2012 NCAA Tournament
Round of 64 – East Region
Thursday, 3/15/12, 2:10 p.m. Eastern, TV: TNT
#4 Wisconsin Badgers (24-9, 12-6 Big Ten) vs. #13 Montana Grizzlies (25-6, 15-1 Big Sky)
University Arena – Albuquerque, NM
Opening Line: Wisconsin -10
Current Line: Wisconsin -9.5
Opening Total: 115
Current Total: 118
Odds Courtesy of Bookmaker
The 13th-seeded Montana Grizzlies are one of the hottest teams in the NCAA tournament field and will be looking for their third win ever in the Big Dance when they play the fourth-seeded Wisconsin Badgers in third-round play of the East Region. The Grizzlies (25-6, 15-1 Big Sky) are riding a school-record 14-game winning streak and have won 20 of 21 dating back to last December, capturing both their conference regular-season and tournament championships.
Meanwhile, the Badgers (24-9, 12-6 Big Ten) have won their first game in the NCAA tournament each of the last four years. They are coming off a 65-52 loss to top seed Michigan State in the semifinals of their conference tournament last Saturday after beating Indiana for the 10th straight time in the quarterfinals on Friday, 79-71.
Wisconsin (-9.5, O/U 118) ended the regular season on a three-game winning streak, including a 63-60 upset of Ohio State on the road. Senior point guard Jordan Taylor scored a team-high 19 points in that win over the Buckeyes and has been the heart and soul of the team all season. Taylor leads the Badgers in scoring (14.7 points per game), assists (four per game) and steals (one per game).
Montana will be a tough test for Wisconsin and may be a popular darkhorse pick to advance to the next round, but the team suffered four of its five losses against non-conference opponents. The Grizzlies lost just one Big Sky game at Weber State on January 14, which is their only loss since falling at home 70-64 to Nevada on December 10. They rallied back from an early 10-point deficit to knock off Weber 85-66 in the Big Sky tournament championship last Wednesday.
Like Wisconsin, Montana is led by a star point guard in junior Will Cherry, who averages a team-high 16 points and 2.6 steals to go along with 3.4 assists per game. The 6-foot-1 Cherry also has help in the backcourt from 6-5 sophomore Kareem Jamar, the team’s second-leading scorer with 13.8 points per game and top assist man at 3.7 per contest. Jamar was named MVP of the Big Sky tourney and also averages 5.6 rebounds per game, good enough for second-best on the team.
The Grizzlies are appearing in the Big Dance for the first time since 2010, when they lost to New Mexico 62-57 but covered the spread as 8.5-point underdogs. They are just 2-9 straight-up in the NCAA tournament all-time compared to 23-16 for the Badgers.
Despite being well-known as a very good defensive team under head coach Bo Ryan, Wisconsin has seen the OVER cash in seven of its last nine games overall. The OVER is also 4-2 in the past six for Montana, including both games in the Big Sky tournament. The Grizzlies are 15-5 against the spread in their last 20 games overall.