Free Picks: Wisconsin Badgers vs Iowa Hawkeyes

Wisconsin vs Iowa NCAA Basketball
Wisconsin Badgers vs Iowa Hawkeyes, NCAA, Kohl Center

The Wisconsin Badgers (15-7, 9-6 Big Ten) suffered just their second home loss of the season on Sunday, and now they’ll turn around to avenge that defeat against the Iowa Hawkeyes (15-6, 9-5 Big Ten) on Thursday. This is the first of two meetings between these schools during the 2020-21 season, and it will be a test of the Hawkeyes’ top 10 offense matching up with the Badgers’ top 10 defense.

Inside its friendly home confines, Wisconsin hopes defense reigns supreme

It’s a funny coincidence that the Wisconsin Badgers’ apparel sponsor is Under Armour, because that company’s old “protect this house” slogan applies perfectly to how Wisconsin has fared during the 2020-21 college basketball season.

The Badgers have effectively protected the Kohl Center to the tune of an 11-2 home record this season, a record they’ll hope to improve on Thursday against the visiting Iowa Hawkeyes. Iowa is equally adept at home (11-2), be merely mediocre on the road (3-3).

Still, given how these teams have arrived at this juncture in mid-February — with Iowa ranked No. 11 and Wisconsin ranked No. 21 — the latest NCAA basketball odds should reflect a tight point spread that offers similar value on both sides. The Hawkeyes might be slight favorites (you’ll have to check your sportsbook closer to tip off),  but for now, we’ll make our BetPicks prediction based on how these teams compare in the context of a money line selection.

Iowa has arguably the NCAA Division I’s most lethal offense, ranking first overall in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric. The Hawkeyes turn the ball over the least of any team in the country (13 percent of possessions) and they assist on 64.5 percent of made baskets (fifth in D-I). We’re talking about a disciplined, unselfish offense here.

Wisconsin’s offense is well above average — and they turn the ball over in just 13.4 percent of possessions — but their defense deserves higher praise. The Badgers rank ninth in D-I in adjusted defensive efficiency, sporting top-40 numbers in effective field goal percentage allowed, 2-pt. shooting and offensive rebound rate allowed.

So then, what wins out: offense or defense?

It’s never that simple, of course, but you can only fill your head with so much information before making a selection. We know the Badgers are excellent at home, save for losses to No. 3 Michigan and No. 4 Ohio State.

If the Badgers can slow Iowa’s star forward, Luka Garza (coming off eight points on 3-for-11 shooting), this is their game to win.

Stats

  • Wisconsin is 5-5 ATS in its past 10 games
  • The UNDER has cashed in seven of the Badgers’ past 10 games
  • Iowa is 4-6 ATS in its past 10 games
  • The UNDER has cashed in seven of the Hawkeyes’ past nine games

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Jordan Horrobin is a freelance sports journalist based in Toronto, Ontario, who enjoys sports-related research and telling engaging stories. His work can also be found at Sportsnet, Forbes and elsewhere. Though he abandoned most of his team-specific fandoms in the interest of unbiased analysis, Jordan roots hard for his fantasy football/hockey teams (and he's a complete homer for all things Ohio University). You can follow Jordan on Twitter at @JordanHorrobin

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