(6) Wisconsin Badgers (-14) vs. Michigan Wolverines
Tomorrow, the Michigan Wolverines (16-15, 8-10 Big Ten) and the No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers (28-3, 16-2 Big Ten) will meet for the second time this season (12:00 p.m. Eastern at the United Center in Chicago).
This time around, a loss could spell the end of the Wolverines’ season.
The game will be part of the quarterfinals of the Big Ten conference tournament. According to ESPN’s latest projections, the Wolverines are currently on the outside looking in with respect to a March Madness berth. Unless Michigan takes down the Badgers tomorrow, the team has likely played its last meaningful game of the year. (Or maybe you consider the NIT “meaningful”.)
These two programs already met on January 24 in Ann Arbour. The road Badgers came out on top in OT, 69-64. Wooden Award contender Frank Kaminsky led the team with 22 points and nine rebounds.
“He’s one of the best players in the country,” Badgers coach Bo Ryan said of his superstar forward. “I don’t say that very often because I let other people judge. Frank means a lot to this team.”
Despite most pundits agreeing that Michigan actually played one of its better games of the season in the OT loss, Wolverines coach John Beilein wasn’t buying it.
“The pats on the back about ‘good game’ — I absolutely hate after a loss,” said Beilein back in January. “At the same time, when we go over what needs to be fixed tomorrow, we’ll also be showing what’s been fixed.”
The Wolverines came into the year ranked in the top-25 and reached as high as No. 19 in the polls. But the top-heavy team really struggled in Big Ten play after losing leading scorer Caris Levert for the season in late January. At one point, Michigan lost five in a row, and they managed just three conference wins after Levert went down.
They managed to down Rutgers in the last game of the regular season, though, 79-69, and carried that momentum into a 73-55 demolition of Illinois in the first round of the Big Ten tournament yesterday (covering the spread as 4.5 points underdogs).
Freshman guard Aubrey Dawkins came up huge in his Big Ten tournament debut, scoring 18 points on 8/12 shooting.
Tomorrow’s game will be the first of the tournament for the No. 1-seeded Badgers, who have won 13 of their last 14, overall. The team will be hoping it still has some momentum from a 72-48 demolition of Ohio State in its last game of the regular season (which saw the Badgers make a mockery of the 1.5-point spread).
The team has already punched its ticket to March Madness thanks to a 28-3 regular season. A strong showing in the Big Ten tourney would likely secure a No. 1 seed.
The Badgers are currently 14-point favorites for tomorrow’s game against what is sure to be a tired Michigan team.
Trends: Wisconsin has won four of the last five head-to-head and 16 of the last 20. However, they have covered the spread in just two of the last five.
(Photo credit: White & Blue Review (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/legalcode].)