NCAA Tournament Odds: Wisconsin, Kansas State collide in desert

By: Stephen Nover | Friday, March 18, 2011

Did you really think Belmont could upset Wisconsin in the first-round of the NCAA Tournament?

That didn’t happen with the Badgers winning 72-58 on Thursday as four-point favorites with the combined 130 points going ‘over’ the 128-point total. Belmont came into the game putting up 79.7 points per contest, 13th-best in the nation.

There was a lot of anti-Wisconsin sentiment going into that matchup after the Badgers were blown out by top-ranked Ohio State, 93-65, as eight-point road ‘dogs in their final regular season game.

The Badgers followed that up with an embarrassing, 36-33, loss to Penn State as 7 ½-point favorites in their opening Big Ten Conference Tournament matchup.

But now oddsmakers believe the fourth-seeded Badgers are back on track installing Wisconsin as a 2 ½-point favorite against fifth-seeded Kansas State in a second-round Southeast Regional game in Tucson, Ariz., Saturday at 5:40 p.m. PT on TNT. The ‘over/under’ is 127.

This is the 13th straight year Wisconsin has made the NCAA Tournament, the last 10 under Bo Ryan. The Badgers, however, are 2-9 ATS the past 11 times they’ve been favored on a neutral court.

Guard Jordan Taylor and 6-foot-10 forward Jon Leuer are outstanding players for Wisconsin. Taylor averages 18.1 points per game and led the nation with a 4.2 assist-to-turnover ratio.

The Badgers, though, are in trouble if they’re not connecting from three-point range. They missed 19 of 21 from beyond the arc against Penn State, but connected on 12 of 22 versus Belmont.

Taylor made five-of-nine 3-pointers against Belmont in scoring 21 points. Leuer scored a game-high 22 points.

Wisconsin is among the worst at defending the 3-pointer ranking 315th. The 24-8 Badgers are very strong in other areas, though.

Wisconsin is the best foul shooting team in the country making 82 percent of its free throws. The Badgers also rank No. 1 in assists-to-turnover ratio committing less than eight turnovers per game and rates third in the country in defense giving up only 58.3 points a game.

The ‘under’ has cashed in nine of Wisconsin’s past 11 non-conference games. The Badgers have also gone ‘under’ 70 percent of the time during their past 65 games following a pointspread cover.

Kansas State entered the tournament winning eight of its last 10. But the Wildcats, 23-10, also lost in their conference tournament opener. Colorado defeated Kansas State in a first-round Big 12 Conference Tournament game, 87-75. The Wildcats were two-point favorites with the combined 162 points going ‘over’ the 147 ½-point total.

It has been an up-and-down season for the Wildcats. They were 12-3 entering their Big 12 slate. The Wildcats then dropped five of their first seven league games before getting hot, including upsetting then No. 1 Kansas, 84-68, as six-point home ‘dogs. Jacob Pullen scored a career-high 38 points.

Starting with that huge emotional beating of Kansas, the Wildcats have won seven of eight, going 6-2 ATS.

Pullen, a senior guard, leads the Wildcats in scoring at 19.6 points a game and also is No. 1 on the team in assists and steals.

Battling a flu bug, Pullen scored a game-high 22 points and dished off five assists in Kansas State’s, 73-68, opening NCAA Tournament victory this past Thursday against 12th-seeded Utah State. The Wildcats were two-point favorites with the combined 141 points going ‘over’ the 128 ½-point total.

Pullen lacked energy against Utah State despite his fine statistics, Kansas State coach Frank Martin said.

Pullen, whose physical condition obviously is a big key, played against the Badgers in the 2008 NCAA Tournament in Omaha, Neb. Wisconsin defeated Kansas State, 72-55, as 4 ½-point favorites.

Pullen, a freshman at the time, was held to four points in 22 minutes on two-of-seven shooting from the floor.

Kansas State is 3-7 ATS the last 10 times it has been an underdog. The Wildcats are 4-9 ATS following a straight-up victory.

The ‘over’ has cashed in four of Kansas State’s last five games. The Badgers also have gone ‘over’ in four of their past five matchups.

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