No. 21 Wisconsin Badgers vs. No. 11 Iowa Hawkeyes
Line: Wisconsin -2
Where: Kohl Center
When: Thursday, 2/18, at 7:00 p.m. ET
The Big Ten has been the toughest conference in college basketball this season.
There are currently three teams ranked in the top five nationally. There are also two others in the top 25 that will square off tonight when No. 11 Iowa travels to No. 21 Wisconsin. Circa Sports opened the Hawkeyes as one-point road favorites with a total of 147.5 on Wednesday afternoon.
However, by this morning, most spots had the Badgers installed as two-point home favorites, while the total had dipped down to 145 points.
Iowa might have dropped outside the top 10 in the polls, but it is still tied for the fifth-best title odds at 20/1. The Hawkeyes have lost four games in conference play by single digits. They bring a two-game winning streak into tonight’s showdown, picking up wins over No. 25 Rutgers and Michigan State in their last two outings.
Saturday’s 88-58 win in East Lansing marked the most lopsided loss in Michigan State coach Tom Izzo’s 26-year career. It came even with Iowa star forward Luka Garza, who is a lock to win the Naismith Player of the Year, having his worst offensive game in more than two years.
Garza was held to eight points and shot just 3 of 11 from the field. Michigan State made it an emphasis to double him in the post, but the Hawkeyes proved they are not a one-trick pony. Garza had three teammates score in double figures, including Joe Wieskamp’s team-high 21 points.
Iowa brings the nation’s top offense on the road to Wisconsin in this game. The Hawkeyes turn the ball over less than any team in college basketball and they shoot 39.6 percent from beyond the arc. They knocked down 13 of 25 from distance on Saturday.
Wisconsin is a veteran-laden team that has seen its fair share of explosive offenses. The Badgers pride themselves on the defensive end, listed at No. 10 in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency ratings. They have not forced many turnovers this season, but they make teams take tough shots and they do not allow many second chances on the offensive glass.
Their tenacious defense has led to five of their last six games going ‘under’ the betting total. These teams have played ‘under’ in five of their last six head-to-head meetings, too.
Wisconsin will have some prior success to draw from heading into Thursday’s tilt. The Badgers have gone 13-2 in their last 15 home games against Iowa. They have struggled with consistency over the last few weeks, though, alternating between wins and losses in their last eight games. Their most recent contest was a 67-59 setback against No. 3 Michigan on Sunday.
Senior guard D’Mitrik Trice leads a balanced offensive attack with 13.6 points and 3.7 assists per game. The Badgers have six players averaging at least 7.0 points. As expected from a veteran club, they don’t beat themselves. They are No. 4 nationally in turnover percentage.
Iowa has not forced many turnovers on the defensive end, so this should be a clean game. The Hawkeyes are No. 107 in adjusted defensive efficiency overall.
There is a clear contrast in playing styles between these teams. Iowa likes to run, listed at No. 43 in average possession length. Wisconsin would much rather keep it in the half court, coming in at No. 300.
Iowa is 2-5 ATS in its last seven games and is 2-6-1 ATS in its last nine games against Wisconsin. The Badgers are 17-3 in their last 20 home games.
The pick: Wisconsin -2
Even in a year without fans at most arenas around the country, it is still tough to beat good teams on the road. Iowa has lost three of its five games away from home and will be facing one of the most experienced teams in college basketball tonight. Wisconsin has bounced back with wins after all six of its losses this season and its defensive effort will be at a peak against Iowa’s deadly offense. The Badgers have dominated this series in recent years and they have been an excellent team to back at the Kohl Center. Iowa is going to have to shoot well from the perimeter if it wants to win this game, but it’s much harder to do that on the road. I’ll take the experienced Badgers as short favorites in this one.