College basketball best bets from Matt Youmans

VSiN betting analyst and host of VSiN Tonight, Matt Youmans, shares his top college basketball picks for today, February 10.

Illinois at Michigan State (-3.5, 146)

It’s February, when Tom Izzo typically flips a switch and coaches up his Michigan State team for a big run in March. But this is an atypical season for Izzo, who’s still searching for answers as the clock ticks.


The Spartans (14-9, 6-6) sit in a three-way tie for sixth in the Big Ten, a conference that figures to get six teams and no more than seven in the NCAA Tournament. Michigan State has only one marquee win on its resume, a blowout of Baylor in December. This is a team Izzo bragged about and hyped while getting a No. 4 ranking in the Associated Press preseason poll. This is also a bubble team, with time running out as Selection Sunday approaches on March 17.

Off of a loss at Minnesota and desperate for a quality win, the Spartans welcome 10th-ranked Illinois to East Lansing today. The Fighting Illini (17-5, 8-3) want to chase down No. 2 Purdue, which leads the league by 1.5 games.

This should be the spot for Michigan State to turn the corner, with fifth-year senior Tyson Walker, fourth-year junior A.J. Hoggard and junior Jaden Akins leading the way in the backcourt. The Spartans have struggled offensively for most of the season, but their defense ranks 21st in the efficiency ratings and their home-court advantage is strong.

I hoped to grab a point or more with Michigan State as a home ‘dog, but the oddsmakers were wise to open the Spartans as short 2.5-point favorites. My money is on Izzo, who has made every NCAA Tournament since 1998.

Pick: (656) Michigan State -3

Four more best bets (with betting rotation numbers in parenthesis):

(692) Florida +2 over Auburn

The Gators have won four of their past five, with a one-point loss at Texas A&M, and catch the Tigers at the right time. Fading a team after a rivalry win is a sharp angle and Auburn is coming off a blowout of Alabama. Florida ranks 16th in offensive efficiency and has the ability to run and outshoot Auburn in a fast-paced game.

(698) Cincinnati +5 over Houston

Expect a physical brawl between two teams that rank inside the top 20 in defensive efficiency. The Bearcats’ five losses in Big 12 play came by margins of one, three, four (twice) and five points. The Cougars will have the top two players on the floor — guards L.J. Cryer and Jamal Shead — and probably will find a way to survive a close call.

(799) Indiana +18 at Purdue

After rallying for a win at Ohio State on Tuesday, the Hoosiers should be playing with more confidence and seeing an opportunity to save their season. Indiana was embarrassed 87-66 by the Boilermakers a month ago, and rarely in this rivalry are both games so lopsided. The Hoosiers have the athletic, big bodies in the low post to match up with 7-foot-4 Zach Edey.

(826) Colorado -1 over Arizona

A bubble team at this point, the Buffaloes need a big-time win. Arizona won the first meeting 97-50 on Jan. 4 in Tucson, but that Colorado team was without two of its top three scorers, guard Cody Williams and forward Tristan da Silva. The Wildcats are in a bet-against spot after escaping a three-overtime win at Utah on Thursday. Junior guard KJ Simpson, averaging 19.4 points and shooting 44.7% from 3-point range, and the Buffaloes should take care of business in their most important remaining regular-season game.