Rutgers vs. Wisconsin Odds, Picks & Predictions: Big Ten Basketball Betting Preview (Saturday, Feb. 12)
Rich Schultz/Getty Images. Pictured: Geo Baker.
- The underdog Rutgers Scarlet Knights (+8.5) go on the road to face the Wisconsin Badgers on Saturday, Feb. 12 at 2 p.m. ET.
- The point spread opened at Wisconsin -8.5 and has stayed there. The over/under has crept up slightly from 129.5 at open to 130.5 a few hours before tipoff.
- Check out our Rutgers vs. Wisconsin college basketball betting preview, which includes updated odds, picks and predictions for Saturday's Big Ten matchup.
Rutgers vs. Wisconsin Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
Rutgers is having one of the odder seasons in college basketball this year. The Scarlet Knights have been radically inconsistent, with big wins and equally big losses dotting the schedule.
In November, Rutgers lost three straight games to DePaul, Lafayette, and UMass. For context, Lafayette’s second-best win, by KenPom ranking, is over 292nd-ranked Army. Rutgers has continued its roller coaster ride into Big Ten play, with losses to some of the conference’s also-rans, namely: Maryland, Minnesota, Penn State, and Northwestern.
On the other end of the spectrum, Rutgers has wins over Purdue, Michigan, Iowa, Michigan State and Ohio State, all top-30 teams, per KenPom. The Scarlet Knights have been like a boxer stumbling around the ring, but with the pop of a real haymaker every round or two.
Saturday, it’s the Wisconsin Badgers donning the gloves to dance with Rutgers, looking to avoid an upset at home in Madison.
The Rutgers roster that Steve Pikiell has built over the last several seasons has always had intriguing pieces.
Ron Harper Jr. is a hot-and-cold player, but when he’s hot, looks like a future NBA player and a brutal matchup for most college teams. Geo Baker can make shots that few players would even dream of taking. He also takes a few shots that he should have never dreamed of taking either.
Around the Rutgers’ scorers, there had been role players but none that could be relied on to be a difference maker.
That has changed in recent weeks. Junior guard Paul Mulcahy has exploded onto the scene. Mulcahy had always been a great glue guy, playing smart basketball on both ends of the floor, yet he was not the kind of player to assert himself offensively.
In Rutgers’ first 19 games, Mulcahy averaged 6.7 points and 5.2 assists, with 7.2 field goal attempts and only 16 total free-throw attempts. Over his last four games, something has awakened in Mulcahy. In that stretch, he’s posting 17.0 points, 6.8 assists, and 5.5 rebounds per game, taking 10.5 shots from the field on average. He has taken more free throws in those four games than in the previous 19 contests.
Mulcahy isn’t going to wow anyone with his athleticism or shooting, but he is a very cerebral player with the ball in his hands. He finds a way to get to his spots and uses his height to open up his court vision and find open teammates.
In recent weeks, he’s called his own number a lot more often, and it has unlocked something for Rutgers. Mulcahy is forcing defenses to shift and making life a lot easier for Harper and Baker to find quality looks instead of settling for tough contested jumpers.
Over the last several seasons, Wisconsin has fielded some talented but flawed basketball teams. Those Badgers teams often fell into the same trap. They were defined by their perimeter players, mostly D’Mitrik Trice and Brad Davison, but also perimeter drifting big men like Micah Potter and Nate Reuvers.
The resulting offenses were often bland and lacked any real punch. In 2020 and 2021, Wisconsin ranked 31st and 82nd nationally in 3-point rate, taking a ton of long balls.
Those teams also ranked 307th and 297th in the nation in free-throw rate. The ball swung outside the perimeter all the time, yet no one on the Badgers had the initiative or athleticism to force the issue in the paint.
This year, sophomore Johnny Davis has made a leap into the All-American conversation and has made Wisconsin’s offense much more potent. The Badgers rank 136th in free-throw rate and 211th in 3-point rate, providing a more balanced attack. Davis ranks fourth in the Big Ten in fouls drawn per 40 minutes, quite the feat in a conference saturated with elite low post big men.
The attention paid to Davis by opposing defenses opens up his teammates to play more effectively on the offensive end.
Davison, in particular, has been much more useful this season compared to last year. Last season, Davison shot 23% on 2-point baskets in Big Ten play. With Davis lightening his load, Davison has been a more useful cog in the Badger offense, already scoring more points in 23 games this year than he did in 31 games last season.
Rutgers vs. Wisconsin Betting Pick
There are two major variables to consider when evaluating this game.
First, Rutgers has not been the same team on the road that it has been at home in Piscataway. All of the Scarlet Knights’ big wins this season have come within the comfy confines of the RAC.
Rutgers is just 2-7 away from home, with none of those wins coming against top-100 competition. That’s not a good sign.
Rutgers has, however, looked like a different team in recent weeks. The Scarlet Knights are 3-1 in their last four since Mulcahy has broken out on the offensive end. That stretch included a road win at Nebraska and an overtime loss at Northwestern in which Rutgers had 17 turnovers, shot 22% from long range, trailed by 24 in the second half and still managed to reach overtime.
Over the entire season, BartTorvik’s T-Rank metric ranks Wisconsin as the 18th-best team in the nation and Rutgers 96th. Change the filters on that metric to only include games since Jan. 26, and those numbers jump to Wisconsin ranked 35th and Rutgers right behind at 46th.
I don’t quite trust these Scarlet Knights to steal a road win over a ranked opponent just yet, but I do think they have developed into a much better team than we saw in the nonconference slate.
I like Rutgers’ chances to cover this spread.