#4 Wisconsin Badgers (24-8) vs. #5 Kansas State Wildcats (23-10)
Betting Line: Wisconsin -2.5 o/u 127
The Fourth-seeded Wisconsin Badgers (24-8) and fifth-seeded Kansas State Wildcats (23-10) may have flopped in the first Games of their respective Conference Tournaments, but both teams made sure their opening Games of the NCAA Tournament mattered most in winning on Thursday. The Badgers and Wildcats will now look to advance to the Sweet 16 when they square off on Saturday in this Southeast Region third-round matchup at the McKale Center in Tucson.
Kansas State played its best basketball of the season toward the end, winning eight of nine Games straight-up and covering the spread in six of them down the stretch in the regular season before losing to Colorado 87-75 in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Conference Tournament. The Wildcats got back on track though in a 73-68 victory over #12 Utah State behind star guard Jacob Pullen’s Game-high 22 points. The OVER cashed for the sixth time in their last eight Games.
Pullen made 6 of 13 shots from the field and 9 of 12 from the free-throw line to go along with five assists in 37 minutes after suffering through flu-like symptoms that forced him to miss practice on Wednesday. He has carried Kansas State this season and last, scoring in double figures in 22 straight Games and leading the team to the Elite Eight a year ago before losing to Butler, 63-56.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin returned to form with a 72-58 win against #13 Belmont, scoring more points in the first half against the Bruins than the team totaled in a 36-33 loss to Penn State in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Conference Tournament last week. The Badgers led 34-27 at the intermission following an 11-2 run to close out the half and connected on 7 of 14 attempts from 3-point range in the first 20 minutes.
Jordan Taylor scored 14 of his 21 points in the first half and made a team-high five 3-pointers for Wisconsin while Jon Leuer finished with a team-high 22 points. The Badgers have now won nine of their last 10 opening Games of the NCAA Tournament and also saw the return of Mike Bruesewitz, who scored eight points and grabbed nine rebounds after being listed as questionable with a knee injury.
Wisconsin has seen the OVER go 7-2 in its last nine Games overall with the team going 4-5 against the spread during that span despite a 6-3 SU record. The Badgers have been bounced from the Big Dance in this round each of the last two years, losing to Cornell 87-69 as 4.5-point favorites in 2010 and Xavier 60-49 as 2.5-point underdogs in 2009.
Score Prediction: Wisconsin 67 Kansas State 60