Brad Underwood’s team needs a win in the February 27th Illinois at Wisconsin matchup if they want any chance of staying in the top 5. That’s because the #5 Fighting Illini are coming off a huge 81-73 loss at Michigan State on Tuesday, although they did bounce back with an 86-70 win over Nebraska on Thursday.
The Badgers have been idle since Sunday’s 68-51 win over Nebraska. That victory broke a two game losing streak against Michigan (67-59) and Iowa (77-62) – both in Madison. Wisconsin is now 11-4 at the Kohl Center on the season, but are still hefty -4.5 favorites on Saturday afternoon.
Life Without Ayo
This is the second meeting of the year between these two teams, with the Fighting Illini capturing a 75-60 win on February 6th as -4 point favorites. One of the biggest factors in that game was Illinois’ Ayo Dosunmu, who had 21/12/12.
The Badgers get a break in the February 27th Illinois at Wisconsin pick, as Dosunmu suffered a facial injury on Tuesday and could be out until the Big Ten tournament or longer. The Fighting Illini responded on Thursday with a 16-point win over Nebraska, but the Badgers are a totally different challenge.
Kofi Cockburn led the way with 24 points over the Cornhuskers, and proved to be a tough matchup for the Badgers in the first meeting by scoring 23 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. Illinois has great depth too, as Andre Curbelo had 10 points, 12 rebounds, and 8 assists vs. Nebraska. The Cornhuskers have the 2nd worst defense in the Big 10 though – Wisconsin the best (62.7 ppg).
Wisconsin Struggling at Home
The loss of Dosunmu definitely hurts the chances for the Fighting Illini in the February 27th Illinois at Wisconsin pick. That being said Wisconsin isn’t exactly playing their best ball right now either. The Badgers couldn’t hold on to a 12-point lead and ended up losing 67-59 to Michigan on February 14th.
Sure the Wolverines are #3 in the country, but they were also playing their first game in over three weeks in the matchup at Wisconsin. The Badgers followed that up with a 62-77 loss at home to Iowa as -1.5 favorites as the vaunted UW defense gave up 30 to Luka Garza. Once again, good team – but so is Illinois.
What the Badgers do need to do on Sunday is get back on track vs. the Illini, who they had beaten 15 straight times before falling 71-70 last season and the earlier defeat this month. D’Mitrik Trice did pump in 22 points for the Badgers in the defeat in early February, but only one other Wisconsin player reached double figures.
Free February 27th Illinois at Wisconsin Pick
The Badgers are going to have a struggle in matching up with Cockburn, but will he get any support? Dosunmu had been the calming presence for the Illini, but there are worse options to turn to than Senior Trent Frazier who had 22 vs. the Spartans or Freshman Adam Miller, who had 18 vs. Nebraska and should thrive in this expanded role.
Illinois 73 – Wisconsin 65
Free Pick: Illinois +4.5