Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, March 15, 2013 at 9:00 PM
Though Indiana won the Big 10 regular season championship this year in impressive fashion. There was one team they didn’t beat. That was the Wisconsin Badgers…who stormed into Bloomington and stunned the Hoosiers 64-59 in the only meeting between those teams this season.
You know Indiana would love a shot at redemption. But, you also know that Wisconsin is ideally suited to beat Indiana because of the way they play.
*Wisconsin is very patient, which makes it difficult to hurry them into mistakes
*Wisconsin is great defensively, which exploits Indiana’s tendency to play out of control
*Wisconsin can make treys consistently, which gives a team a chance to play with anybody
A great test for handicappers…as the matchup elements that favor Wisconsin as a dangerous dog line up against the intangibles that favor Indiana as a fired up and talented favorite. Let’s run the game through JIM HURLEY’S gauntlet of indicators.
Wisconsin: 22-10 (12-6 in the Big 10)
Indiana: 27-5 (14-4 in the Big 10)
Indiana’s only non-conference loss was to Butler in a game you probably watched on TV. That’s another smart team that worked for good shots and took advantage of Indiana miscues. We’re not saying Indiana is in deep trouble. But, this style of play is kryptonite for their approach. If it doesn’t matter today, it would easily matter in the Big Dance if Indiana runs into a smart opponent.
Wisconsin: #13 with Sagarin, #11 with Pomeroy
Indiana: #2 with Sagarin, #3 with Pomeroy
These were the rankings as of game time Friday with Jeff Sagarin of USA Today, and college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy, so it’s possible that Wisconsin moved up a bit off their underdog win over Michigan. Indiana is still in line for a #1 seed nationally with those numbers…clearly one of the best teams in the country. Wisconsin is capable of playing with anybody, though they are prone to lose focus against lesser lights (which happened vs. Purdue on Senior Day). The computers are saying Wisconsin should be a #3 or #4 seed, which is consistent with what we saw in their win over respected Michigan.
COMPUTER STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE RANKINGS
Wisconsin: #6 with Sagarin, #11 with Pomeroy
Indiana: #22 with Sagarin, #21 with Pomeroy
Great schedules for both…with Wisconsin in particular challenging themselves in pre-conference action. Remember, they only played Indiana ONCE, yet they still grade out with a top six schedule according to Sagarin. These teams are battle tested already, and it’s not like things are about to get easy for either.
WON-LOST RECORDS VS. SAGARIN’S TOP 50
A few ways to look at this. Indiana has been much better vs. top competition. But, they’ve also lost five times…which means you shouldn’t be penciling them automatically for a Final Four visit in a few weeks. They’re only winning two-thirds of their tough games. If they play three tough games before the Final Four, they might be watching on TV with the rest of us. Wisconsin’s record suggests they’re more of a spoiler than a team that can reach the Elite Eight. They can play with anybody in a way that creates too many coin flips. Scary team…but probably not national championship material unless things break just right. Big 10 championship material? We’ll see.
JOE LUNARDI’S BRACKETOLOGY
Wisconsin: projected #5 seed
Indiana: projected #1 seed
Wisconsin may have nudged up to a #4 seed by the time you read this. They should have been there all along! We would have them as a #4 in our proprietary rankings. Definitely a Sweet 16 type battle today in Chicago between these two teams. And, we need to emphasize again that Wisconsin won in Bloomington.
POMEROY’S ADJUSTED OFFENSE RANKINGS
Moving to the chess match, Indiana has the best offense in the country when you adjust for tempo and strength of schedule according to Pomeroy. They can score inside and outside. They attack the basket in a way that creates free throw opportunities. They have offensive rebounders who can put back misses. Lethal. Wisconsin barely cracks the top 50…which is part of why they’re so vulnerable against lesser teams. It can be hard for them to pull away if the treys aren’t falling. You saw a few dry spells Friday vs. Michigan in that ugly first half.
POMEROY’S ADJUSTED DEFENSE RANKINGS
This is where Wisconsin stays in the game. Great defense can trump great offense, particularly if the referees are letting the kids play. This really matters against Indiana, whose guards play erratically when pressured in close games. Wisconsin will guard the basket, box out, and try to force turnovers. A top five defense facing a top five offense is going to be something special to watch! Indiana’s defense is top 15, which may or may not be enough to get the job done in a few weeks. The reason they’re favored by a respectable margin today is that a #1 offense and a #13 defense balances out very well against a #4 defense and a #49 offense. Wisconsin can’t afford any offensive dry spells in this one.
POMEROY’S ADJUSTED TEMPO RANKINGS
Big differences here. Indiana couldn’t force its preferred tempo in the regular season meeting even though the game was in Bloomington. Playoff basketball often slows things down because every possession matters so much to both teams. Basically, Indiana will try to push from the get-go to try and take Wisconsin out of its comfort zone. The Badgers will try to keep things slow and steady so they can win the race.
JIM HURLEY has a fairly strong opinion about what’s going to happen here based on what he’s hearing from his on-site sources in Chicago, and what his computer simulations are saying about how the game is most likely to play out. But, it might not make the final cut of BEST BETS because there are so many great options available on the Saturday card.
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