Ohio State vs. Wisconsin Odds & Betting Pick: Back the Badgers in Top-25 Big Ten Matchup
Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: D’Mitrik Trice (0), Aleem Ford (2), Tyler Wahl (5), Micah Potter (11).
Ohio State vs. Wisconsin Odds
Saturday’s showdown between two of the Big Ten’s best teams could go a long way in sorting out the league standings, regular-season conference championship, and NCAA Tournament seeds come March.
This is the only time all year that Ohio State and Wisconsin will square off, with the Badgers lucky to be claiming home-court advantage.
Will Wisconsin able to hold serve with the conference leaders by stopping the potent Ohio State offense?
Ohio State’s Offense vs. Wisconsin’s Defense
The highlight of this matchup is the Buckeye offense versus the Badger defense.
KenPom pegs Ohio State as the fifth-most efficient offense in college basketball, though Wisconsin matches that mark with the fifth-ranked defense in Division I.
Ohio State will look to stretch the Wisconsin defense out and find lanes to attack off the dribble. The Buckeyes play an incredibly modern style of offense, relying heavily on 3-point attempts and trips to the free-throw line.
Ohio State leads the Big Ten in 3-point rate, launching over 44 percent of its field goals from outside the arc. The Buckeyes are also best in the conference in free-throw rate. No Big Ten team scores a lower percentage of its points on 2-point baskets than Ohio State.
That will test this Wisconsin defense, although Greg Gard’s smart, veteran-laden lineup is likely up to the challenge.
The Badger defense has allowed the lowest free-throw rate in Big Ten play, with Badger opponents managing just 11 free-throw attempts per game, the fewest in the conference.
Wisconsin plays old school, dug-in defense, but it does so admirably without fouling. The Badgers have the athleticism and the scheme to keep Ohio State penned in the midrange.
Wisconsin’s Offense vs. Ohio State’s Defense
While the other end of the court will be more hotly contested, the game may be decided when Wisconsin has possession.
The top-20 Badger offense should have an advantage against the 72nd-ranked Buckeye defense. That’s especially true given that Wisconsin’s biggest offensive strength should directly benefit from Ohio State’s biggest defensive issue.
The Badgers have posted the second-best turnover rate in the nation, coughing the ball up on just 12.5% of possessions. Only Villanova and Virginia commit fewer turnovers per game than Wisconsin.
On the flip side, Ohio State has struggled to cause turnovers. The Buckeyes sit last in the Big Ten in forced turnover rate and steal rate, leading to just 10.8 turnovers per game by Ohio State opponents. This discrepancy should result in extra possessions for the Badgers. In a game between two conference rivals, every added possession is a valued bonus.
During those extra possessions, Wisconsin is likely to use its size to its advantage.
Ohio State sports a talented frontline made up of EJ Liddell, Kyle Young, and Seth Towns, yet that trio tops out at just 6-foot-8. That should give the Badgers a leg up, with big men Micah Potter and Nate Reuvers likely to find shots over smaller Buckeye defenders.
Even Wisconsin forwards Tyler Wahl and Aleem Ford can match with the Buckeyes’ frontcourt, allowing the Badgers to stretch out the Ohio State defense and clear space in paint.
Potter and the recently-struggling Reuvers should have room to operate and find quality looks at the rim.
Betting Analysis & Pick
Add in home-court advantage, and the Badgers are the clear pick on Saturday.
Wisconsin has been one of the sport’s most reliable home-court defenders under Gard. Since taking the reins from Bo Ryan amidst the 2015-16 season, Gard has led the Badgers to a 72-16 (.818) record at the Kohl Center in Madison.
Even against conference foes, Gard stands at 39-14 (.736), which is well above the national average for home teams (.675).
Despite the lack of fans in the stands this season, the Badgers have been dominant at home, going 10-1 thus far this season. In six home games against power conference foes, Wisconsin is 5-1 with an average margin of victory of 13.3 points per game.
Ohio State is the best team the Badgers have played in Madison this year so far, but with an advantage on the offensive end of the floor, Wisconsin should be expected to take care of business.
If the line moves significantly toward the Badgers, the Buckeyes could become the more valuable play. With a line reflecting a three-possession game — 6.5 points or more — betting Ohio State would look a lot more attractive.
Pick: Wisconsin -6 or better.