Lagerald Vick picked a bad night to have the worst game of his college career. Vick’s struggles highlighted a frustrating night for Jayhawks fans as they turned the ball over twenty-four times and got blown out in Ames, Iowa by the Iowa State Cyclones. Vick scored just six points and turned the ball over seven times. It is always going to be tough to win on the road in league play, but when your senior leader has more turnovers than points, you have no shot.
Kansas led for much of the first half before the turnovers really started to add up and take their toll. The Cyclones used a big second half to pull away and pick up the huge win. Iowa State hit thirteen three-pointers, shooting over 50% from three as a team in the win. There were a lot of question marks swirling around this Cyclones team as they hadn’t really beaten any good teams, but those doubts have been firmly put to rest now, and I expect them to shoot up the national rankings.
For Kansas, the loss doesn’t really hurt them per-say, but it could signal wider concerns for the Jayhawks. Kansas has won fourteen straight league titles and every year seems to be the year that their historic streak comes to an end. If Kansas is going to struggle on the road with a lower level team like Iowa State, what are they going to do against Oklahoma, K-State, TCU, or Texas Tech? I am certainly not going to overreact to one game, but with the early season loss, they slide out of first place in the Big 12 standings, will they be able to get it back? For today’s pick, I will take a look at the game between the Wisconsin Badgers and the Penn State Nittany Lions in a Big 10 league game.
The Penn State Nittany Lions host the Wisconsin Badgers tonight, badly needing a Big 10 league win. The Nittany Lions have started out 0-3 in league play and will need to turn things around quickly if they want any shot at an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. For Wisconsin, things were rolling right along until last week when they went 0-2 with losses to Western Kentucky and Minnesota. The Badgers are -2-point road favorites. The game total over-under is set at 128.5-points. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:30 PM PST from the Jordan Center in University Park.
Before their recent skid, I was ready to put the Badgers up with Michigan, Michigan State, and Indiana as teams that could compete to win the Big 10 title this season. But the last two games have given me a little bit of pause. The home loss to Minnesota was especially head-scratching. We all know that Ethan Happ is one of the best players in the country, and he has proven that again and again already this season, but this team missed the tournament last year to snap the Badgers streak of nineteen straight tournament appearance, so I am not sure they can be trusted this year.
Wisconsin has lost three out of their last five games and they are at risk of sliding out of the top twenty-five if they lose at Penn State tonight. Kenpom has the Badgers ranked slightly higher at number eighteen, but when you look at the advanced metrics on Penn State, they come in at number forty-nine, much higher than their 7-7 record might lead you to believe. The Nittany Lions boast the fourteenth ranked defense in efficiency in the country. They aren’t winning all that many games, but they are certainly playing hard and putting up effort on the defensive side of the ball.
We are going to see games exactly like this one night in and night out for the next two months as conference play drags on. The Badgers are the better team. They have more talent, and they are better coached. But road games in league play are always going to be the biggest test you are going to have in a basketball season. Home underdogs in league play are my favorite bet to make. And the advanced analytics tell us that this Penn State team is probably quite a bit better than most people think.
This number opened up at Wisconsin -1-point and the early morning action has pushed that number to -2. The sharps like the Badgers to get the job done on the road, but I don’t. I think Penn State will use a combination of home court advantage and stellar defense to keep this game close at home and win it late. As I almost always do, I will go ahead and take the points as well just in case the last two or three minutes the ball doesn’t bounce our way. Give me the Pen State Nittany Lions and the two points tonight from the Jordan Center!
The Bet: Penn State Nittany Lions +2 points