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February 9th 2014 - Posted 11:00 AM Eastern Time

There were two other teams we leaned towards today but ultimately the Badgers are the only team worth wagering on.

Take Wisconsin at -3.5 spread against Michigan State risking 2%

Much like our selections on the Kansas State Wildcats and SMU Mustangs yesterday, this game shows similar traits. There is no question Michigan State is one of the top teams in the Big 10 this season. They have a veteran squad and a Hall of Fame caliber coach in Tom Izzo whom we are big fans of. Wisconsin on the other hand, has hit a wall recently dropping 5 of their last 7 games after starting the season marvelously going 16-0. This recent skid includes an uncharacteristic 3 straight home losses! For the Badgers, this is unfamiliar territory and this 3-game home losing streak is the very first under Bo Ryan. It is very interesting then that the linemakers have installed the Badgers (5-5 in conference play) not only as the favorites in this game, but 3 point favorites even though the leading Spartans (9-1 in conference play) have managed to win the last 5 meetings between these two teams! That in itself is a very telling sign.

The truth is that Wisconsin is still a quality team and the average gambler is extremely fickle. They have a hardnosed defense that has regularly shut down opposing offenses, especially at the Kohl Center. Michigan State has been plagued with injuries this season and have used 12 different starting lineups over their last 18 games! While it has worked out for the most part, the constant shifting of players and disruption of the team chemistry can only last so long and they face a stiff test today an extremely motivated Badgers team today. Senior guard Keith Appling has been ruled 'doubtful' for this game and this will mark only the second time in his career that he has missed a game. Appling is a veteran leader and hands out the most assists. His ability to distribute the ball and find the open man has been key to MSU's success. Appling also provides a spark on offense and accounts for an average of 15 points per game. Against a stingy Badger defense, those points could be at a premium. While MSU is used to playing with a make-shift team, they have only had to do so without their PG leader just once! (last game)

The Badgers are used to playing a slow methodical pace. Like the Spartans, they play solid defense and limit their opponents' ability to score. In what could be a fairly defensively game, the advantage will lie with the team in the comfort of their home court. Wisconsin also holds the edge on the free throw line averaging about 24 trips to the charity stripe per game and converting at a higher percentage than MSU. Oftentimes it is the team who makes their foul shots in the final minutes that not only wins but gets the cover as well. Spartans have made less than 70% of their FTs on the season that number should dip without Appling.

The Big 10 has long been regarded as the "toughest" conference in the world of college basketball and for good reason; just about each and every matchup is worth watching. Up until this point in the season, it has been Wisconsin who has played the statistically tougher stretch of games. They are battle tested and won't be intimidated by the Spartans coming to town. As we said earlier, this is a desperate Wisconsin team. They are currently sitting at 5-5 in the conference and have lost 3 straight homes games. Another loss here would be absolutely devastating and potentially cause them to drop out from the tournament next month! MSU however is in a safe position. While we have no doubt that the Spartans will be competitive, it isn't the end of the world for them if they drop to 9-2 in conference or 20-4 after today and that's what we expect will happen. They can chalk that up and move on but the same can't be said for Wisconsin.

A lot of the public are backing Michigan State in this game but public perception is a bit skewed given the Badgers' recent skid. The motivation and will of a truly desperate team should not be underestimated. This is the prime spot for the Badgers to re-legitimize themselves and turn their season around for a final push come tournament time. Much like Cincinnati last night, Michigan State may be the more popular team with the current better record, but this is a key game for the home team and one they will give maximum effort in. Lay the points with the Badgers as they remind everyone that they are still a capable team.

Other notable facts to consider:

  • Big 10 home favorites of 4 points or less are 5-2 ATS.
  • Wisconsin is 23-9 ATS as a home favorite of 3.5 to 6 points since 1997.
  • Home team is 14-6 ATS in the last 20 meetings between these two teams!
  • Favorites is 7-3 ATS the last 10 meetings

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