College Basketball Odds & Picks for Wisconsin vs. Rutgers: Ride the Scarlet Knights at RAC

College Basketball Odds & Picks for Wisconsin vs. Rutgers: Ride the Scarlet Knights at RAC article feature image

John Fisher/Getty Images. Pictured: Tyler Wahl #5 of the Wisconsin Badgers.

  • Wisconsin travels to the RAC to face off against Rutgers, a team that has been nearly unstoppable at home this season.
  • The Badgers are playing for the Big Ten regular-season title while the Scarlet Knights are on the cusp of the NCAA Tournament.
  • Shane McNichol breaks down the big matchup and offers up his best bet.

Wisconsin vs. Rutgers Odds

Saturday, Feb. 26
6 p.m. ET
Big Ten Network
Wisconsin Odds
-110o / -110u
Rutgers Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute college basketball odds here.

Every Saturday game in late February carries some extra weight, and that is particularly true of today's meeting between Wisconsin and Rutgers.

The Badgers have their sights on a regular season Big Ten championship, currently one loss behind Purdue with a home date with the Boilermakers upcoming next week.

For Rutgers, this game is a massive chip in their quest to build a resume worthy of an NCAA Tournament berth. BracketMatrix currently has the Scarlet Knights as one of the final teams in the field, projected to earn a First Four matchup in Dayton. A win over Wisconsin would help move Rutgers further from the cut line and closer to an opening game in the Round of 64.

On a day with dozens of great games, this one is among the best. Both teams are desperate for a late-season victory, and the crowd in Piscataway, NJ will be rocking.

Wisconsin Badgers

The entire college basketball community, including media, fans, bettors and analytics gurus, have been knocking Providence for skating by with some unbelievable luck in close games this season. While the Friars' 10-1 record in games decided by 5 points or fewer (or in overtime) has been shocking, it has also overshadowed Wisconsin's similarly lucky run up the polls.

The Badgers lead the nation with 15 wins by a scoring margin of 8 points or fewer. Wisconsin also reports an eye-popping 15-2 record in games decided by that margin (including, funnily enough, a 5-point loss to Providence).

Some of this can be explained away. Johnny Davis has been magnificent all season, worthy of his candidacy for National Player of the Year, and he's been particularly valuable during crunch time. Furthermore, the entire Badgers team is well-suited for the closing moments of a close game. Wisconsin's five most-frequent free throw shooters have all hit better than 70% at the line, led by Brad Davison at over 89%.

As we enter March, this phenomenon will weigh heavily on Wisconsin's chances to advance in the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments. If the Badgers get roped into a low-possession game and shoot poorly (Wisconsin has the worst 3-point percentage in Big Ten play), then the door is open for a team to take advantage and send the Badgers packing.

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Rutgers Scarlet Knights

It has been a tale of two seasons for the Scarlet Knights. Rarely do teams struggle with the ease of non-conference play before rebounding to perform well in one of America's best conferences.

That's exactly what has happened with Rutgers. In November, the Scarlet Knights lost three straight games to DePaul, Lafayette and UMass. The feel-good vibes of last season's NCAA Tournament berth felt like a lifetime ago.

Rutgers was able to pull a U-turn and recover its season, beginning with an upset victory over then-top-ranked Purdue.

The Scarlet Knights' magic in their home gym (once and forever known as The Rac, new corporate sponsorship be damned) continued. Rutgers boasts home wins over Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa, Ohio State and Illinois this season. Even by holding serve with home wins in a stacked Big Ten, Rutgers started to climb into the NCAA Tournament bubble conversation.

That conversation became much louder when the Scarlet Knights finally earned a significant win on the road, winning at the Kohl Center over Wisconsin.

The change in Rutgers' fate has come as junior Paul Mulcahy grew from a glue guy into a playmaker. His growth has made life on the offensive end of the floor much easier for scorers Ron Harper Jr. and Geo Baker.

Rutgers is no longer asking those players to create magic with step-backs and isolations. As the Scarlet Knight offense became more balanced, space opened for shooters and slashers to operate.

Wisconsin vs. Rutgers Betting Pick

By record and by most models, Wisconsin is supposedly the better team here. Yet, given what we've seen of late, I'm less confident that is the case.

Filter Bart Torvik's T-Rank model to only include games from February, and Rutgers has been one of the 25 best teams in the nation this month. Wisconsin — despite a 5-2 record in February — notably ranks 39th by that same measure.

Add in Rutgers' home-court advantage,  and the Scarlet Knights look even better. The Scarlet Knights have covered in nine of their last 11 home games, including outright wins as a home dog in each of their last four games at The Rac.

Rutgers is built to slow this game down and challenge Wisconsin in the halfcourt. Not many teams have as many rangy, athletic wings to bother Johnny Davis as Rutgers does.

With Rutgers coming off a disappointing performance against Michigan on Wednesday — and Wisconsin possibly looking ahead to Purdue — I'm eyeing a Scarlet Knights win by at least a few possessions.

Pick: Rutgers -2.5 or better

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