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Michigan

vs.

Wisconsin

College Basketball Pick

1/17/17

There are two teams above the rest in the Big Ten and Wisconsin is one of them. The problem is that the Badgers didn't really beat many teams of significance in non-conference play, which hurts the conference as a whole. On the other end of that, this is the deepest the Big Ten has been in a while and Michigan fits right in the middle of it.

The Wolverines aren't a good team by any means, but they are one of the many mediocre squads that has at least two wins in conference play. And while Wisconsin may be one of the better teams, it's still hard to take a night off in this conference. Michigan has had its problems in conference play and it all started with an overtime loss at Iowa. They still have yet to win a true road game all season and that could end up being the difference of whether they make the NCAA tourney or not. Unfortunately, this probably will be another loss.

In this spot last year, the Wolverines battled and were actually leading at halftime, but Wisconsin came back to win 68-57. With how Michigan is playing now, there's no reason to believe that result will be better this time around for them.

The problem for Michigan in this game will be its defense, which is rated as the worst in the conference, giving up 85 points to Illinois and Nebraska in back-to-back games. Going against Wisconsin, that's not a good thing because it's something the Badgers can pounce on. With the trio of Bronson Koenig, Nigel Hayes and Ethan Happ, that may be all that's needed. Mo Wagner and DJ Wilson can be good players for Michigan at the four and five, but both are young and it's hard to see either being able to deal with Hayes and Happ.

Hayes has the strength to overpower both of Michigan's guys, while Happ is one of the best all-around players in the Big Ten and will likely be a nuisance for the Wolverines all game. The one thing Michigan has to hope is that role players like Zak Showalter and Vitto Brown aren't hitting shots. When those guys start scoring for the Badgers, that's when they can rack the score up and that's something they've done in recent home wins -- 20-point win vs. Rutgers and 23-point win vs. Ohio State.

Michigan has a bad defense, but they have a couple conference wins because they have the best effective field goal percentage in the conference and turn the ball over the least amount. Wisconsin is the best at forcing turnovers, led by Happ, so that'll be an area that decides who covers this game. With Wilson and Wagner having tough matchups down low, the Wolverines will count on seniors Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton Jr. to keep pace on the road.

Irvin is their leading scorer, but he's been far from reliable on the road. He'll likely be matched up with Vitto Brown and he's giving up a couple inches, which could be trouble. And with that being the case, Walton will need to repeat his 20-point effort that he had against Nebraska.

With so many things needing to go Michigan's way in order to compete, this could be a long day for the Wolverines, similar to their loss at Illinois. It'll require better overall defense and some role players stepping up for Michigan just to cover at Wisconsin.

Our Pick - Wisconsin by 14

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