Kudos to the Big Ten for scheduling at least one game on Fridays this college basketball season, as that's usually the worst night of the week in terms of quality games. The lone matchup tonight is features a wildly inconsistent Indiana visiting No. 11 Wisconsin, the conference leader, with the Hoosiers as 11-point underdogs on the SportsLine consensus. Indiana is seeking its first victory in Madison this century.
We've probably established by this point what Indiana (12-6, 4-3 in the Big Ten) actually is this season: Good enough to beat bad-to-decent teams, but no match for the good ones. Take for example the Hoosiers' 20-point loss to then-No. 5 UConn, their 28-point loss to Auburn, and Tuesday's 21-point home loss to bitter rival No. 2 Purdue. That was Purdue's largest margin of victory in the series since the 2002-03 season and the largest in Bloomington since a 47-13 (34 points) win in 1934. The Boilermakers hadn't won at Indiana since 2021.
This is not an NCAA Tournament team as things stand – neither ESPN nor CBS Sports' Jerry Palm have Indiana even on the bubble – with a horrible NET rating of 100 that is behind the likes of Western Carolina, Louisiana Tech, UMass, Akron and Cornell among many other mid-majors. The Hoosiers are 0-5 in Quad 1 games, which this will be, but 10-0 in Quad 3 and 4 matchups. Indiana isn't even the second-best team in the state. No. 1 would obviously be Purdue, but the Ohio Valley Conference's Indiana State (No. 25 in NET rating) looks like a dangerous team.
Wisconsin was picked to finish fifth in the Big Ten, but the Badgers always seem to overachieve and lead the conference by a game. They're coming off their first league loss, a 87-83 setback at Penn State – a very tough place to win. When you think of Badgers basketball, you probably think low-scoring defensive games. But this year's squad is offensively and just OK on defense. The Nittany Lions became the fourth team this season to shoot better than 50% overall against Wisconsin.
"We've got a ways to go," head coach Greg Gard said of his team's defense after the loss. "I've thought that all year. We are not where we need to be and can be and should be."
Led by AJ Storr's 15.3 points per game, including 17.0 PPG in Big Ten play, Wisconsin averages 75.6 PPG, which would be the team's highest scoring mark since a 77.9 PPG showing in the 1993-94 season. The Badgers have scored at least 70 points in 11 consecutive games, the team's longest such streak since they did it for 13 in a row in 1970-71. That group set the school record with a 86.3 PPG mark. Getting to the free-throw line has been key this season. Wisconsin has made nearly as many free throws (271) as its opponents have attempted (279).
ESPN currently has Wisconsin as the No. 2 seed in the South Region of the Big Dance, while Palm has it as a No. 2 in the East. Wisconsin is +900 to make the Final Four for the first time since losing in the 2015 national championship game to Duke. You may remember that Badgers club upset an unbeaten Kentucky team (featuring four first-round picks, including Karl-Anthony Towns and Devin Booker) in the Final Four.
It's very tough to win in Madison. It's not like Indiana hasn't had good teams this century, yet the Hoosiers haven't won there since Jan. 25, 1998, the second men's game ever played at the Kohl Center. Indiana is 0-12 against ranked Wisconsin clubs there. The Badgers' 19-game home winning streak in the series is their second-longest active home streak vs. a Big Ten opponent, trailing a 22-game run vs. Penn State. Those are the two longest active home winning streaks by one Big Ten school over another. The 19-game streak is also tied for the longest ever by a school at home against Indiana – Purdue did it in West Lafayette from 1901-1922.
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