Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#717 Wisconsin vs.
#718 Penn State
Wednesday, February 8, 2023 at 8:30pm EST
Written by Michael Briggs

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The Wisconsin Badgers will pay a visit to the Penn State Nittany Lions Wednesday for a conference clash from the Bryce Jordan Center. Tip-off from University Park, PA, is at 8:30 p.m. ET. The Nittany Lions are 4.5-point spread favorites and the game total is 126.5 points.

Wisconsin, 13-9 SU and 9-13 ATS, lost 54-52 to Northwestern on Sunday. The Badgers are 1-4 in their past five and 5-7 in Big Ten competition.

Penn State, 14-9 SU and 12-10-1 ATS, lost 72-63 at Nebraska on Sunday. The Nittany Lions are 2-3 in their past five and 5-7 in conference play.

Wisconsin beat Penn State 63-60 on Jan. 17 at home. The Badgers erased a six-point halftime deficit to pull out the win. PSU outshot UW from the field and held its own on the glass but was held to 24 second-half points. Wisconsin leads the series 43-11.

It's now or never for the Badgers to prove they're contenders

The Badgers are 13-9 overall, but they've lost seven of their past ten since Big Ten play kicked into full swing. The remainder of Bucky Badger's regular season schedule isn't forgiving, either. It's time to see what Wisconsin is truly made of.

Northwestern escaped Madison with a two-point win on Sunday, earning its first sweep of its neighbors to the north since the 1995-96 season. Wisconsin scored only 23 first-half points but trailed by just three at halftime. The Wildcats outrebounded the Badgers 33-26 and shot 46.7 percent from the field, holding their opponents to 38 percent shooting. UW never led by more than a basket in the home loss.

Wisconsin scores 64.5 points per game (335th) and shoots 41.7 percent from the floor (317th), including 36.1 percent from three-point range (75th). It converts 65.0 percent of its free-throw attempts (336th) and averages 28.7 rebounds (323rd) with a -4.6 rebounding margin. The Badgers are ranked 153rd in schedule-adjusted offensive efficiency and 244th in effective field goal percentage (49.1%).

Sophomore guard Chucky Hepburn paces Wisconsin in scoring this season. He averages 12.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1.7 steals per game. He shoots 39.4 percent from the floor but hits 47.4 percent of his three-point attempts (2.1-4.4). Other Badgers to watch are junior forward Steven Crowl (12.0 PPG and 6.9 RPG), senior forward Tyler Wahl (11.8 PPG and 5.6 RPG), and freshman guard Connor Essegian (11.0 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 43.4 3PT%).

Wisconsin gives up 62.7 points per game (27th), and its opponents shoot 43.9 percent from the floor (210th), including 32.8 percent from long range (139th). It's 23rd in defensive efficiency, 348th in adjusted tempo, and 35th in assist-per-turnover ratio.

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PSU is 2nd nationally in assist-per-turnover ratio

Penn State may be just 5-7 in Big Ten play, but I can assure you no one is glad to see them on their upcoming schedule. The Nittany Lions can make their tenth-ever NCAA Tournament appearance with a solid finish, setting them up to deliver some March Madness to brackets.

The Lions are 2-4 in their past six, but with eight regular season games remaining, there's still enough time for them to get right before the Big Ten Tournament kicks off in Chicago on March 8. However, they'll need to play much better than they did on the road at Nebraska last game to make a statement in Chi-Town.

In the nine-point defeat, Penn State was outscored despite taking nine more shots than Nebraska. The Cornhuskers were 27-for-51 (52.9%) from the field, while the Nittany Lions were 24-of-60 (40%). Penn State jacked up too many three-pointers (14-for-38) and didn't get to the foul line often enough (1-of-4). The Huskers recorded 17 assists on 27 made field goals and narrowly edged the Lions on the boards.

Penn State scores 72.5 points per game (158th) and shoots 46.0 percent from the floor (96th), including 38.4 percent from three (18th). It converts 76.0 percent of its free-throw attempts (24th) and averages 30.3 rebounds (271st) with a -3.1 rebounding margin. PSU is 26th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 16th in effective field goal percentage (55.3%).

Senior guard Jalen Pickett leads the Lions in scoring. He averages 17.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 7.0 assists per game with a 50.9 field goal percentage. Other players to watch are senior guard Seth Lundy (14.8 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 44.8 3PT%), senior guard Andrew Funk (12.8 PPG, 40.8 3PT%), and senior guard Camren Wynter (7.6 PPG).

Penn State surrenders 67.4 points per game (119th), and its opponents shoot 42.6 percent from the field (126th), including 34.1 percent from behind the arc (215th). It's 98th in adjusted defensive efficiency, 302nd in adjusted tempo, and 2nd in assist-per-turnover ratio.

Best Bets for this Game

Full-Game Side Bet

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Penn State is 4-0 ATS in its last four home games vs. a team with a losing road record and Wisconsin is 1-8 ATS in its last nine games vs. a team with a winning straight-up record. The Badgers are also 1-9 ATS in their last ten games following an ATS loss and 1-11 ATS in their last 12 games overall.

These teams are in a similar position right now in terms of NCAA tourney seeding, as both are currently among the "Next Four Out" in ESPN's Bracketology prediction. That said, I view the Lions and Badgers as teams on different trajectories.

Penn State will finish the season on a high note, earning a trip to the NCAA Tournament. This PSU team has a legitimate star in Jalen Pickett, is a threat from three-point range, and can be relied upon to make the most of its offensive possessions (2nd in assist-per-turnover ratio). The Lions are also 16th in effective field goal percentage.

The Badgers, meanwhile, don't play like a tournament team on offense. They're 244th in effective field goal percentage, 335th in points per game, and 323rd in rebounding with a -4.6 rebounding margin. Once Chucky Hepburn is taken out of his element, the air comes out of the basketball. While Wahl is a solid vet, he's been injury-prone and inconsistent, scoring less than ten points in all of the Badgers' last three games.

Wisconsin's slow-paced, defensive mindset works in the Big Ten and can be challenging for unfamiliar foes in the NCAA Tournament, but not with its current roster. It won't get the job done against this Penn State offense on the road Wednesday, either. I'll bet on the hungry Nittany Lions to win and cover the spread.

Prediction: Nittany Lions -4.5

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Full-Game Total Pick

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The over is 5-1 in the Badgers' last six Wednesday games and 5-0 in the Nittany Lions' last five home games. It's also 4-0 in PSU's last four home games vs. a team with a losing road record.

I am comfortable betting the over at 126.5 total points scored. I am confident the Nittany Lions will get the best of the Badgers' defense, hitting enough open shots from the perimeter to break the game open. PSU will also own a rebounding advantage that will lead to second-chance buckets. The Badgers will not go down without a fight in a game that carries a lot of weight for both teams. Hepburn will carry the load for Bucky, keeping Wisconsin in the game for as long as he can.

Prediction: Over 126.5
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Written By Michael Briggs , "Michael Briggs"

Mike Briggs is a passionate sports fan and writer, earning his B.A. in Journalism. In 2020, he moved across the country from New Jersey to San Diego to satisfy his lifelong obsession of living near an MLB stadium. As a proud MSU basketball supporter, Mike believes he's learned a lot watching coach Tom Izzo lead the Spartans to Big Ten titles and Final Fours regularly. He's also well-read on the NBA, having a subscription to SLAM magazine, the famed "basketball bible," since he was a teenager. Mike spends his free time strategizing futures bets and researching opportunities to make a few bucks on tonight's game. You can follow Mike on Twitter @BriggsWrites for sports betting, DFS, and stock trading tips.