The Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky will travel to Madison, Wisconsin to take on the Badgers tonight in a non-conference matchup. The Hilltoppers enter this game winners of four of their last five games, including a big win over another Big 10 school in Purdue. The Badgers, on the other hand, come into this game, losers of four out of the last five games and are struggling to keep their heads above water in an absolutely stacked Big 10. The Badgers are -7.5-point home favorites tonight. The game total over-under has been set at 136 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 8:00 PM EST from the Kohl Center in Madison.
If you are a frequent reader of my daily picks articles you may have noticed a trend, I like betting against Wisconsin this year. I jumped on the anti-Badger bandwagon early this season when I recognized that Wisconsin didn’t have its same level of talent they have grown accustomed to, this season, and that the public was slow to take notice. Getting on the other side of the Badgers has been quite profitable so far, this season as they have struggled against most decent teams they have played.
Wisconsin is one of the lowest scoring teams in the country at just 66 points per game. That is good for 320th in the nation. Part of that is by design as the Badgers like to play a slowed down style of offense that takes the air out of the ball, but part of that is because they just can’t score. Their field goal percentage, 3-point percentage, and free throw percentage are all ranked higher than 200th in the nation. They can’t score inside, they can’t score outside, and they don’t make their free throws. The Badgers need a lot of things to go right to win a game, and that hasn’t happened much yet this year.
Wisconsin sits a 4-7 and has only one-ish quality win, a one-point defeat of a Penn State team that should find themselves somewhere near the bubble line in March. They have some quality losses to Xavier, Baylor, UCLA, Virginia, Marquette, and Ohio State, but they also have a bad loss to Temple. The Badgers aren’t used to not making the NCAA tournament, in fact, they have made the tournament every single year this millennium, that streak is in grave danger of coming to an end this year. They just aren’t any good this year against quality competition.
The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers are not an elite basketball program, but they are a solid small conference squad. They have made the NCAA tournament seven times since the turn of the century; this program is used to playing high profile games against high profile teams. Even with Wisconsin being down a lot this year, going into Madison and leaving with a win is a very tough task for any team.
Getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament just isn’t something that is usually in the cards for a team playing out of the Sun Belt conference, the longtime Hilltoppers home. But don’t forget, Western Kentucky recently moved over to Conference USA, and while this year that conference looks a lot like a one-bid league, they will be playing a higher level of competition this year and have a chance for some resume building wins.
The Hilltoppers beat another Big 10 school earlier this year when they went toe to toe with Purdue and walked away with the win. They also hold a solid win over a decent SMU team. If they can add a road win at Wisconsin to that resume, all the sudden you might be in the at-large discussion.
I don’t think that Western Kentucky is going to march into Madison and leave as winners. It is just too rowdy of an environment for the Badgers to lose to average competition. But I do think the Hilltoppers will equate themselves well and give Wisconsin all that it can handle. Western Kentucky can really shoot the three ball, and if they get hot from outside, they could very easily take this game outright. The Badgers just don’t have the offensive firepower to come back from a big deficit or to play from behind in a run and gun type of game.
I expect a slow-paced physical game that comes down to the final few possessions. I think the Badgers will find a way to gut out a win, but I don’t like them to cover the overpriced number. Give me the road Western Kentucky Hilltoppers plus 7.5-points from Madison tonight!
*The betting information for this article was taken from sportsbetting.ag at 7:00 AM PST on 12-13-17. Some odds may have changed.