(10) Davidson Wildcats (28-6), +4.5, o/u 126.5 vs. (3) Wisconsin Badgers (32-4), -4.5, o/u 126.5, Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan, 7:10 p.m. Eastern, Friday
by Oracle at Predictem.com
If there were any real Cinderella team so far in the tournament, Davidson is that team.
Davidson, a liberal arts school in North Carolina consisting of just 1,700 students, have arguably the nations best shooter in sophomore Stephen Curry along with the top assist leader in senior Jason Richards. They’ve beaten two teams with Top 10 defenses in the first two rounds of the tourney, knocked out a team in Georgetown that many thought had Final Four written all over them, and used two ginormous second half comebacks to advance to the Sweet 16.
Add it all up and it looks as if the shoe fits the Wildcats perfectly.
They keep telling everyone, though, that they aren’t done yet. The Wisconsin Badgers will have something to say about that when they take on Davidson on Friday at Ford Field in Detroit.
Wisconsin may be one of the most overlooked teams in the country, probably because of their archaic, antiquated, methodical offense and their acute attention to detail on defense. Either way you slice it, head coach Bo Ryan has his Badgers playing their best basketball of the season with the help of the nation’s top defense.
The Badgers give up a miniscule 53.9 points per game best in the country and hold opponents to just 38% from the floor (3rd) and 30.5% from beyond the arc (11th). They’re riding a 12 game winning streak heading into the game against Davidson and have held opponents to an average of under 50 points per game in their last nine.
With that winning streak has come a 9-1 record ATS in their last 10 overall games. Wisconsin opened up this game as favorites -5 at many online sportsbooks. Slowly, that number has dropped to -4.5 and even -4 at some sites on the net. The over/under currently stands at 126.5.
Davidson has busted many brackets so far, but with a win against Wisconsin, their run will be a historic one. Curry has been on an absolute tear, scoring 70 points in the first two games against Gonzaga and Georgetown.
Davidson was down the entire game against Gonzaga until eight minutes left, and after Curry’s 30-point second half, including a big three-pointer in the final minute and two free throws to ice the game, yes, a star was born.
As hard as this act was tough to follow, Curry admirably displayed his competitiveness against Georgetown, scoring 25 of his 30 points in the second half, as his team was down 17 points at one time in the second half. Curry was a big part of a 16-2 run, including a four-point play, and made six free throws down the stretch to ice the game.
So, who will have the unenviable task of trying to guard Curry? None other than Michael Flowers.
Flowers is known as one of the Big 10’s top defenders, coming in second in the Big Ten Defender of the Year voting. He’s dealt with the likes of Drew Neitzel of Michigan State, E’Twaun Moore of Purdue and Eric Gordon of Indiana. But this will be different, guarding a guy who scores 25.7 points per game and runs through an insane amount of screens, showing off his quick trigger and keen shooting touch.
Without a doubt, this will be the match up to watch. Nevertheless, Georgetown did take advantage of Davidson inside, and they shot 63% from the floor. But 20 turnovers did them in. Look for Ryan to go to 7-footers Brian Butch and Greg Steimsma to pound down low.
Many thought Ryan would have to deviate from his “Ryan Rules” of defense against Kansas State and Michael Beasley in their second round contest. Nope. His team played their style of defense, giving up just 55 points to one of the nation’s best offenses.
The Badgers have many under trends. Not surprising considering they have the nations best defense. The under is 6-0 in their last six non-conference games. It’s also 4-1 in their last five neutral site games. Wisconsin does well covering the spread as a favorite, going 8-1 ATS in their last nine.
The Wildcats are pretty good themselves ATS, going 5-0 in their last five as underdogs. They’re also 7-1 ATS in their last eight on neutral ground.
An X-factor in this game could be the play of Trevon Hughes, both offensively and defensively for Wisconsin. Hughes has come up big during tourney time, averaging 16.5 points per game. His defense on Richards could help the Badgers keep the ball out of Curry’s hands.
However, as most teams have found out, it’s easier said than done. Will the Cinderella run continue?
Oracle’s Pick: Davidson is good, no doubt about it. The Badgers, though, will frustrate them all night long. Take Wisconsin minus the points, especially if the line keeps moving down, and the under!