The college basketball season’s final day will be highlighted by a Big Ten rivalry game between the no. 5 Iowa Hawkeyes and the no. 25 Wisconsin Badgers. The Hawkeyes are favored by 5.5 points at home, with the over/under set at 144 points.
The Badgers have tumbled late in the season, losing four of their last five games, falling to 10-9 in Big Ten play, and just 16-10 overall. Wisconsin hasn’t won consecutive games since January 20, struggling to find consistency in the gauntlet that is the Big Ten. After back-to-back losses to Illinois and Purdue, the Badgers risk losing three in a row heading into the Big Ten Tournament, all while their NCAA Tournament seed continues to fall.
Meanwhile, the Hawkeyes are moving in the opposite direction, winning six of their last games, including a blowout of Nebraska earlier in the week. If Iowa can stay hot and have a good showing in the Big Ten Tournament next week, the Hawkeyes still have a chance to earn a no. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Every Which Way
Iowa is arguably the most dynamic offensive team in the country. The Hawkeyes are averaging over 85 points per game and lead the nation in assists with 19.3 per game. Of course, everything revolves around Luka Garza, who is likely to win National Player of the Year honors. The 6’11” senior was averaging 23.9 points per game and dropped 30 on the Badgers when these teams met last month.
However, the Hawkeyes are far from a one-person team. Junior guard Joe Wieskamp is the perfect complementary piece, averaging 15.1 points per game thanks to lights out shooting from the perimeter at 48.1%. Iowa has four players who hit at least 40% from three-point range. That includes the versatile Garza and CJ Fredrick, who has made 50.7% of his long-range shots this season. Many of that success shooting the ball comes from Iowa’s willingness to pass the ball and find open shooters.
Slow It Down
The Badgers take a more methodical approach to offense, as Wisconsin likes to slow down the tempo, which is why the Badgers average under 70 points per game. Like Iowa, the Badgers have multiple shooters on the floor at all times. The difference is they only shoot 35.1% from three-point range as a team, with all of their top shooters hitting less than 40% of their perimeter shots.
The Badgers are also overly reliant on senior point guard D’Mitrik Trice, who leads the team in scoring and assists. Trice was held to 10 points against Purdue in a sluggish effort. Even with four other players reaching double figures, it wasn’t enough for Wisconsin. Senior forward Micah Potter has also had some ups and downs during the team’s recent slump. The same is true of senior guard Brad Davidson, who has been held to four points or less three times in his last seven games. Trice’s efforts have rarely been enough in Big Ten play without significant contributions from the Wisconsin supporting cast.
Less than three weeks ago, Iowa beat Wisconsin 77-62 in what was a masterful offensive game by the Hawkeyes, who shot 51% from the field and 63% from the perimeter. Iowa also dominated on the boards despite a double-double from Potter. This could be another mismatch for the struggling Badgers. Bet on Iowa to win and cover on Sunday.
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