Wisconsin at Michigan State Preview

TWO RED-HOT TEAMS BATTLE IN BIG 10 WHEN SURGING WISCONSIN VISITS #8 MICHIGAN STATE

We hadn't expected to be writing much about Wisconsin this season. They stumbled out of the gate...and looked to be a distant also-ran in a competitive Big 10 race. They weren't even in Bracketology discussions up to a few weeks ago. BOOM! Not only did the Badgers catch fire. But, they just DOMINATED nationally ranked power Maryland on the road this past Saturday.

Now, Wiscy is very much in play. It will take a while for computer rankings (dragged down by the early slump) to reflect current form. But, you have to take them seriously as a threat to make headlines in the Big 10 tournament and the Big Dance. If a team can win big at Maryland, they can win anywhere!

Standing in the way Thursday will be that big Sparty mascot...representing another red hot team. Michigan State has one of the weirdest resumes we've ever seen at the moment. You just saw in the headline that they're ranked #8 in the nation. Check out the Big 10 standings through Tuesday action...

Big 10 Standings (top contenders)
Iowa 11-2
Maryland 10-3
Indiana 10-3
Wisconsin 8-4
Purdue 9-5
Michigan 9-5
Ohio State 9-5
Michigan State 8-5

Yup. Michigan State is #8 in the nation, but only #8 in the Big 10! How is that possible? Even odder...they've been drifting backward in the standings despite a six game cover streak! Purdue, Michigan, and even Ohio State beat them to nine wins. Wiscy will try to do the same Thursday night on ESPN.

Let's see what JIM HURLEY'S key indicator stats have to say about what's shaping up as one of the most fascinating college basketball battles of the week...

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency
Wisconsin: 110.9 per 100 possessions (#52 in the nation)
Michigan State: 119.7 per 100 possessions (#4 in the nation)

You regulars know that we use Ken Pomeroy's publicly available database for our reports. Pomeroy actually has Michigan State as the #3 team in the country! Number three in the nation but number eight in the Big 10 standings. Unbelievable. Anything is possible when a quality team loses more than its share of nailbiters. Clearly an edge on offense here to Michigan State (though not as big as the kenpom.com rankings make it look because Wiscy is in such good form right now). It's not commonly realized that MSU has a GREAT offense. Their slow pace tricks people into thinking they struggle. On a per-possession basis, they've been a true elite this season.

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency
Wisconsin: 96.0 per 100 possessions (#41 in the nation)
Michigan State: 94.9 per 100 possessions (#26 in the nation)

Probably a dead heat once you factor in Wisconsin's recent form. It just took them awhile to figure things out. Good numbers nationally, but vulnerable once the best teams start playing each other. One reason the Dance could be really wide open this season is because so many respected teams aren't going to be great defensively when the elites play each other. Anyone could get taken out early too if they have a poor shooting game.

Pace Ranking
Wisconsin: #342
Michigan State: #225

Look for a very slow game. Michigan State doesn't mind bogging down, as they're slower than average to begin with. Wisconsin finally got things figured out at this slow pace, and has no motivation to kick things up a notch. Classic playoff style basketball is on tap...but with offenses that are more efficient than is realized because of the tricks that slow pace plays on the eye test.

Against the Spread
Wisconsin: 13-12 (seven in a row after 6-12 start!)
Michigan State: 16-9 (six in a row after 10-9 start!)

Wow...a team that's covered SEVEN in a row visiting a team that's covered SIX in a row! Hot squads playing with something to prove on national TV. Doesn't get any better than that. You can see how badly Wisconsin was overrated during their sluggish start. They've been very underrated (particularly at Maryland) since things started clicking. Michigan State may not recover from those early straight up losses in league play before the postseason. They're now actually very underrated too in market terms (possibly overrated by the computers and polls!).

Nice to have some pleasant surprises pop up on the February schedule. Even nicer to cash BIG, JUICY WINNERS! You can purchase JIM HURLEY'S BEST BETS every day right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about extended service through March Madness or the NBA Playoffs, please call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453 during normal business hours.

Great basketball continues on these pages...with some NBA jumping back into the NOTEBOOK mix...

Friday-Saturday: Kentucky at Texas A&M Saturday in the SEC
Sunday: Cleveland at Oklahoma City in the NBA (Lebron vs. Durant and Westbrook!)
Monday: Virginia at Miami in the ACC
Tuesday-Wednesday: Villanova at Xavier Wednesday in the Big East
Thursday-Friday: Cleveland at Toronto Friday in the NBA (Eastern Finals preview?)
Saturday: North Carolina at Virginia in the ACC
Sunday-Monday: Kansas at Texas Monday in the Big 12

Can you feel the energy building for the brackets? And, what about the buzz in NBA cities now that the playoffs aren't too far off? It's a great time to be a basketball fan. Even more fun when you GET THE MONEY with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!

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