After getting off to a rough start in Big 10 conference play, Wisconsin (16-6, 8-3 Big Ten) has gotten things together to build a five-game winning streak — and are debatedly playing their best quality of basketball right now throughout the 2018-19 campaign.
Tonight will be a challenge though, and a reminder: The Badgers would take a 59-52 loss to Minnesota (16-6, 6-5 Big Ten) at home last month when they suffered four losses in five games. Now in February, Wisconsin gets their shot at revenge.
Against the Golden Golphers, the 52 points that the Badgers tallied was the second lowest total of the season for Wisconsin. For the year, they average 72.1 PPG.
Since that stretch, which also featured losses to Purdue and Maryland, the Badgers have been on a roll. On their winning streak, it started with a home upset over No. 2 Michigan by a dominating score of 64-54. They would go on to get a 72-60 road win at Illinois, a 62-46 blowout home win against Northwestern, another 62-51 road victory at Nebraska, and their most recent was a 69-61 home win against another ranked opponent in No. 21 Maryland.
After that stretch, the Badgers now find themselves just one game out of first place in the Big Ten — a three-way tie for first is currently happening with Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue.
Wisconsin’s place in the standings also makes tonight more emotional. If the Badgers would have gotten the win over Minnesota back in January, Wisconsin would have themselves in a four-way tie for first place. And not just that, but the Badgers were on a eight-game winning streak against the Golden Golphers up until that point.
But now Wisconsin is on a roll, and they also have the leading candidate for Big Ten Player of the Year in Ethan Happ. For the season, Happ is tallying 18.5 PPG and 10.3 RPG.
In the last victory over Maryland, Happ laid down 18 points and also grabbed down 11 rebounds for his 14th double-double of the 2018-19 campaign. It was the 45th of his career.
Another bright spot for Wisconsin in their last game was their number in the turnover department. They only allowed four against the Terrapins, which is a season-low. Needless to say, it looks like the Badgers have gotten their act together.
For Minnesota, they look for the season sweep over Wisconsin tonight. And the odds are looking pretty good for them considering they’re 11-1 at home.
The biggest headache for Wisconsin will be Gophers’ point guard Amir Coffey, who had 21 points against the Badgers in the upset road win. For the year, Coffey is averaging 16.2 PPG in the scoring department.
Senior forward Jordan Murphy will also make things difficult for Minnesota. In the 2018-19 season, Murphy is tallying averages of 14.9 PPG and 11.8 RPG. He’s recorded five straight double-doubles, and has a total of 15 for the whole season.
In their last game at Purdue on Sunday, the Golden Golphers would take a 73-63 loss to the Boilermakers. Coffey would put up 22 points for Minnesota, but the team as a whole would only hit two out of 16 shots from behind the three-point line.
That’s been the biggest issue for the Gophers this season, inconsistency — which leaves us with the question of: Which Minnesota will show up tonight against Wisconsin?
Tip-off is set for 9:00 PM ET, and the game will be nationally televised on the Big Ten Network (BTN). Wisconsin enters as a -2.5 point favorite over Minnesota.
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Statistically, we have a pretty balanced matchup between the Wisconsin Badgers and Minnesota Golden Golphers — both teams take two out of the four main line categories. In scoring, the Badgers get into the red right away at -2 averaging 72.1 PPG. However, they have a +3 edge in field goal percentage hitting 47.7% of their shots. On the glass, Wisconsin takes a -3 hit grabbing down 34.3 RPG. But they make up their two disadvantages with this one positive: A +9 advantage only allowing 61.5 PPG into their net.
Not only do the Golden Golphers have the homecourt advantage tonight, but they also hold two out of the four statistical categories — points-per-game and rebounds-per-game. In the scoring department, Minnesota holds the +2 advantage tallying 74.4 PPG, but they lack with a -3 disadvantage in field goal percentage hitting 44.7% of their shots. In the rebounding game, the Golphers are in the green again at +3 with a total of 37.7 RPG. But they take a big hit on the defensive side: -9 allowing 70.3 PPG against their defense.
The odds-makers have the Wisconsin Badgers as the -2.5 point favorite, and I have to agree with Vegas on this one. With Minnesota already getting the win in their last matchup in Madison, you have to put Wisconsin on major upset alert in this one on the road — especially considering both teams have the exact same record and statistical leverage.
The Golden Golphers are coming off of a loss, however, and the Badgers are playing some of their best basketball of the season right now. So who do we take? We really have a true toss-up game in this one, folks. Another thing to consider to maybe give the edge to Wisconsin is the motivation factor: The loss against the Golphers back in January, and also being right on the edge of being on top of the Big Ten, is sure to bring some aggression from the Badgers tonight.
As incredibly tempted as I am to take Minnesota for the upset tonight, I just can’t do it with the way Wisconsin has been playing as of late. Revenge will also be a factor, the Badgers are going to want plenty of that, and I’m expecting Ethan Happ and Wisconsin’s elite defense to be the main reasons to solidify a Badgers victory. As far as the spread, it’s a risky bet, but I’d go ahead and take Wisconsin to cover the -2.5 with the fire-power. Take the over in the O/U too, I can see both teams putting up some points with both offenses being potent.