The Wisconsin Badgers travel to Iowa tonight for a game that has TRAP written all over it. The Badgers are coming off of big home wins over Purdue and Michigan State with the huge weekend battle coming up with Ohio State. Wedged in between all of that is the Hawkeyes who have been playing much better of late with wins over Michigan State and at Indiana.
The Badgers are currently favored by seven and according to SportsInsights.com most of the money is coming in on Wisconsin, 83% of it. There are so many ways this fits the perfect trap game it is eerie. Home dog of 6+ points, look ahead game for Wisconsin, the public is all over the Badgers. Add in the fact the Badgers looked great in their last game, which many people likely saw on Sunday over Michigan State. We will just ignore the numerous gambling angles that are working against Wisconsin, just beware that they are there.
Why Wisconsin Will Win
Here are some reasons, even with all of the trends working against Wisconsin, they can still win.
- Badgers are the 1st ranked offense in the country in efficiency. Defense is important but the truth is offense is what can really bail you out. We know Iowa will come out with energy and nothing zaps that energy like some jumpers falling.
- Badgers are not that shabby on defense either, rated 38th. We know that Wisconsin will give up nothing inside, very little in transition and even less at the free throw line. Teams have to earn everything against a Bo Ryan defense.
- Iowa relies on turnovers on defense, the Badgers do not turn it over.
- Wisconsin should win the battle on the glass on both ends.
- Iowa actually fouls less than Wiscosin, but Wisconsin gets to the line less than most so it is not something the Badgers rely on.
Why Iowa Could Win
Wisconsin is the better team but in road conference games the better team does not always win. Beyond the several gambling angles that are working against the Badgers there are a few things working for Iowa.
- Pace. Wisconsin has the 345th pace in the country, calculated by possessions per game, with 57.9 possessions per game. Iowa has the 98th fastest pace with 68.6 possessions per game. This could be a factor as the home team usually controls the pace and Iowa has had success speeding teams up at home.
- Iowa is tested, they have played a slightly tougher schedule than Wisconsin, 18th versus 34th. Tested teams playing at home can be a pain.
- Turnovers. Even though they lead the country in not turning it over, they can still happen. If Jordan Taylor gets into foul trouble the Badgers ball security will be tested. Iowa is proficient in forcing turnovers, specifically steals.
The Badgers will be in a tight battle for most of the game. They will need to consistently hit shots, specifically three pointers, to maintain a lead in this game. Luckily for us Badger fans the team is a really good three point shooting team, 41st in the country, while Iowa is not spectacular defending the three. My guess is Iowa will get some big dunks on putbacks but will too often be trading twos for threes. Wisconsin will wear Iowa down in the second half and hold onto the win, but not cover the seven point spread 63-58.
Associated Press Preview
The Big Ten’s preseason favorite was no match for Wisconsin its last time out, the fifth win in six games for coach Bo Ryan’s team heading into a visit with one of the conference’s bottom feeders.
Suddenly, though, a victory at Iowa is anything but a sure thing.
The Badgers try to build off their impressive performance Wednesday night against the Hawkeyes, who look to win a third consecutive conference game for the first time in four years.
Wisconsin (17-5, 7-3) split its first four Big Ten games, blowing a chance at a 3-1 start by letting a late second-half lead slip away in a 64-61 overtime loss at Michigan State on Jan. 11.
The Badgers have fallen just once since, and they got revenge on the reeling Spartans on Sunday. Jordan Taylor scored 30 points and Jon Leuer added 20 as Wisconsin shot 59.0 percent – 11 of 17 from 3-point range – in dismantling the nation’s preseason No. 2 team 82-56.
“I think it’s about playing for 40 minutes,” said Leuer, the Big Ten’s third-leading scorer at 19.4 points per game. “At Michigan State we played 37 or 38 minutes. It’s kind of at a point for us where we just need to play a good 40 minutes. The past couple of games we’ve been able to do that.”
Iowa (10-13, 3-8) can finally say the same as it’s turned itself around on both ends after opening conference play 1-8. The Hawkeyes routed the Spartans four days before Wisconsin did, shooting 57.7 percent in a 72-52 victory, then rallied from a five-point halftime deficit Saturday to eke out a 64-63 win at Indiana.
Coach Fran McCaffery’s team held the Spartans and Hoosiers to 37.6 percent. In the first nine Big Ten games, Iowa allowed its opponents to shoot 51.1 percent – 331st in the nation.
A win Wednesday would give the Hawkeyes their first three-game conference winning streak since Jan. 31-Feb. 7, 2007.
“We need to see if we can continue to be consistent,” McCaffery said Monday. “I think we all agree the Michigan State game was our best 40 minutes of the year, and then to go on the road and be able to come back, in that environment, that’s not an easy place to play.”
The Hawkeyes would love to see some more consistency from Melsahn Basabe. The freshman forward has scored 20 points in three of his last five games, but he’s sandwiched two 4-point performances in between.
While Basabe has been one of the conference’s best freshmen with 10.7 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, Wisconsin has one of the nation’s best all-around players in its backcourt. Taylor is one of just 10 players in the country averaging 17.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists, and he’s coming off a career high in points.
He certainly impressed Spartans coach Tom Izzo.
“As good as Leuer is – and I like Leuer – when they say Taylor’s the straw the stirs the drink, he is the straw that stirs the drink,” Izzo said. “He definitely has made them a better team. I told him after the game, I think he’s improved as much as anyone I’ve seen.”
It was Leuer, though, who helped lead his team to an easy win over Iowa on March 3. He had 18 points – hitting 8 of 9 shots – in the Badgers’ 67-40 rout.
The teams haven’t played in Iowa City since the Hawkeyes’ 73-69 overtime win Jan. 21, 2009.