Wisconsin To Win, But Rutgers To Cover In Big Ten Opener

Rutgers Scarlet Knights player in action

Willie Bee

Tuesday, December 27, 2016 1:37 PM GMT

Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2016 1:37 PM GMT

It's a short slate Tuesday on the college basketball betting card, but it's still significant as the Big Ten begins conference play, including a clash between Wisconsin and Rutgers.

The first part of the 2016-17 college basketball season had its share of excitement and upsets, but now it's time to get on with the meat of the campaign with conference action. The Big Ten does just that starting tonight, and helping tip things off is a battle in Wisconsin between the Badgers and Rutgers Scarlet Knights.

It can bee seen on ESPN2 starting at 7 PM (ET), and Wisconsin is 20 point chalk at 5Dimes after the spread opened -18. Tuesday's total has dropped from 128 to 125.

Though still new to each other as conference rivals, the series actually dates to 1949 as they meet for just the sixth time. Wisconsin has won four of the previous five, Rutgers' only win coming in January 2015 in the first Big Ten clash between the schools, the Knights posting a 67-62 decision in Piscataway over then-No 4 Wisconsin as 15 point underdogs on the NCAA basketball odds. The Badgers were -16½ a year ago when they scored a 79-57 takedown of Rutgers, and the teams meet again about a month from now in New Jersey.

 

Off To Fast Start, Knights To Face Toughest Competition Yet

Steve Pikiell's first season running Rutgers (11-2 straight up, 5-2 against the spread) hoops is off to a white-hot start. The 39-year-old former point guard at UConn left Stony Brook after 10 seasons to get the Scarlet Knights turned around, and it's looking too easy so far with the team already having posted more wins than the two previous seasons.

Both losses came on the road, at Miami where Rutgers did manage to cover, and just before Christmas at Seton Hall where the Knights blew a 9-point lead in the first half to fall 72-61. Other than the Hurricanes and Pirates, the competition has been pretty light, including Pikiell taking his new team back to Stony Brook earlier this month and needing to rally for a 71-66 victory in an unlined affair.

 Could Badgers Be In Look-Ahead Spot?

Greg Gard's biggest job in this one will be to keep his Wisconsin (11-2 SU, 6-4 ATS) team from looking past Rutgers and ahead to some bigger, older rivals in the next couple of weeks. The Badgers follow this up with trips to Indiana and Purdue next week, then come back home to Madison to host Ohio State and Michigan.

Since losing the finals of the Maui Invitational to North Carolina, Wisconsin has sailed past 7-straight opponents, missing just one cover in that span. The most recent win, a 90-37 rout of Florida A&M, was really nothing more than a walk-through for the Badgers as Gard rested most of his starters and used his entire bench last Friday.

Rutgers will play at a faster pace than what Wisconsin saw from the Rattlers four days ago, and the Scarlet Knights will obviously present more of a challenge on the boards. I'm taking the points for my free college basketball pick.

 

Free NCAAB Pick: Rutgers +20 Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

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