Let me be the first to tell you that I never could have predicted the paths these two teams would take early in the season. The Nittany Lions were on nobody’s radar, now firmly sitting as a potential Big Ten sleeper contender. Wisconsin has proven to be as resilient as ever, even after losing key playmakers heading into the season. With intrigue at an all-time high for these two programs, who will come out on top in this Big Ten matchup?
Penn State Vs. Wisconsin Odds
Even in the midst of a three-game losing streak, oddsmakers believe the Wisconsin Badgers will get back on track by opening them as a slight favorite at -1.5. Bettors are in agreement, already taking them up to -3 in some shops. This is heavily predicated on the return of their best player in Tyler Wahl as he is the cornerstone of their offensive success. He was absent in their last three games with an injury, severely missing his offensive production by losing all three.
Speaking of offensive production, points are expected to be scored at a premium as oddsmakers opened the total at 129.5. Bettors have failed to make a stand on either side of the total, keeping the current number the same since the open. The game script calls for a slow, methodical, style of play as both units run at a below average pace and set up their offense through half court sets. This bleeds time off the clock and makes every possession that much more valuable as they will be limited.
Penn State Vs. Wisconsin Prediction & Pick
The Pick: Wisconsin -2
In light of the Tyler Wahl return news, I will back the Wisconsin Badgers as their offensive production should round back into form. It has been ugly in his absence with the Badgers looking as anemic and discombobulated as ever while trying to find high quality looks. With no true number one scoring threat, their team play broke apart in high pressure situations against respectable defenses.
Without Wahl, their offense has dipped to 129th in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency per Kenpom. With Wahl back in the lineup, the Badgers can run their offense the way they have been accustomed to with an inside-out style of play that saw success early into the season.
Wisconsin will look to dictate their level of tempo, one that is similar to Penn State, and facilitate the offense down low to Wahl. This gives him the option to attack the rim if he likes the position and matchup or kick it back out to the perimeter for an open three-point look.
Even though Penn State’s defense has been respectable with a 75th ranked Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, they will be hard pressed to limit this style of play. They are severely limited in size with only one productive big man, and they struggle mightily at limiting perimeter looks. This plays exactly into Wisconsin’s offensive style of play.
If the Badgers can continue to take care of the ball at an elite level, as well as keeping Wahl out of foul trouble, then they should have no issue in getting the open look from the perimeter that they are searching for. A sharp contrast to their recent offensive performances.
Penn State Vs. Wisconsin Key Matchups
Can the Wisconsin defense limit the red-hot shooting Nittany Lions?
Penn State three-point shooting vs Wisconsin perimeter defense
Unlike their offense at this point of the season, the Badgers defense is once again elite with a 25th ranked Adjusted Defensive Efficiency. It’s business as usual as they specialize in flying towards the ball and smothering opposing looks into low quality shots whether it is at the perimeter or near the rim.
This will be especially vital in this matchup as Penn State is one of the best teams in the nation at creating and finishing their high quality looks. A majority of all their scoring production is from their guard play in half court sets that position them into open looks around the perimeter.
Wisconsin’s defense should continue to play at an elite level and smother the Nittany Lions jump shots into low quality looks. This bodes well for our Badgers tickets as Penn State is one of the worst offensive rebounding units and will face limited second chance opportunities against Wisconsin’s elite rebounding grade.
Back the Badgers at no higher than -3.5 with the return of Wahl in what will be an exciting Big Ten matchup.