Defense Key in Wisconsin, Holy Cross Clashes Monday

Jay Pryce

Monday, January 29, 2018 1:15 PM UTC

Monday, Jan. 29, 2018 1:15 PM UTC

Really good defense will be on display when Nebraska and Wisconsin clash at Kohl Center on Monday night (9 ET), while poor shot stopping will reign in Lehigh at Holy Cross (7ET). What’s your best bet for each?

Nebraska at Wisconsin (-3)

Nebraska (16-8 SU, 16-6 ATS) owns more against-the-spread wins than any team in Division I hoops, covering 16 of 22 listed on the NCAAB oddsboard. Surprising performances are coming on both ends of the court for a program that has pieced together just one winning season in the last six campaigns.

Last time out, offense took center stage. The Huskers topped Iowa 98-84 Saturday night, recording the most points in a game since 2002. Jesse Palmer Jr., the prior Big Ten Player of the Week, put up 28 points and recorded five assists in the victory. The junior guard is averaging 24.6 points per game in his last five. Palmer Jr. is feeling it:

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— Nebraska Basketball (@HuskerHoops) January 28, 2018

Where Nebraska is most improved on the scoring end is controlling possessions and executing effectively. Its 1.20 assist-to-turnover ratio is the best in almost 20 years for the program. The Huskers have not recorded more helpers than giveaways since the 2009-10 season. Defensively, Nebraska is even better on paper. It ranks 47th in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency ratings, while the offense measures No. 88.

Wisconsin (10-12 SU, 8-12 ATS) lost in Lincoln 63-59 on Jan. 9 in the first of two meetings with Nebraska. What impressed in the loss is the fact the Badgers held the improving Huskers offense to 20 of 47 from the field on their home hardwood. The unit, which ranks 94th in adjusted efficiency, matches up well. Expect it to perform even better with the student body cheering on. The Badgers’ last three opponents to enter Kohl Center scored 53 (UMass), 61 (Indiana) and 50 (Illinois) points, respectively.

The Huskers offense is night-and-day different when catching points on the board. As favorites, they average 81.9 points per game on 47.9 percent shooting. As underdogs, their scoring slumps to 65.3 per tilt on 39.5 percent from the field. Teams rarely win averaging so poorly from the floor in road conference clashes. Wisconsin wins and covers the -3 line.

Free NCAAB Pick: Wisconsin -3Best Line Offered: BetOnline

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Lehigh at Holy Cross (-2)

This is just the fifth game all season Lehigh (8-13 SU, 0-1 ATS) or Holy Cross (7-14 SU, 2-1 ATS) has hit the big board, the Crusaders lying 2 points in early trading. What’s even rarer is the fact this matchup is being broadcast on national television (CBS Sports Network, 7 p.m. ET).

Here’s all you need to know about both rarely-bet programs: their defenses stink. The Mountain Hawks rank 315th and Holy Cross 303 rdin adjusted efficiencies. Each yield 45.5 percent or more from the floor to opponents.

What’s different among the pair is play style. The Crusaders park the bus on D and hold out until the final 10 seconds of each possession to shoot. Consequently, they rank 350 out of 351 D-I teams in tempo. Lehigh, meanwhile, is transition-oriented under 11-year head coach Brett Reed. It ranks 64 in pace, looking to foster easy opportunities and break on the run at all times.

The Warhawks can coax slow teams out of their slumber. They’ve played nine putting up less than 55 field goal attempts per game. The average final tally is 149.0 points. Lehigh has surrendered 74 points or more in all but one, yielding a 46.1 percent opponent shooting rate. This includes a 83-77 win over the Crusaders at home on Jan. 5. Look for a similar score at Hart Center. Pick ‘over’ 139 for your best bet.

Free NCAAB Pick: Over 139Best Line Offered: Bookmaker

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