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Thursday College Hoops

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WISCONSIN BADGERS (20-9) at MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS (22-7)

Sportsbook.ag Line: Michigan State -5 & 121.5

No. 10 Michigan State tries to end a three-game losing skid on Thursday night when it hosts No. 22 Wisconsin at the Breslin Center.

None of the Spartans' three straight defeats can be considered bad, as they suffered a 4-point loss versus No. 2 Indiana, fell by eight points at No. 14 Ohio State and lost by one point as a 5-point underdog at No. 7 Michigan on Sunday. The Badgers have won three of their past four games (SU and ATS), but are coming off a very bad loss at home to 14-point underdog Purdue on Senior Night on Sunday, as they were dominated on the glass (39-27) and fell by 13 points, 69-56. The Spartans have won four straight meetings (SU and ATS) with the Badgers and are 11-2 SU when hosting Wisconsin since 1998. These teams met on Jan. 22 in Madison in a game where both teams shot horribly (combined 33.7% FG) in a 49-47 MSU win.

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Wisconsin plays a very patient, ball-control style of offense, scoring just 67.0 PPG (186th in nation) on 42.9% FG (199th in D-I), but committing just 9.4 TOPG (2nd-fewest in nation). These offensive numbers have been much worse in non-home games, where they score just 61.7 PPG on 39.5% FG. But the Badgers defense has been fierce over the past five games, allowing a paltry 52.6 PPG on 36.5% FG. For the season, Wisconsin gives up the ninth-fewest points in the nation (55.8 PPG) and holds teams to 39.4% shooting and 30.6% threes. Four players provide the bulk of scoring for this team, led by C Jared Berggren (11.6 PPG, 7.0 RPG) who knocks down 48% of his shots, but just 27% of his threes (19-for-71). He had nine points and nine boards in the Jan. 22 home loss to the Spartans but made just 3-of-10 shots (1-of-5 threes). Senior PF Ryan Evans (10.4 PPG, 7.4 RPG) pulled down 11 rebounds in that defeat to MSU, but was also ice-cold, making just 2-of-12 FG. He enters this game with 12.0 PPG and 7.0 RPG in his past two contests. Junior SG Ben Brust (11.3 PPG, 5.4 RPG) snapped a seven-game, double-figure scoring streak with just eight points on Sunday, the same number he scored against the Spartans in January. Freshman PF Sam Dekker (9.6 PPG, 3.4 RPG) played just 13 minutes against MSU and scored three points, but he has given the team a great scoring boost during a current six-game streak of 10+ points, averaging 13.0 PPG on 59% FG during this stretch.

Like Wisconsin, Michigan State is not a team that wins with a fast-paced offense (69.2 PPG, 54.0 FGA per game), but it doesn't take many bad shots, connecting on 46.4% FG and 34.3% threes. The Spartans connect on just 5.0 threes per game, but they always give a maximum effort on the glass (+7.2 RPG margin) and their defense produces 8.1 steals per game. And also like the Badgers, MSU is one of the tougher teams to score on in the nation, as it allows a mere 59.8 PPG on 39.4% FG and 31.0% threes this season. Visitors to the Breslin Center have scored just 56.3 PPG on 35.9% FG this season. Junior PG Keith Appling (13.2 PPG, 3.8 APG) is a solid floor general with a 1.56 Ast/TO ratio and 1.4 SPG on the defensive end, but his offense has been lagging this season with 40.3% FG and 30.6% threes. His 5-for-23 shooting (0-for-9 threes) over the past three games is a big reason why Michigan State lost all three contests. Appling scored a game-high 19 points on 6-of-17 FG in Madison on Jan. 22 while grabbing six rebounds. Sophomore swingman Branden Dawson (10.1 PPG, 6.0 RPG) was the player of the game in that meeting with 18 points and 13 rebounds. But he has been horrible in his past four games, averaging only 5.5 PPG and 4.0 RPG. Junior PF Adreian Payne (10.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG) has picked up some of Dawson's slack with 15.3 PPG (57% FG) and 12.0 RPG in the past four games. But he was a non-factor in the win over Wisconsin with two points and two rebounds in 33 foul-plagued minutes. Freshman SG Gary Harris (team-high 13.3 PPG) has also been on a scoring binge lately with 16.0 PPG on 51% FG during a five-game double-figure scoring streak. He took just three shots in 32 minutes in the January win over Wisconsin, but he will certainly be more aggressive with his offense this time around.

KENTUCKY WILDCATS (20-9) at GEORGIA BULLDOGS (14-15)

Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Kentucky -2.5 & 124

Kentucky tries to end a three-game road losing skid Thursday when they visit a Georgia team that has been quite a profitable wager over the past six weeks.

The Wildcats have won eight of their past 11 games SU, but have covered in just four of those victories (4-7 ATS). The Bulldogs have been just the opposite, dropping four of their past six SU, but posting an impressive 10-1 ATS mark in their past 11 contests. Kentucky is just 5-11 ATS in conference play while Georgia is 11-5 ATS versus SEC foes this season. Although the Wildcats are 14-4 SU in the past 18 meetings in this series, the Bulldogs are 4-3 ATS in the past seven meetings.

Kentucky is just 10-16 ATS this season, including 3-9 ATS in non-home games and 3-7 ATS in true road games. The Wildcats have outshot their opponents by a wide margin (48.5% FG to 38.9% FG), but the defense has not been the same since the nation's block leader, C Nerlens Noel (10.5 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 4.4 BPG), suffered a season-ending knee injury. In five games since Noel's injury, UK is allowing 73.8 PPG, including 80.5 PPG in two road losses. The Wildcats have four other players averaging double-figures in scoring. Freshman SG Archie Goodwin (13.8 PPG, 4.5 RPG) has four straight games of 11+ points, pumping in 14.8 PPG during this streak. Freshman PF Alex Poythress (11.9 PPG, 6.1 RPG) has barely missed a shot in his past three games, going 18-for-24 (75%) from the floor leading to 15.3 PPG. But sophomore SF Kyle Wiltjer (10.8 PPG, 4.3 RPG) has been ice-cold with just 3.7 PPG on 3-of-14 FG (1-of-6 threes) in his past three contests. But Wiltjer made the most of limited minutes in last season's two-game sweep of Georgia, scoring a combined 15 points on 5-of-7 threes in just 27 minutes of action. Sophomore PG Ryan Harrow (10.2 PPG, 3.2 APG) has played pretty well lately with 14.3 PPG on 51% FG during a four-game streak of double-digit points.

Georgia likes to play low-scoring affairs, averaging just 60.4 PPG (314th in nation) on 41.4% FG (267th in D-I), while allowing only 61.4 PPG (38.6% FG). The Bulldogs have limited visiting teams to 58.4 PPG in 17 home games, where they have compiled an 11-6 SU mark (7-6 ATS). But although they have just 60.3 PPG in SEC play, Georgia is coming off a conference-best 78 points in Saturday's 78-68 win over Tennessee. The Bulldogs made 8-of-16 threes and 22-of-26 free throws in that surprising victory, but only two players scored 10+ points. Explosive sophomore SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (18.0 PPG, 6.9 RPG) pumped in 25 points (4-of-8 threes) with nine rebounds and four steals. Although he's the team's only player scoring at least 8.0 PPG this season and has reached double-figures in all 29 contests, Caldwell-Pope tallied just 16 points on 7-of-24 shooting (29%) in two losses to Kentucky last season. Freshman SG Charles Mann (6.6 PPG, 3.0 RPG) was the other double-figure scorer on Saturday with 18 points, eight assists and four rebounds. Mann shoots a poor 36% FG this season, but has done a great job getting to the free-throw line in the past three games, making 24-of-32 attempts (75%). Sophomore PF Nemanja Djurisic (7.7 PPG, 3.9 RPG) is the team's best frontcourt scorer, but he shoots just 39% from the floor and 29% on threes this season. He scored 10 points with five rebounds in last season's home loss to Kentucky, but followed that up with just two points (1-of-4 FG) in 16 minutes in the defeat in Lexington.

  
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