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Wisconsin vs Northwestern Odds and Picks

Blair Johnson

by Blair Johnson in College Basketball

Feb 20, 2021 · 5:18 PM PST

Micah Potter, Forward, Wisconsin
Wisconsin's Micah Potter (11) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Iowa Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, in Madison, Wis. Iowa won 77-62 (AP Photo/Andy Manis)
  • The Northwestern Wildcats (6-13, 3-12 Big Ten) host the Wisconsin Badgers (15-8, 9-7 Big Ten) Sunday, Feb. 21
  • Wisconsin has lost three of four while Northwestern has lost 12 straight
  • Read below for odds, analysis, and our best bet for this matchup

The Northwestern Wildcats (6-13, 3-12 Big Ten), in full free-fall mode after losing their 12th straight game Tuesday, host the Wisconsin Badgers (15-8, 9-7 Big Ten) Sunday, February 21 in Evanston. Tip is set for 7pm ET at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

After opening the 2020-21 campaign with an 8-1 mark and being ranked as high as No. 4 in the AP poll, the Badgers have been wildly inconsistent. They have not won consecutive games since beating Rutgers, then the Wildcats 68-52 Jan. 20. In the eight games since, UW has gone 3-5 and lost to all four ranked teams it played in the stretch. It’s been even worse for Chris Collins’ club. Any optimism from NU’s 6-1 start is long gone thanks to twelve straight losses since somehow knocking off current No. 4 (and then-No. 23) Ohio State 71-70 back on Dec. 26.

Now, Greg Gard’s guys are favorites as they go for the season sweep on the North Shore after losing at home to Iowa 77-62 Thursday.

Wisconsin vs Northwestern Odds

Team Spread Moneyline Total
Wisconsin -6.5 (-110) N/A Ov 131.5 (-110)
Northwestern +6.5 (-110) N/A Un 131.5 (-110)

Odds taken Feb. 20 at FanDuel

Going Low

Outside of the Bo Ryan salad days of the mid-2010s — when the Badgers were putting up high point totals on a nightly basis — Wisconsin has had a defense-first mindset. But this season’s version is taking going low to an extreme. UW has only gone north of 68 points in a game twice over the last 11 outings — and those were 71 and 72-point efforts. Thursday’s outing against the Hawkeyes may have been the nadir.

Wisconsin hit just four of its first 30 shots, including an astonishing 1-of-18 inside the arc. UW also had a 1-for-12 stretch late in the second half. The Badgers finished at 30-percent overall from the field for the game, including a woeful 8-of-36 on 2-point attempts.

Senior forward Micah Potter had 23 points and 11 rebounds against Luka Garza and Co. But if Bucky can’t convert bunnies against Northwestern, the Badgers could be in trouble Sunday.

Miller Time

The Wildcats have been in trouble since miraculously beating the Buckeyes the day after Christmas. Since that one-point victory, Northwestern has been in a death spiral. The latest blow came Tuesday, falling to in-state rival Illinois 73-66.

The team’s leading scorer, Chase Audige (who is averaging 13.3 points per game), put up a game-high 22 in the loss. The team’s third-leading scorer, Pete Nance, added 14. But second-leading scorer Miller Kopp only had six on a 3-for-8 shooting night (and 0-for-4 from beyond the arc). By comparison, Audige and Nance combined to put up 30 field goal attempts and 13 shots from distance.

The team’s best 3-point shooter simply needs to get more shots from beyond the three-point line.

Northwestern hung with Illinois for 30 minutes without Kopp getting going. But the Wildcats eventually succumbed to a more a talented team. Collins has talented players who possess grit. But NU’s margin for error is razor-thin in a talent-laden league and needs Kopp to get loose to have a chance against the likes of Wisconsin.

History on Badgers’ Side

UW has knocked off NU five straight times including that 16-point victory earlier this season. And while the Badgers are 0-5 against teams that are above them in the Big Ten standings, Gard’s group has gotten fat against inferior competition  The Badgers are 9-2 against teams below them in conference play, losing only to Maryland and Penn State.

Another factor to consider Sunday is Wisconsin’s ability to stave off extended losing streaks. The loss to Iowa was the first time the Badgers had lost consecutive games all season. The last time the program has lost three straight was during the 2017-18 season, when it lost five in a row. Incidentally, UW finished 15-18 that year, the only sub-.500 season the program has had since 1997-98. The Badgers simply don’t lose multiple games in a row.

So, with a UW victory all but assured, can the Wildcats beat the spread? During NU’s 12-game losing streak, the program has only had two games decided by less than four points. That’s an alarming trend.  The Wildcats may have some good players, but I’m fading them in this spot against a Badger team that is simply better.

The pick: Wisconsin -6.5 (-110)

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