BIG TEST TUESDAY FOR BOTH #5 WISCONSIN, #14 MARYLAND IN BIG 10 TV SHOWDOWN

BIG TEST TUESDAY FOR BOTH #5 WISCONSIN,
#14 MARYLAND IN BIG 10 TV SHOWDOWN

The AP Poll is suggesting Wisconsin is about to play its toughest Big 10 game of the season. The #5 Badgers visit #14 Maryland Tuesday night in a game you can watch on ESPN. Nobody else in the league is even in the top 25 after Ohio State’s debacle at Michigan Sunday (Michigan State would be #27 if the rankings went down that far, Ohio State #30).

Yet…many respected computers don’t have Maryland so highly regarded. In fact, it’s one of the great mysteries of college basketball this season. How can a Maryland team that consistently plays so poorly on the road be considered a top 15 team by the national media?! Maryland lost by 19 at Indiana, 24 at Ohio State, and 16 at Iowa. Are pollsters just not paying attention?

Jeff Sagarin has them ranked #30
Ken Pomeroy has them ranked #39

The pollsters have Maryland clear of the Big 10 field (except for Wiscy). Pomeroy has Ohio State (#17), Michigan State (#18), and Iowa (#27) all ahead of Maryland. Both computers have Maryland rated close to Purdue and Indiana rather than the league powers.

Could pollsters be suffering from “recency bias,” where they are putting too much weight on strong recent run? No…it’s the OPPOSITE! Maryland has been mostly awful the past month, going 1-7 against the Las Vegas spread while barely eking out close wins as favorites, or getting spanked as dogs.

Well…you never know. This is the biggest home game of the year for Maryland in their new conference. They’d love to make a statement in front of a national TV audience. Their student body would love to storm the court and mug for cameras after an upset. The Terrapins are certainly capable of lifting their form for one big outing. Do they remember how to do that? Their only cover in that 1-7 ATS stretch was a 3-point win at lowly Penn State!

Fun challenge for handicappers. Let’s see what JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats have to say about what either is going to be a big game in the Big 12…or a phantom “blockbuster” involving one of the most glaring February pretenders…

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency
Wisconsin: 123.5 per 100 possessions (#1 in the nation)
Maryland: 108.5 per 100 possessions (#57 in the nation)

You regular readers know that Wisconsin has the most efficient offense in college basketball. They work the ball around for good shots…and hit a lot of treys. On a per-possession basis, nobody is better at the moment. There is some potential Pomeroy’s adjustments for strength of schedule don’t fully take into account the Big 10’s relative collapse this season. Wisconsin did lose a home game to Duke earlier this season you’ll recall. Maryland’s offense is not one that’s going to scary many opponents.

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency
Wisconsin: 94.9 per 100 possessions (#47 in the nation)
Maryland: 95.5 per 100 possessions (#56 in the nation)

Both defenses are vulnerable by Dance standards. Wisconsin creates the illusion of great defense because they play at such a slow pace. Possession-by-possession they become a little softer (which is why they couldn’t stop Duke down the stretch!). Maryland is a bit worse…and grades out in Pomeroy’s numbers as barely Dance caliber. How can you win on neutral courts in March if you’re not top 50 in either offense or defense?!

Pace Ranking
Wisconsin: #345
Maryland: #143

Maryland is faster than average…and will certainly try to pull Wisconsin out of the Badgers comfort zone by pushing pace. They have a chance to exploit that softer-than-realized Badgers defense if they can get down the court quickly for quick hitters. The last thing they want is to get dragged into a grinder against masters of the halfcourt game.

Against the Spread
Wisconsin: 14-12-1
Maryland: 9-14-1

Clearly the oddsmakers are paying too much attention to the polls and not enough to computers. Though, it’s possible even the computers are overrating Maryland given results of the past month. Wisconsin is almost always priced to perfection. They’re holding their own in that light. Maryland was only 8-7-1 ATS before that aforementioned slump.

JIM HURLEY is working very closely with his Big 10 sources to see if there’s an edge worth betting here. You get the sense that the line may be off by 10 points in either direction. “Recent” Maryland has little chance to compete with the best of Wisconsin. Yet, Maryland at its best can certainly spring an upset if the Badgers come in overconfident. You’ll be able to purchase the final word for Tuesday right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453 during normal business hours.

Our basketball travelogue continues tomorrow. Here’s what’s coming up over the next seven days…

Wednesday: College Basketball…Baylor at Iowa State in the Big 12
Thursday: NBA Special…Golden State at Cleveland on TNT
Friday: Early Look…Syracuse at Duke in the ACC
Saturday: College Basketball…Arizona at Utah in the Pac 12
Sunday: College Basketball…Michigan State at Wisconsin in the Big 10
Monday: College Basketball…Oklahoma at Iowa State in the Big 12
Tuesday: College Basketball…Kentucky at Georgia in the SEC

Big games every day as the road to MARCH MADNESS really heats up. Potential championship previews include Warriors/Cavs, Arizona/Utah, Michigan State/Wisconsin, and Kentucky/Georgia. What a great time for basketball lovers!

Get great handicapping tips here in the NOTEBOOK every day, then link up with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK for BIG, JUICY WINNERS!

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Jim Hurley on twitter @vsm_hurley
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