers
Wisconsin-Milwaukee vs. Michigan State
Spread: Michigan State -12.5
Tip off: 7 PM EST

The Milwaukee Panthers are off to a hot start, at 4-0. They have won over Northern Illinois, IUPU, Texas Southern and Southwest State (MN). Last season, the Panthers went 19-14 and 13-5 in the Horizon conference. They ost to Northwestern by 9 in the opening round of the NIT, but at 5-7 in mid-December last year, it didn’t look like they were going anywhere, even the NIT. Their 13-5 record tied them atop the conference standings with powerhouse Butler and Cleveland State.

Coach Rob Jeter said the Panthers need to take care of the ball better, despite the fact that last season they only posted about the average amount of turnovers for a D-1 program. They are led by 6’3″ senior point guard Kaylon Williams, a true pass first point guard. he was first team preseason All-Horizon, and this year he is already averaging 6.7 assists per game, to go along with 6.0 boards and 10.3 points per contest, but while shooting only 37% from the floor. JaRob McCallum is leading the way in scoring, along with three other Panthers (including Williams) in double figures…

In the romp over Texas Southern, Kaylon Williams had 17 points on 4 of 7 shooting from downtown, while Ja’Rob McCallum added 14 points as all Panthers starters saw at least 20 minutes of play. McCallum is a 6’0″ junior whose three point averages were much lower than Tony Meier, who hit 44% from downtown. Meier closed the year with 71 points in his final four games and if he can stay healthy he could be in for a big year this season for the Panthers. They have a lot of reasons to remain optimistic in a conference like the Horizon league.

Michigan State made it to the Big Dance last year but were knocked out in the first round by UCLA, in a 2 point loss that devestated the Spartans. The real problem last season for the Spartans was that they missed a lot of key shots, and their overall shooting percentage was a lot lower. They made just 47% of their two point shots and 32% of their threes, for an effective field goal percentage of 47%, the worst in the Big Ten.

The other problem may or may not be random in that ooppoents hit a higher three point percentage against the Spartans. MSU’s opponents shot a discouraging 38% against the Spartans from behind the arc.

Much like last year, they are a great rebounding team again this year, pulling down 42.8 rebounds a game, good for 25th best in the country. They have won their last two games against Texas Southern and Arkansas Little Rock. In the game against Arkansas Little Rock, no Trojans starter scored in double figures, and only one player was in double figures for that matter. Michigan State, meanwhile was paced by Austin Thornton’s 13 points and Keith Appling’s 12 points. Appling and Draymond Green are both averaging about 11 a game, while no other Spartan is in double figures.

Green is averaging 11.5 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game in addition to his 11.0 points. Appling meanwhile, had 22 points in a 5 point loss to then 6th ranked Duke. He shot 8 of 10 from the floor and also pulled down 4 rebounds, in only 26 minutes of play. That night he scored more than he has the other three games combined.

Look for Michigan State to milk Green inside and use their strength on the interior to batter the much weaker Milwaukee frontline. I don’t see any reason why Green can’t post another impressive double double and carry the Spartans to win this one. Covering the spread, however, is a more precarious situation with it set early at 12.5.

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