I have been extremely impressed with the job college basketball interim head coach Greg Gard has done since taking over for Bo Ryan on December 15. Gard has had the greatest impact at the offensive end of the floor where there has been an improvement in points per game (69.4 to 65.7), field goal percentage (.412 to .458), three-point field goal percentage (.329 to .358), bench points per game (9.5 to 14.3) and points in the paint (25.3 to 28.0).
Gard has also improved upon Wisconsin’s depth since taking over last month. Specifically, over the last four games, Wisconsin’s starters have played 71.3% of the minutes per game, whereas the same starters were averaging 80.8% of the minutes per game under Ryan (12 games).
As a result, the Badgers are getting more production from their reserves, particularly from redshirt sophomore Jordan Hill, who has scored 27 points in 89 minutes since Gard took over. Hill failed to score a point in 27 minutes of playing time under Ryan (12 games) earlier this season.
Amateur sports bettors will likely overreact to Wisconsin’s pedestrian 9-7 record this season, but 4 of those seven losses have come by two points or less. The Badgers’ four home losses this have come by a combined 11 points, and Wisconsin was tied or within one possession in the final two minutes of all four games.
No college basketball team in the nation has more freshmen on its roster than Wisconsin (8), but that lack of experience has not adversely affected the Badgers’ defensive mentality. In fact, over their last nine games, the Badgers have held Oklahoma, Purdue, Temple, Marquette and Indiana to season-low point totals.
For the season, Wisconsin has been 11.3 points per game better than average defensively (63.9 points per game to teams that could combine to average 75.2 points per game), which is good enough to contain a very good Maryland attack that is 9.5 points per game better than average (79.5 points per game against teams that would combine to allow 70.0 points per game).
My math model only favors Maryland by one point, while my secondary math model projects this matchup to be even. Wisconsin has won six of its last 8 games against teams ranked in the top-5 of the AP poll over the last three season, while also compiling a 35-13 SU record against AP top-25 teams at the Kohl Center.
I like what I’ve seen from Wisconsin lately, especially since Gard took over in December. The Badgers have been competitive in almost every game this season, and I look for them to secure a signature win before the home faithful Saturday afternoon. Grab the generous points and invest with confidence.
Oskeim Sports’ College Basketball Best Bet: Wisconsin (+4)