Thanks to finishing second in the regular season standings, Bo Ryan and the Wisconsin Badgers enjoyed a day off Thursday when the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament got underway in Indianapolis. Now they hope the extra rest will carry them to three straight victories this weekend en route to their first tournament title in six years.
Tip-off at Bankers Life Fieldhouse is tentatively set for 6:30 PM (ET), and the contest will be televised on the Big Ten Network.
We're still awaiting wagering info on the matchup, and SBR's live NCAA basketball odds will have the numbers as soon as they're released. I'm projecting Wisconsin 6 point chalk along with 137 for the opening total.
Badgers, Gophers Set For Rubber Match
The Badgers and Gophers split their regular season meetings, each winning on their home court. Minnesota drew first blood Jan. 22, pulling off an 81-68 upset as a 3-point underdog. The Golden Gophers enjoyed one of their best nights offensively, connecting on nearly 59% of their shots and getting good looks from short-range.
Wisconsin (25-6 straight up, 14-15-2 against the spread) got even three weeks later in Madison with a 78-70 triumph, just missing the cover as 8.5 point chalk. The Badgers' final nine points in the rematch came from the free-throw line where they enjoyed a 30-15 scoring edge.
Both contests went 'over' the total after the previous three failed to reach the scoreboard hurdle. The two covers this season give Gopher backers the cash in four of the last five meetings. Minnesota holds a 96-89 advantage in the series as the Gophers and Badgers prepare for their 186 meeting.
Gophers Get Past Pesky Penn State In Round 1
Minnesota (20-12 SU, 13-15-1 ATS) closed its regular season schedule by sweeping a second game from Penn State last Sunday, 81-63, then made it 3-for-3 against the Nittany Lions in the opening round of the conference tournament on Thursday. Victory didn't come quite as easily as four days earlier.
Favored by 4.5 on the opening NCAA odds to the closing bell, Richard Pitino's group had a few points to spare in the 63-56 victory, but it wasn't necessarily a solid performance. The Nittany Lions somehow stayed in the game despite hitting less than a third of their field goals, including a miserable 5-of-21 from 3-point range, and outmuscled the Gophers on the glass 41-33, 15 of those boards on the offensive end.
The Golden Gophers also left nine points on the charity stripe (14-of-23), and needed an Andre Hollins bomb at the end to seal the deal.
Take a look at the top NCAA Basketball Championship Odds
First Tourney Meeting Between UW & UM In 10 Years
The last time Minnesota and Wisconsin met in a Big Ten Tournament game was 10 years ago when the Badgers were once again a 2-seed, only the Gophers went into that 2nd-round game from the No. 10 slot after upsetting Purdue a day earlier. A freshman by the name of Kris Humphries -- now better known as the former Mr. Kim Kardashian -- helped Minnesota get there, but Wisconsin shut him down to prevail and cover, 66-52.
That was Ryan's first Big Ten Tournament after taking over at Wisconsin three years earlier, and the Badgers would go on to win their first conference tourney title ever.
I'll be cheering for Ryan to take the Badgers all the way once again, but Friday, I'll mostly be looking for points with a free pick on the high side.
My pick: Wisconsin-Minnesota Over 137