Wisconsin heads to the Windy City as the team to beat in the Big Ten Tournament, leaving teams like Maryland and Michigan State with the task to upset the college basketball odds.
What is it about the Wisconsin Badgers that ESPN's Joe Lunardi doesn't like? An 8/1 wager on the NCAA Basketball odds when the season began, Wisconsin won the Big Ten with two games to spare and enter the conference tournament with 13 wins over the last 14 games to sit No. 6/5 in the latest AP and coaches polls.
So why does Lunardi make the Badgers eighth in his current bracketology and in the same Midwest Region lineup with overall No. 1 seed Kentucky?
Perhaps a Big Ten Tournament title this week at Chicago's United Center will help convince Little Joe that Wisconsin is for real. Action begins Wednesday with Round 1 matchups between the 11-14 seeds in the event, the Badgers one of four teams that earned double-byes into the quarterfinals that get underway on Friday.
Bo Ryan's bunch was an 8/1 choice to win the NCAA Tournament back in October before the 2014-15 college basketball betting schedule cranked up. Wisconsin (27-3 straight up, 15-14-1 against the spread) managed to go 13-1 on the second half of the fixture without starting point guard Traevon Jackson who broke his right foot in a loss at Rutgers in mid-January. Jackson could return at some point in this tournament, something college hoops bettors will want to keep an eye.
Having Player of the Year candidate Frank Kaminsky certainly helped the Badgers get through Jackson's injury, and the play of sophomore Bronson Koenig in Jackson's place really kept the backcourt in synch. They'll be tough to beat with or without Jackson, and that's why the Badgers are +300 to win the B1G battle.
Terps Hope To Cap Rookie Big Ten Season In Style
Maryland (25-5 SU, 11-15-1 ATS) wasn't expected to make much noise in its first season playing in the Big Ten Conference, the preseason NCAA odds listing the Terrapins at +1200 to win the crown, sixth on the chart. Mark Turgeon's troops took exception to that, however, and pushed their way into the No. 2 seed for this week's event.
The Terps closed with six consecutive wins, one of those coming against Wisconsin as 5½ point underdogs, and they'll draw the winner of the Northwestern-Indiana battle for their quarterfinals clash.
Michigan State (21-10 SU, 17-14 ATS) was something of a disappointment overall, but you can never count out a Tom Izzo team that still did enough to get the No.3 seed in the conference and draw +1200 NCAA Basketball odds to win the Big Ten. Something to keep in mind is the Spartans dropped both of their games to Maryland and their only matchup with Wisconsin.
Hawkeyes, Boilermakers & Buckeyes Next Three In Line
Another team that closed strong was Iowa (21-10 SU, 14-12-1 ATS). The Hawkeyes ended the regular season 6-0, though it should be noted those wins came against squads with a combined .324 conference win percentage (35-73). Iowa gets a 1st-round bye as the No. 5 seed, the Round 2 opponent being the winner of the Penn State-Nebraska scrap.
Quick, can you name the top two scorers for Purdue (20-11 SU, 19-8-1 ATS)? The Boilermakers are definite sleepers in this tournament as the No. 4 seed and +1600 to pull off the big upset to cut down the nets, and they'll be waiting for the Hawkeyes in the quarters assuming Iowa moves on from its Round 2 game.
AJ Hammons (11.5 ppg) and Rapheal Davis (11.0 ppg) are Purdue's top 2 scorers, by the way.
Another team listed at +1600 on the NCAA odds to win the Big Ten is Ohio State (22-8 SU, 14-14-1 ATS) in the No. 6 slot. The Buckeyes were just blown out at home by Wisconsin on Sunday, just the second loss this year in Columbus for Thad Matta's team, so they should be plenty mad when they take the court Wednesday in a 2nd-round matchup against either Rutgers or Minnesota.
That win by the Badgers was the second of two on the road during the final week after both of their conference setbacks came away from Madison. The 3/1 odds for Wisconsin to win the tournament don't offer much of a payout, but I'm still going with the Badgers for my NCAA Basketball pick to take the crown and finally convince Lunardi they're a legit No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament.