Yesterday was a sobering day for the Michigan State Spartans. Sparty has struggled much of the year, but Michigan State fans were hopeful that they could get things turned around late in the season and somehow sneak their way into the NCAA tournament. But after what happened last night on their home floor, it looks like the season is sure to end in disappointment in East Lansing.
The Iowa Hawkeyes, a team that hasn’t been playing all that well as of late themselves, went into the Breslin Center last night and absolutely embarrassed Tom Izzo’s team. The Hawkeyes put it o0n the Spartans, blowing them out 88-58 to hand Izzo his worst ever home floor loss. Iowa was raining it in from deep all game long, eventually connecting on 13 3-pointers, shooting it at a 52% clip. When the final buzzer went off, it was clear to Michigan State fans that they just aren’t a team that can compete at a high level this season.
— Iowa Basketball (@IowaHoops) February 13, 2021
One of the other college hoops blue bloods that have been struggling this season is the Kentucky Wildcats. Similar to Michigan State, Kentucky came into this season feeling like they were a Final Four caliber team. Instead, they started out their season by losing six of their first seven games, and heading into play last night, they were just 5-13 on the season. While an at-large bid isn’t likely at this point for the Wildcats, they know that if they have any shot at hearing their names called on Selection Sunday that they have to win out.
And they took care of business last night in Rupp Arena. The Wildcats came back from a first half deficit to hold off the Auburn Tigers 82-80. The win snapped a four-game losing streak for Kentucky. The overall record for Kentucky is bad, but they do have quality victories over Mississippi State, Florida, LSU, and now Auburn. With games on the schedule left against Ole Miss, Florida, and Tennessee, and then the SEC tournament, the Wildcats are going to have a chance to pick up enough signature victories to at least get themselves into the bubble conversation.
It would be a long shot to see Kentucky play themselves onto the right side of the bubble, but in the strangest season in college hoops history, who knows how the selection committee is going to look at things. Kenpom currently has the Wildcats ranked 61st, so those of you out there that are writing off Kentucky as having no shot, need to take a second look. For today’s free daily betting pick, we will head to Madison, Wisconsin, where the Badgers host the Michigan Wolverines.
- Michigan Wolverines (13-1) at Wisconsin Badgers (15-6)
- Kohl Center, Madison
- 10:00 AM PST
- TV: CBS
Welcome back, Michigan! The Wolverines return to action today after missing three full weeks of action due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the program. It won’t be a gentle return for Big Blue, as they have to travel to one of the toughest places to play in the nation, Madison, Wisconsin, to play the Badgers in a Big 10 battle. Michigan has won thirteen of their fourteen games this season and had won back-to-back games before being shut down, and the Michigan faithful are hoping that this pause doesn’t kill all of their early-season momentum.
— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) February 14, 2021
For Wisconsin, the Badgers have been trading wins back and forth for the last month as they are 3-3 in their last six games. But despite the somewhat inconsistent play, Wisconsin is still firmly a tournament level team as they are ranked 21st in the latest AP poll, and Kenpom has the Badgers ranked 12th in the nation. Wisconsin is currently in 4th place in the loaded Big 10, and a win today at home over Michigan would be huge for the Badgers Big 10 title hopes.
Wisconsin Badgers (15-6)
There are very few places that are harder to win at than the Kohl Center in Madison. This season, Wisconsin is 11-2 at home, with a bit of a fluky loss to Maryland and a loss to an Ohio State team that is seemingly beating everyone on their home floor. The list of teams that Wisconsin has beaten at home is a who’s who of teams we are going to see playing in the NCAA tournament. Wisconsin has home wins over Rhode Island, Loyola-Chicago, Louisville, Minnesota, Indiana, Northwestern, and Penn State.
The Badgers are led by one of the top guards in the Big 10, in senior leader D’Mitrik Trice. Trice is filling up the stat sheet with 13.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game. Trice hasn’t played well here late in the season, as he no-showed against Northwestern with a zero-point effort, and in his last game against Nebraska, he scored just nine points on 3-14 shooting from the field. When these two teams met up in Ann Arbor, Trice played well, as he scored a team-high 20 points, but the Badgers weren’t overly competitive as they lost that one 77-54. If the Badgers want to protect their home floor today, they will need a big effort out of their leader on the floor, D’Mitrik Trice.
Michigan Wolverines (13-1)
What a brutal time for Michigan to get the program shut down. The Wolverines were playing their best basketball of the season when COVID-19 through a wrench in their plans, and now after sitting out for three weeks, they have to snap right back into shape, as they have a tough road ahead. We know how tough it is to win at Wisconsin, and after this one, the Wolverines have games against Rutgers, Ohio State, Indiana, Iowa, and they play their final game of the regular season at their rivals, Michigan State.
The Wolverines have the best frontcourt in the Big 10, with big men Hunter Dickinson and Isiah Livers both looking like potential All-Big 10 first team candidates. Dickinson was hitting a bit of a freshman wall before the Wolverines got shut down as after scoring double digits in every game of the year, he scored single digits in each of his last three games, averaging just seven points and four and a half rebounds per game during that stretch. Wolverines fans are hoping that this break will refill the young man’s gas tank and get him back to playing at the elite level we all saw at the start of the season. With the long break, Dickinson hasn’t scored above his season average in a game since January 6, that is a long time ago, and Michigan needs him to get going today on the road.
Who Do I Like?
This is just a really bad spot for Michigan. Playing in Madison is never easy but having to play at Wisconsin after not being able to play or practice for three weeks seems like cruel and unusual punishment. And when you look at how Michigan has played this season, they have had the majority of their success at home. Of Michigan’s thirteen wins, only three of them came on the road. Two of those wins came at Maryland and Nebraska, two teams that aren’t like to be playing in the NCAA tournament, and the other win came against a decent, but not elite, Purdue team. A win today in Madison would easily be the biggest road win of the year for the Wolverines.
It is easy to poke holes in just about every team’s resume this year outside of Baylor and Gonzaga. Every team either has weird bad losses or a lack of big wins. But when I take a step back and look at this Michigan resume, they haven’t really impressed me all that much, certainly not enough to be ranked 3rd in the nation.
When you look at the best teams in the Big 10, teams like Ohio State, Iowa, and Illinois, the Wolverines have yet to play any of them. Any win in the Big 10 this season is going to be a decent one as the league is so strong, but outside of the win against the Badgers at home a month ago, the Michigan resume is light on elite wins. I hate to be that guy, but I think Michigan is a bit overrated right now.
You can chalk this one up to some bad luck for Michigan. I just don’t see any way that Michigan is going to be able to play at the same level today as they were playing at before being shut down. We saw Villanova miss several weeks of action last month, and since their return, they have losses to St. John’s and Creighton after being 8-1 before their shutdown. I expect similar struggles out of Michigan in the next couple of weeks, as they are going to be rusty, and even if they are playing at their best, their schedule is a nasty one.
I wouldn’t want to lay a bunch of wood on Wisconsin in this game, as Michigan did handle them fairly easily in their first matchup, but at an even pick ’em, with Wisconsin only having to win the game to cash our ticket, they show enormous value. Give me the Wisconsin Badgers today at home, as they knock off a road-weary and rusty Wolverines team. I’ll call the final score at 68-62 Wisconsin.