Rutgers Rarely Wins Big Ten Games & Won't vs. Wisconsin, Either

Matthew Jordan

Thursday, January 4, 2018 6:02 PM UTC

Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018 6:02 PM UTC

As usual, it’s a light slate of NCAA basketball action on Friday, but there are a few games involving Power 5 teams. Could Rutgers get a rare Big Ten win with Wisconsin in town?

Wisconsin Badgers at Rutgers Scarlet Knights (+2.5)Free NCAAB Pick: Badgers -2.5Best Line Offered: BetOnline

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Tip-off for this Big Ten matchup is 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2 from scenic (sarcasm) Piscataway, N.J. There are too many teams in the Big Ten for them to all play each other twice per regular season, and this is the only scheduled meeting between the Badgers and Scarlet Knights.

Last year, the Badgers swept as one would expect considering they were a very good team and Rutgers sucked as usual. It was 72-52 in Madison but just 61-54 in overtime in a Rutgers “home” game at Madison Square Garden. UW had to outscore Rutgers 13-4 to close regulation simply to earn OT. Wisconsin was just 3-for-25 from long range in the game.

Wisconsin leads the all-time series 6-1 and is 1-1 in Piscataway. The home team has covered the NCAAB odds in the past four meetings.

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ICYMI: @BadgerMBB defended home court Tuesday as B1G play got back underway. 👏

— Wisconsin On BTN (@WisconsinOnBTN) January 3, 2018

Badgers Coming Around?

Wisconsin (9-7 SU, 6-8-1 ATS) is one of just a few teams to have reached the NCAA Tournament every year this century, but that streak is in jeopardy. The Badgers lost a lot of talent off last year’s club that finished 27-10 and lost on a buzzer-beater in the Sweet 16 to Florida (easily the shot of the tournament).

UW’s two leading scorers from last year, Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes, both moved on. Last month, Coach Greg Gard, who has four new starters, lost freshman guard Kobe King to a season-ending knee injury and sophomore guard D’Mitrik Trice to foot surgery that could keep him out until February. Trice was averaging 9.4 points and playing a team-high 31.5 minutes per game, while King was averaging 5.2 points in 19.0 minutes.

Gard does have one of the Big Ten’s best players in junior forward Ethan Happ, the only returning starter who is averaging 17.1 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists. He is only major conference player averaging at least 16.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg and 3.0 apg. There’s just not much after him and freshman guard Brad Davison (11.9 ppg) right now.

The Badgers started 4-7, albeit with quality losses to the likes of Xavier, Baylor, UCLA, Virginia, Temple and Marquette, but have won five straight. They knocked off visiting Indiana 71-61 on Tuesday, a 16th straight home win over the Hoosiers. During first 11 games, Wisconsin shot 44 percent from the field and averaged 66.1 points per game. In the past five, those numbers rise to 53 percent and 79.4 ppg.

Rutgers’ first basketball season in the Big Ten was 2014-15 and the Knights were 2-16. The next year, it was 1-17. Last year: 3-15. And so far in 2017-18: 0-3. So, yeah, this program is a bit overmatched. The Knights (10-6 SU, 5-3 ATS) are off an 82-51 loss at No. 13 Purdue on Wednesday, so it’s a quick turnaround. It was Rutgers’ worst loss under second-year coach Steve Pikiell.

There’s one player on Rutgers who could start at many Big Ten programs and that’s junior forward Corey Sanders, who puts up 13.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. Geo Baker (11.9 ppg, 3.8 apg) is a very promising freshman. Pikiell seems to have the program moving on the right track.

The Verdict

Had this spread been a few points bigger, I likely would have taken the points. Rutgers is 5-1 ATS at home, losing very competitive games to Michigan State and Florida State and upsetting then-No. 15 Seton Hall. It was RU’s first win over ranked team since shocking No. 4 Wisconsin 67-62 on Jan. 11, 2015. The Badgers’ current winning streak, meanwhile, all came at home. They are 1-2 SU & ATS on the road, and that lone victory was by just one point at Penn State. But at such a small number, I'm taking Wisconsin.

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