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College Basketball: Wisconsin Badgers vs. Xavier Musketeers Betting Preview

College basketball continues its triumphant return to our lives Tuesday night when the Wisconsin Badgers pay a visit to the Xavier Musketeers. The game is part of the Gavitt Tipoff Games between the Big Ten and the Big East. Wisconsin is listed as a slight 1.5-point favorite on the road.

Xavier has entered a new era with Travis Steele taking over for Chris Mack, who left for Louisville during the offseason. The Musketeers have plenty of continuity with Steele, who had been an assistant at Xavier since 2008, one year before Mack arrived. However, the Musketeers did lose several players from last year’s team who led them to 29 wins and were a big part of their run to the Elite Eight the previous season.

For Wisconsin, it’s time to prove that they are still a national program. Greg Gard is now in his third full season after taking over for Bo Ryan midway through the 2015-16 campaign. Gard took the Badgers to the Sweet 16 in his first two seasons. However, the Badgers are coming off a 15-18 season, so they’re in need of a bounce-back season and a road win over Xavier early in the season could give them a much-needed confidence boost.

Carry It Over

While last season didn’t go well for the Badgers, they did win four of their last six games. That stretch included a win over a top-10 Purdue team and a couple of close losses against Michigan State, potentially giving Wisconsin some momentum heading into this campaign. In their one and only game this season, the Badgers had little trouble against Coppin State, which doesn’t tell us much but is a good sign.

The key for Wisconsin, of course, is senior forward Ethan Happ, who figures to be the best player on the court in most of the games the Badgers play this season. He already showed his talent with a triple-double against Coppin State. But it seems like Happ will be getting help this year from sophomore guard D’Mtrik Trice. After missing most of last year with a broken foot, Trice came back strong with 21 points in their opener. He could potentially form a dynamic tandem with Happ this year.

Putting the Pieces Together

Xavier, meanwhile, is still working to replace most of their key players from a season ago. Junior Quentin Goodin brings the Musketeers experience in the backcourt, but he only just returned from a shoulder injury. Meanwhile, Naji Marshall, another key returning player, has struggled shooting the ball during Xavier’s first two games of the season.

It’s worth noting that a couple of the guys in Xavier’s rotation are graduate transfers from small-conference teams. They have to adjust to a higher level of competition and gel with their new teammates. The Musketeers also had to overcome 2nd half deficits against both IUPUI and Evansville in their first two games, beating the latter by just six points. Playing Wisconsin will definitely be a big step up for them.

Y’all Ready for This?

At this early point in the season, Xavier may not know how all of the pieces fit together just yet whereas Wisconsin knows they can lean on Happ and Trice. The Badgers are probably a little more prepared for a game like this. Look for Happ to dominate and lead Wisconsin to a nice road win. Bet on Wisconsin to win and cover the 1.5-point spread.

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