No. 8 Wisconsin vs No. 9 Virginia Tech Preview
Where: KeyBank Center – Buffalo, New York
When: Thursday, March 16, 2017, 9:40 PM ET
TV Broadcast: CBS
Writer’s Prediction: Virginia Tech Hokies (+5.5)
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Betting on the Wisconsin Badgers (25-9)
It’s been a weird season for Wisconsin. After starting 21-3 and looking like a possible title contender, the Badgers lost five of their last seven regular season games. They looked to be over that slump as they scored convincing wins to reach the Big Ten tournament final, but they were then blown out by Michigan, 71-56.
Despite that big loss, Wisconsin has one of the best defenses in the country. With excellent big man Ethan Happ as the anchor and athletic wings in Zak Showalter and Khali Iverson along the perimeter, the Badgers are ranked 8th in defensive efficiency heading into the tourney.
Happ is also very good offensively down in the low post, while seniors Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes are both capable of coming up with big scoring games. The Badgers’ slow-paced and deliberate offense is not pretty to watch, but it’s worked for them.
However, their offense does have its problems. The Badgers will fall in love with the jumper a little too much at times – Hayes in particular – and they are an awful free-throw shooting team (64 percent). Fortunately for them, Virginia Tech is not a very good defensive team (125th in defensive efficiency), and doesn’t have much of an interior presence, so they may not have to settle for so many jumpers.
Head coach Greg Gard took over halfway through last season and led the Badgers all the way to the Sweet 16. He’ll now look to keep the program’s 10-year streak of successfully reaching the second-round of the tournament intact.
Betting on the Virginia Tech Hokies (22-10)
Virginia Tech is back in the Big Dance for the first time in a decade. Buzz Williams led the Hokies to a 22-10 record, which included marquee wins over three ranked teams (Duke, Virginia, and Miami – all at home) and pushed Louisville hard on the road. After a rough first half of conference play in terms of covering the spread, Virginia Tech finished the season an impressive 8-1-1 against the spread.
Virginia Tech doesn’t have a certified star on its team, but it doesn’t have any problems putting points up. The Hookies are averaging 79 points per game this season, and are ranked 21st in offensive efficiency. Most of those points are distributed among their seven main rotation players, who are all averaging at least 9.5 points.
Williams likes to play with four perimeter players surrounded by one big man, and the Hokies have used that system to become one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the entire country (40 percent). The good news for the Hokies is that they’ll now face a Wisconsin team that’s allowing one of the highest 3-point percentages in the nation at 37.5 percent.
The Hokies don’t have a lot of size, and get beat up on the boards. In addition, depth is also a glaring weakness. They go just seven deep and if any of those seven gets in foul trouble, they’re in big trouble. But Wisconsin doesn’t really get to the line often, so Tech shouldn’t really need to foul too much.
Virginia Tech’s shooting should be a big factor here. They have be ability to hit 3s and keep the game close. The Hokies may not be able to pull this game out, but they at least cover the +5.5 spread.
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