Depending on where you got the Crimson Tide last night you either took a devastating last-second gut-punch loss or slightly less devastating gut-punching push. The game was a back and forth affair all evening long and was a two-point game with less than three minutes left on the clock. The ball bounced UCF’s way late, and they hit two free throws with fourteen seconds left on the clock to seal the win and cover, 60-54. I wrote the line up at Alabama +5.5, so I lost, but the line immediately shifted to Alabama +6 in the early morning action, so hopefully many of you managed to sneak a push out of it.
The win was a big one for the Knights as they won’t have too many more opportunities for solid non-conference wins this season. Where I saw the value in backing Alabama was the fact that the Knight’s have really struggled from the charity stripe this year. And they did struggle as they shot just 64% from the line, but they got to the line thirty-six times! UCF made almost twice as many free throws as Alabama even took, and that is where they managed to win the game and cover the number. For today’s pick, I will take a look at the game between the Wisconsin Badgers and the Iowa Hawkeyes.
The Big 10 kicks off league play tonight as they Iowa Hawkeyes host the Wisconsin Badgers. Both of these teams have had strong starts to the season and find themselves ranked in the top twenty-five nationally. Iowa was picked to finish near the bottom of the Big 10 this year but has impressed with a 6-0 start and a couple of very solid wins.
The Badgers were picked to finish in the top half of the league this year and have enjoyed a hot start as well. Wisconsin has wins over Xavier, Stanford, Oklahoma, and NC State already on the year and their lone loss on the season came against a Virginia Cavaliers team that might just be the best team in the country. The Badgers are -2-point road favorites. The game total over-under is set at 143 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:00 PM PST from Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
For a casual fan, they might look at this line and scratch their heads. Iowa is at home, they are undefeated, and ranked higher than Wisconsin, so why are they getting points? But the sharp bettors in the know understand the AP poll is all about what you have accomplished on the season, and not how good you are. The Hawkeyes deserve to be ranked this high right now, but that doesn’t mean they are that good.
They have had a fantastic start to the season. They went into Madison Square Garden and beat a good Oregon team and a decent UCONN team to take home the 2K Classic title. And then they followed that up by beating an undefeated Pittsburgh team in the ACC- Big 10 Challenge. The Hawkeyes are a true team by committee this year as all five of their starter’s average at least nine points a game. Things are only going to get tougher after this one as they travel to Michigan State next week to play the Spartans. Thus is life in the Big 10, it is never easy.
While Wisconsin isn’t ranked as highly as Iowa, you can make a case they are the more talented team in this one. The Badgers have played a tough schedule and have acquitted themselves nicely. Wisconsin is led by one of the best players in the country, Ethan Happ. Happ is doing it all for the Badgers right now as he is averaging eighteen points, twelve rebounds, and five assists a game. There isn’t a big man in the country that is playing a more well-rounded game right now than Happ.
Big 10 league play is going to be great this year. They have some elite top line talent teams in Michigan and Michigan State and lots of tournament level teams like Purdue, Iowa, Wisconsin, Maryland, Nebraska, Indiana, and Ohio State. There are going to be no nights off in league play this year as even the bottom teams of the league are playing well to start the season.
But in my estimation, a couple of these teams just aren’t as good as advertised right now. Iowa being one of them. I am not going to discount what they have done so far this year. As I said above, they deserve to be where they are right now. But there is no way the Hawkeyes are the 14th best team in the country.
When you look at kenpom, Iowa is ranked thirty-eight. That seems like a much more reasonable assessment of where this team stands this year. And when you look at Wisconsin, this could be a second-weekend team in March, that just might hang with Michigan and Michigan State for the Big 10 regular season title this year. Kenpom has the Badgers at thirteen.
Winning on the road in league play is never going to be easy. But the advanced analytics tell us that the Badgers are the better team in this one. A month down the road from this one it wouldn’t shock me at all to see Iowa outside of the top twenty-five and Wisconsin in the top ten, the talent gap is there. So, I will take a shot on the road team and back Wisconsin laying a couple of points. Give me the Wisconsin Badgers laying -2-points on the road tonight from Carver-Hawkeye Arena!