No. 22 Wisconsin (18-6, 7-4 Big Ten) AT Minnesota (17-7, 5-6 Big Ten)
Time: 7 p.m. (6 p.m. CT)
Location: Williams Arena in Minneapolis, Minn.
Wisconsin 31 (No. 5 Big Ten)
Minnesota 49 (No. 8 Big Ten)
Line: Wisconsin -1½ (O/U 112)
Wisconsin Players to Watch: G Jordan Taylor, 6-1 Sr. (14 ppg, 4.4 apg, 4.1 rpg); C Jared Berggren, 6-10 Jr. (10.5 ppg, 5 rpg, 35.4% 3s); F Ryan Evans, 6-6 Jr. (10 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.1 bpg). Taylor went 159 minutes without a turnover until he committed one with 12:43 left against Ohio State. He finished the loss with 12 points, six assists, three rebounds, two steals and three turnovers.
Minnesota Players to Watch: F Rodney Williams, 6-7 Jr. (10.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 57.2% FG); G Julian Welch, 6-3 Jr. (10.2 ppg, 2.7 apg, 45.3% 3s); G Chip Armelin, 6-3 So. (6.5 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.2 apg). Armelin is coming off the best performance of his career, putting up 15 points (on 7-of-11 shooting), five rebounds and three assists in 24 minutes of the Gophers’ 69-61 win at Nebraska on Sunday.
Storylines: Ohio State ended Wisconsin’s 6-game winning streak – and likely its bid to win the regular-season Big Ten championship on Sunday. Still, the Badgers are 7-4 in the conference after starting 1-3. The Gophers are 5-6 in the Big Ten after Sunday’s win over Nebraska and are hanging around on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
Keys: Wisconsin is 5-2 in true road games this season, including a 4-1 mark in the Big Ten, and the Gophers are 12-2 at Williams Arena this season, including big victories over Northwestern and Illinois in their last two home games. The Badgers are surrendering just 54 points and 36.9 percent from the field in conference road games. However, they have shot just 31.7 percent and have scored 52 points or fewer in their last two trips to Minneapolis (both losses). Wisconsin shots just 40 percent and was 5-for-27 from 3-point range in Sunday’s loss to Ohio State. The Gophers shot 54 percent from the floor and 41.2 from the 3-point line in Saturday’s triumph at Nebraska. However, they went 8-for-16 from the line and are just 17 of their last 30 at the charity stripe. Both teams have very balanced offenses. Only Taylor averages more than 10.5 points for either team. Minnesota has superior depth, going 10 deep comfortably. Five players off the Gopher bench average at least 10 minutes per game. Led by Armelin, the Minnesota bench outscored Nebraska’s 40-7 on Saturday. Minnesota is 14-3 this season and 79-38 all-time when it outscores the opposing bench under coach Tubby Smith. Wisconsin leads the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 49.8 points per game and it is second to Kentucky in field goal defense at 36.5 percent. Minnesota is third in the Big Ten in field goal percentage, connecting on 47.5 percent of its shots and 36 percent of its 3-pointers. Led by Ralph Sampson’s 1.3 blocked shots per game, the Gophers lead the Big Ten at 5.4 swats per contest. That’s 22nd best in America. The Gophers are second in the conference with 16 assists per game (behind Michigan State’s 16.2), good for 20th in the country. However, the Gophers turn the ball over a league-high 14 times per game (tied with Nebraska). The Badgers are the Big Ten’s best, committing just 8.8 errors per contest. Minnesota leads the “Border War” series, 94-85 over Wisconsin, including a 61-31 record at home against he Badgers all-time.
The Bottom Line: Minnesota’s height, depth and athleticism – particularly that of Williams and Welch – could be tough for the Badgers to handle. Throw the homecourt advantage and their desperation to stay in NCAA Tournament and the Gophers have an excellent shot at pulling off a minor upset.
The Pick: Minnesota 64, Wisconsin 59
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 58-34