Have you ever gotten really pumped up to see a game between two really good teams only to be let down? That is what happened last night when we backed the red-hot North Carolina Tar Heels against the visiting Virginia Cavaliers. The Cavs were coming off a ten-point home loss against Duke and badly needed to avoid losing two straight games. For North Carolina, the Heels had won seven straight games and had shot into the top ten nationally. This was supposed to be a matchup between two elite teams at the height of their powers.
But two minutes into the game we lost all hope of that as North Carolina super freshman, Nassir Little, the number six overall recruit this season, went down with a serious ankle injury. It was a devastating blow to the Tar Heels as Little had been instant offense off the bench for the Heels. To make matters worse, Cam Johnson, the Heels senior leader, went out later in the game with his own injury. It was just one of those days for North Carolina, where things didn’t go right, and they couldn’t keep their best players on the court.
When it was all said and done, the Cavs snuck out of Chapel Hill with the win. The injuries hurt North Carolina, but I don’t want to discount what the Cavaliers were able to do. Winning in Chapel Hill is a big deal, no matter who is on the floor, and the win keeps the Cavs in the chase for the regular season ACC title. For Carolina, they will hopefully get healthy again soon, as they have two games coming up against Duke where they will need to be at full power. For today’s game, we will take a look at the game between Michigan State and Wisconsin.
The Michigan State Spartans are looking to get back on track tonight as they head to Madison to face the Badgers of Wisconsin. Sparty has lost three out of its last four games, including an absolutely head-scratching loss to an awful Illinois team. The Spartans were on the three line earlier this week when the NCAA Selection Committee released a preview of the top four seeds in each region, but if they can’t get things turned around quickly, they are going to slide right out of a top-four seed.
For the Badgers, they surprised some people by snagging a four seed, in the committee preview, and a win at home tonight against a perennial power like Michigan State could really solidify this team as a top seed. The Spartans are -1.5-point road favorites. The game total over-under is set at 134.5 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:00 PM PST from the Kohl Center.
When the Spartans announced that star player Joshua Langford was going to miss the rest of the season with an injury, it really put a damper on their national title hopes. But Langford had only played in thirteen games this season anyway, so it wasn’t like this team couldn’t win without him. But once they made the announcement that he officially wouldn’t be returning, the wind came out of the sails for Michigan State.
The Spartans went on to lose the next three games after the announcement and fell out of the conversation for a Big 10 title and one seed and are dropping down the rankings. The road loss to Purdue was understandable, the Boilermakers are on fire, but the home loss to Indiana, followed up by the road loss to Illinois, makes me wonder if this team is giving a full effort right now. Sparty followed up that three-game skid by beating up on a struggling Minnesota team in their last game, but tonight will be a huge test to see if this team has what it takes to be considered a legit national title threat.
The Wisconsin Badgers have been one of the best home teams in the country over the last couple of decades. Going into Madison and winning is never an easy thing to do. Throw in the fact that the Badgers have what I believe is the national player of the year in senior Ethan Happ, and it makes it that much harder to knock them off on their home court.
Happ is a one-man wrecking crew in the paint for Wisconsin. He is averaging a double-double, with eighteen points and ten and a half rebounds a game. And he is one of the better passing big men in the country as well, averaging five assists a contest. His one block and steal and a half a game also shows that this kid can do it on both sides of the ball.
I am shocked to see the Badgers as home underdogs in this one. And that isn’t just because Michigan State has been struggling in the last two weeks. When you look at kenpom, the Badgers are rated as the eleventh best team in the nation. They have played the fifth-toughest schedule in the country, and that is only going to get better after playing State tonight. This is a battle tested team that plays grind you out basketball and wins a lot at home.
Getting the opportunity to back them as home underdogs is just going to be too much value to pass up on. I would like this spot even if Michigan State weren’t struggling at the moment. Home underdogs are always my favorite picks, and I will take one tonight. Give me the Wisconsin Badgers getting a point and a half tonight from the Kohl Center!