Saturday's college basketball odds card includes 19 ranked teams on the docket, and getting it all rolling is a Big Ten rivalry in Madison where the No. 5/4 Wisconsin Badgers host Minnesota.
College basketball coaches can be get pretty intense at times, even ones who run what is perceived to be a staid and methodical style like Wisconsin's Bo Ryan. A former Badgers player was once asked how wound-up Ryan could be on the sidelines at times, and he recounted a 30-second timeout during which his head coach dropped the F-bomb 31 times.
Sitting alone at the top of the Big Ten standings, Wisconsin begins its final push on the regular season schedule with a visit from the Minnesota Golden Gophers, whose fans have been known to drop the F-bomb back on Ryan when he comes to town. An early noon (ET) battle on Saturday, ESPN will broadcast the clash which finds the Badgers favored by 14½ and the live NCAA basketball betting odds still awaiting the total.
The first of two quick meetings at the tail end of the Big Ten fixture, the 187th matchup in the rivalry finds the Gophers with a 96-90 lead in the series. Minnesota and Wisconsin split their two regular season matchups a year ago, each recording a dubya in front of their home fans and the Golden Gophers covering both times.
Wisconsin took the rubber match during the conference tourney, an easy 83-57 decision to easily best a -5½ line. The Badgers have won the last four in Madison, Minnesota's most recent victory at Kohl Center taking place in 2009, but Wisconsin backers have dropped the cash in four of the last five on this floor.
Tough Season Continues For Pitino, Gophers
Everything unraveled for Richard Pitino and Minnesota (16-11 straight up, 9-14-1 against the spread) at the start of the Big Ten schedule. A New Year's Eve loss at Purdue to begin the conference slate was followed by four more setbacks, and the Golden Gophers were suddenly 0-5 in the league before anyone knew what happened.
Things haven't really gotten any better despite five wins over the next nine games, and dragging a 2-game skid into this matchup. At 102 in the latest RPI -- No. 49 in BPI and 65th on Ken Pomeroy's list -- the Golden Gophers are in real danger of missing out on even a CBI invite in the postseason unless there's a strong push the next couple of weeks.
Minnesota is in the middle of the Big Ten pack in many offensive categories for conference action, and towards the bottom of the list on defense, including scoring (67.3 ppg) and opponents' shooting (44.9% fg).
Badgers Aim To Extend 9-Game Win Streak
The general consensus is that Ryan has eased up some on his Wisconsin (24-2 SU, 14-11-1 ATS) team and opening up his more disciplined style. Just checking the scoring columns even lends credibility to that notion with the Badgers 60th in the nation averaging 72.7 PPG, second in the Big Ten for conference contests (71.8 ppg).
Scoring may be up a bit, but Wisconsin basketball is still very much alive and well under Ryan. The Badgers have one of the slowest paces of any team in the country, 345th out of 351 teams plodding through 60.2 possessions per game, and playing mistake-free remains a priority with only 7.4 turnovers a night, far and away the fewest in the nation.
A bigger fan of Bo Ryan, one cannot find, and I'm hopeful the Badgers win going away. Still, the spread seems a bit high, so I'll take the points and get behind the Gophers for my free college basketball picks.
Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Minnesota +14.5 at 5Dimes
Season: 51-44-2 (+2.6)