The Wisconsin Badgers look to get back on track tonight in Big Ten college basketball action when they play the Illinois Fighting Illini. The game is scheduled for a 9 p.m. start time and it will be televised live on the Big Ten Network. Currently the odds for the game have Wisconsin favored by a couple of possessions on the road in this one.
What happened to Wisconsin? The Badgers had raced up to No. 3 in the national rankings before falling on the road to Indiana, getting beat up at home by Michigan and then getting drilled by Minnesota on the road. Then, after a win over Purdue, the Badgers dropped their next two games, at home, to Northwestern and Ohio State. We're surprised they are favored in this game on the road, where they are just 4-2 this season.
It's not going to get any easier for the Badgers — Wisconsin has to play Michigan State, Minnesota, Michigan and Iowa in their next four games. This game might be the easiest one in the next month for Wisconsin to win. But Illinois is a tough squad to play when they're at home.
Both of Illinois' wins in the Big Ten have come at home, in their first two games of the year. Since then the Fighting Illini have dropped seven straight and now sit in dead last for the conference standings. That's certainly not what Illinois fans want to see, but it is the product of playing in arguably the toughest conference in the country. Illinois has two straight winnable games on deck after this one, so a victory here could go a long way for the Illini.
Rayvonte Rice averages 16.5 points per game and he'll look to lead the upset big for Illinois. But Wisconsin, who used to be known as a slug-it-out, defend and rebound type of team, isn't playing that way anymore. Now the Badgers can't seem to rebound the basketball, they shoot poorly and nothing seems to be going their way.
But they'll look to get back on track with Sam Dekker leading the way. He averages 13.5 points per game while Ben Brust can man the guard position, connecting on almost 40 percent of his 3-point shots for the season. Wisconsin needs to play at a slower pace and get back to playing the way Bo Ryan teams play. They've gotten away from that this season and now are trying to find themselves.
While we think they can win, we are still going with Illinois in this one. The Illini need a home win more than anybody in the league right now and Wisconsin is still going to be stinging from a loss to Ohio State on Saturday in a game they should have won. Illinois can start to get their season back on track with a win here tonight. Wisconsin has a lot to lose in this one and they've just been struggling.
In the battle of two teams underachieving and struggling, we'll take the home team by a bucket.
Free Pick: Illinois 59, Wisconsin 57
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