Michigan State Spartans vs. Wisconsin Badgers Preview and Pick

Michigan State Spartans (22-5), +5.5, o/u 124 @ Wisconsin Badgers (23-4) -5.5, o/u, Kohl Center, Madison, Wisc., 9 p.m. Eastern, Thursday
by Oracle of Predictem.com

The 9th ranked Wisconsin Badgers put their Kohl Center mystique on the line when the 15th ranked Michigan State Spartans come to Madison in an important Big 10 showdown on Thursday.

Wisconsin is an impressive 14-2 at home on the year, but even more impressive is the 102-7 overall record at the Kohl Center under head coach Bo Ryan.

That right there gives bookies all the reason they need to make Wisconsin favorites, opening the line at 6.5. Meanwhile, the over/under comes in at 124.

The lines have already moved for Offshore Sportsbooks a full point to a 5.5 spread for Wisconsin. It seems as though the Badgers’ Kohl Center mystique isn’t affecting bettors.

The fact that Michigan State has stumbled lately, losing 3 out of its last 6, isn’t affecting bettors either. The Spartans lost those three games by an average of over 11 points, including an 85-76 loss against a struggling Penn State team.

The Spartans have bounced back well, though, winning their last two games by an average of 20.5 points. These two juggernauts in the Big 10 will meet for the first and only time in the regular season. The game will have major implications as far as conference standings goes as well, with Wisconsin in a three-way tie for first place and Michigan State two games out. In fact, if the Spartans lose this contest, they put themselves out of contention to take the Big 10 title.

In typical fashion, these two Big 10 teams play a physical style and have two of the better defenses in the nation. The Spartans hold opponents to 62.7 points per game (37th), while the Badgers are 2nd in the nation giving up just 55.3 points.

Wisconsin has held opponents to 50 points or under eight times this season. They are also 12th in the nation in defensive field goal percentage (38.7%). Currently, the Badgers are on a 4-game winning streak, including a 58-53 road win against Ohio State on Sunday.

Most of the time the Badgers lean on guys like Brian Butch and Trevon Hughes to take the brunt of the offensive load. However, the tandem combined for just 11 points on 3-of-16 shooting, making the victory against the Buckeyes that much more impressive.

Instead, Jason Bohanon led the way, tallying 16-points, which included 4 three-pointers, in a season-high 34 minutes. Bohanon has been a big part of Wisconsin’s winning streak, averaging 15 points per game, well above his season average of 8.2. Leading scorer Hughes (12.2ppg) has struggled of late, averaging just 7.8 points in his past 6 games, but has made up for it on the defensive side of the ball (2.1 steals per game).

The Spartans come into this contest with an impressive defensive resume, too, but its offense isn’t anything to be overlooked, either. They’re 10th in the nation, shooting 48.7% from the field. They have three players average in double figures, led by Raymar Morgan’s 15.3 points, and has a reliable backcourt that includes senior Drew Neitzel.

During their three losses in February, the Spartans averaged a ghastly 46 turnovers (15.3 per game). Not coincidentally, after a visit by former Spartan great Magic Johnson in Lansing last week, preaching to his alma mater about not turning the ball over, Michigan State has averaged just 6 turnovers in its last two wins.

Although Wisconsin is tough to beat at home, they have trouble covering the spread (4-9). In fact, the Badgers are just 1-9 ATS in their past 10 home games. Michigan State has had trouble covering the spread as of late, too, though. They’re just 1-4 ATS after a SU win and are 1-5 ATS in their past 6 Big 10 games.

The under is a big trend for both teams. The Badgers have come in under 13 of their last 16 games following a win ATS. T he under is 4-1 in Wisconsin’s last 5 home games as well.

The under loves it when the Spartans are an underdog up to 6.5, because it’s 13-3.

No doubt this game will be an evenly matched contest. With no head-to-head match ups this season, bettors have to ask themselves if the Kohl Center really provides that much to Wisconsin to make them a +5.5 favorite.

Oracle’s Pick: Wisconsin can play with anybody in the country, but the fact that they have a hard time covering at home makes it hard to pick them. Take Michigan State plus the points.