#23 Illinois (13-2, 2-0) at #4 Wisconsin (15-0 ,2-0)
Defense and More Defense
There’s a reason why Wisconsin is in the top 25 every season and that’s because of their defense. This is a team with no definitive go to guy, but has players like Ben Brust who can hit timely shots and play solid defense. The Badgers have one of the more impressive resumes in college basketball with several wins over top rated programs. In fact, they had to work a little harder, but managed to defeat Iowa in their last game, 75-71.
Wisconsin had to come from behind in this game as they were trailing by double digits at halftime. Coaches should never have a negative effect on the outcome of a game, but in this one, Iowa head coach, Fran McCaffery, was hit with back to back technical fouls.
The clutch player that Ben Brust is, he sunk all 4 of the foul shots to give the Badgers the momentum in this game. Brust isn’t the most gifted player on Wisconsin, but in years past, he’s had a flair for the dramatics. Don’t look at the numbers with Ben Brust as he’s the most important player on the Badgers squad. That said, Brust led the Badgers with 19 points against Iowa. He must now focus his attention on an equally tough squad in the Illinois Fighting Illini.
Wisconsin has held their opponents to under 70 points in 12 out of 15 games.
For Illinois, guard Rayvonte Rice, is the go to guy and although his shooting has been off a bit as of late, he’s still found a way to play a major role in each and every game. This is a player that’s a great rebounder for his height due to his large frame. He can score, frequents the foul line, hits 3-pointers, and plays great defense.
Rice is the entire package and the main reason why Illinois is an elite basketball team. He’s averaging 20 points and 6 rebounds in his last 5 games. Wisconsin’s defense will be his biggest test to date.
Illinois is a huge 10 point favorite in the NCAA basketball odds for this game and although they’re undefeated, the point spread is way too high. Take the Fighting Illini in an easy cover.
Pick - Illinois +10 at Bet 365
Harvard (13-1, 4-1) at Connecticut (11-3, 0-2)
Can the Ivy League Hang With the Big Boys?
I love matchups like this because usually a good Ivy League team crumbles when they meet a team in a better conference. That said, Harvard has always been the top dog in the Ivy League and Connecticut could be tested. The Huskies are a moderate 4.5 point favorite which means that Harvard is getting a bit of respect by the sportsbooks and deservedly so.
There has been lots of talk about Shabazz Napier and could he take it to the next level? (NBA). Kemba Walker wasn’t a great shooter with UConn and he’s a fairly successful player with the Charlotte Bobcats. Napier is cut from the same cloth and is a bit bigger in stature and a better rebounder.
Baseball has its “5-tool players” and that’s what Napier would equate to as a basketball player. He’s a good scorer, can rebound, is a good passer, can pick the opponents pockets, and is good for an occasional rejection.
On the season, Napier is averaging 16 points, 6.4 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 1.9 steals per game. He’s also a 46.8% shooter from 3-point land and a major reason why Connecticut is knocking on the door of the top 25. Harvard’s defense will have its hands full as they usually don’t play against a player of the caliber of Napier.
Who Has Harvard Beaten?
Outside of the Ivy League, the Crimson haven’t beaten any team that comes from a big conference. Their only opportunity came against Colorado and it resulted in their only loss of the season. The Crimson lost by 8 points, but it shows you that the best from the Ivy League can’t compete with the better teams in the ACC, Big-Ten, and Pac-12.
The Crimson are led by guard-forward, Wesley Saunders. Saunders has played well as of late, averaging 19.5 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 steals in his last 2 games. Expect Saunders to get his points, but can the rest of the team provide enough support to keep this game close or possibly upset the Huskies?
Siyani Chambers is one player that will have to do a “360” if he expects his team to compete with Connecticut. Chambers is coming off of a dismal 0 for 9 shooting performance in a win over Rice. Shabazz Napier will eat this point guard alive if he brings that type of game into the Gampel Pavillion.
Harvard should make this respectable, but Connecticut will show why the Ivy League is a class below their squad as they cover the point spread.
Pick- Connecticut -4.5 at Bet 365