The Northwestern Wildcats took advantage of some sloppy ball-handling on the part of the Wisconsin Badgers and scored what may have been considered a mild upset in their building back on January 23. When we say "may have," it's hard to tell, because these teams have not necessarily had banner seasons.
Is it time to extract revenge? Well, that's something BetOnline patrons will have to determine as these Big Ten teams line up against each other again, on Sunday evening at 6:30 PM ET at the Kohl Center in Madison, WI.
Chris Collins, son of the noted former player and coach Doug Collins, is now in his tenth season in Evanston. And the 'Cats have not quite built up anything resembling a "tradition" on the hardwood. But they are competitive; one only has to look at some of the results in the early part of the Big ten schedule, as they posted wins over Illinois and Indiana and were right there in it all the way against Rutgers, which has become a very powerful conference entry.
In the first meeting with the Badgers, Northwestern forced 16 turnovers in the 66-63 victory. Let's say something about that for a minute. Through the years, one thing that has held firm with Wisky, during the coaching tenure of Bo Ryan and now with Greg Gard (eight season) is that they can take care of the basketball. In fact, they rank fourth best in the nation in offensive turnover rate. So our question involves how likely the Wildcats are to duplicate that kind of thing, or has Collins cooked up a scheme that entices Wisconsin to cough up the ball.
We would tend to look at such a thing as an aberration. But even if that's the case, it doesn't tell the whole story.
In the Big Ten basketball betting odds that have been posted on this game by the folks at BetOnline, the 13-8 Badgers are the favorites at home against the 15-7 Wildcats:
Wisconsin Badgers -3.5 (-115)
Northwestern Wildcats +3.5 (-105)
Over 125.5 points -110
Under 125.5 points -110
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We freely admit that the Wildcats have lost steam lately, as back-to-back losses to Iowa and Michigan, each by 17 points, would seem to attest. A bright spot here has been the play of guard Boo Buie (who no doubt belongs on the All-Name team) and who has scored at least 20 points in three consecutive games.
Take note that Wisconsin has lost six of its last eight games. And even their last win over Ohio State isn't all that impressive, considered that the Buckeyes have now dropped nine of their last ten.
This is a game between two defensive-minded teams who like to play at a very controlled pace. They also both take care of the ball at an elite level, the Badgers' efforts in the first meeting notwithstanding. Perhaps the three-point shooting of Wisconsin's Connor Essegian (43.1% from three) will be an operative factor here. But certainly Northwestern defends well enough from inside the arc (top 15 in that category), is more aggressive on D, and should take advantage of the fact that Wisconsin is not a squad that creates second chances for itself (347th in offensive rebounding!).
And in what promises to be a close game, the 'Cats are less likely to leave points on the table at the free throw line, as they have hit a solid 75%, compared to just 65.8% for the Badgers. It's quite possible that the guys in red will be denied their revenge, as we take the points.
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