The question begs, was it a fluke that the Wisconsin Badgers raced out to a 16-0 start to the 2013-14 college basketball season, or are the five losses in seven games since been more a stroke of bad luck than indicative of the team's true talent?
We might have a better answer come Sunday afternoon when the
Badgers host the Michigan State Spartans in a Big Ten clash. Tip-off at
SBR's live college basketball odds will have a spread for the contest late Saturday afternoon, with the total available at some point Sunday morning.
It's the first and only scheduled meeting between the rivals this season, and the Badgers are looking to stop a 5-game slide vs. State. The Spartans covered all five victories in the streak, with both of last season's matchups also failing to reach the total.
In fact, the contest played in Madison last January never even breached the 100-point plateau. Wisconsin shot less than 30% from the field and left a chance for the victory on the free-throw line where the Badgers were 7-of-18 in the 49-47 loss.
Spartans Continue To Deal With Injuries
Frustration is starting to get to Tom Izzo as he brings Michigan State (20-3 straight up, 13-9 against the spread) into this tilt with one starter sure to miss and another very questionable. Brandon Dawson, the team's leading rebounder, has missed the last four games with a broken hand, and may not make it back on the floor until March.
Point guard Keith Appling is questionable with a sore wrist that kept him out of Thursday's 82-67 win vs. Penn State. The point guard leads the Spartans with 4.9 assists per game, and is third on the team in scoring (15.0 ppg).
Michigan State did get Adreian Payne back this week after the senior center missed seven games with a bum foot. Payne
scored 12 points in 18 minutes to help the Spartans to the cover as 13.5 point favorites.
Despite the injuries, Michigan State is tied with rival Michigan at the top of the Big 10 standings, each with 9-1 league records. The Spartans are 10-1 away from East Lansing this season, and a perfect 5-0 both straight up and against the spread in conference road games.
Badgers Out To Stop 3-Game Home Slide
If there was ever a game perfect for Bo Ryan to get Wisconsin (18-5 SU, 11-10-2 ATS) turned around, this would be it. Not only have the Badgers fallen apart since winning their first 16, three of the five losses over the past seven games have come at home where they'd never dropped three straight under Ryan.
The most recent setback at Kohl Center came last Saturday to Ohio State, another Big Ten team that had been struggling before arriving in Madison. Wisconsin saw a 6-point lead with under four minutes to go evaporate in the 59-58 defeat, and was unable to hit a field goal in the final six minutes while making just 4-of-8 from the free-throw line in that span.
Rebounding has also been an issue in conference play. The Badgers rank eighth among the 12 Big Ten teams averaging just over 32 boards per contest on the league slate, and they're not getting a lot of second looks with only nine of those coming on the offensive end of the court.
There isn't much to leave a bettor confident in the Badgers right now, except perhaps for playing at home where they have been a good bet historically despite the recent slide. I'm inclined to like the visitors, but will withhold final judgment until I see the line for my college basketball picks.
College Basketball Pick: Lean Michigan State