Caleb King’s (@calebking_2) Preview and Prediction for Monday’s Quarterfinal game between Wisconsin and Tennessee:
There certainly is a lot of excitement that surrounds this Maui Invitational Tournament.
Following their arrival in Maui, the Badgers have been living the good life. From swimming and wake boarding in the Central Pacific to enjoying the sunset on the beach, watching Aleem Ford and Charlie Thomas learn to hula dance to Vitto Brown carrying the team to a corn hole championship vs UNC’s squad, and so much more excitement that surrounds Coach Gard and the rest of the Head Coaches and their staffs at the tournament.
But as fun as these past couple days have been, we don’t want the fun to stop outside the Lahaina Civic Center, where the Badgers will open up their tournament play vs Tennessee today at 1:30. This matchup with Tennessee will be another test for these Badgers to show that they are above a mid-major program, and show they deserve a battle with either Georgetown or Oregon in the semi-finals.
Coming off of a big win vs Chicago State in Madison last Thursday, this Wisconsin team’s confidence is right where it needs to be to take care of this Tennessee team. Tennessee is coming off of a win in their latest contest vs Appalachian State by score of 103-94. They come in with a 1-1 record with their loss coming to Chattanooga where the Volunteers gave up 82 points. One notable thing about this Volunteer team is that they give up a lot of points, at least through these first two games. Obviously this is an SEC team that plays a little different of style than the Big Ten’s physical, grind-it-out type of play. It will be important for these Badgers to execute their offensive sets against a weaker Volunteer squad and not stray from their game plan as we had done in our loss at Creighton. They need to make Tennessee adjust to their style. If the Badgers play this game fundamentally sound, both offensively and defensively, you won’t see this game get away from them. The key is for the Badgers to play Wisconsin’s style of basketball, in specific, not the Warrior’s style of basketball. Guard play is big for the Volunteers in Jordan Bone and Lamonte Turner who have put up majority points for the Vols thus far this season, but nothing will be easy when you’re matched up with Showalter.
My player-to-watch tonight is freshman D’Mitrik Trice. Trice has come off the bench each of the past 3 games for the Badgers and has been a spark each time he’s entered the game and has earned the trust of Gard early on, along with the trust of his teammates to step in and run the sets even sometimes while Koenig is on the floor. Trice helps to open up the game for the Badgers, he’s an outside threat and will find his teammates in scoring spots as well. Look for Trice to continue to be a spark for these Badgers through Maui and throughout the season as well.
This has been a memorable trip already for the Badgers, but a tough week and early flight home will leave a sour and disappointing taste in their mouths. Who knows, maybe the pre-tournament corn hole tournament is foreshadowing for the Maui Championship on Wednesday night. We’ll just have to wait and see.
King’s Predition: BADGERS 71 Tennessee 56
Ben Thorson’s Prediction (@benjthorson): The Badgers open up the Maui Jim Maui Invitational against Tennessee on Monday afternoon. Tennessee enters the week with a 1-1 record with their win coming against Appalachian State and their loss to Chattanooga. Initially, a 13-point defeat to Chattanooga looks pretty bad, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Mocs made it to the NCAA Tournament and give their opening round opponent all they can handle. With that being said, Tennessee has 13 underclassmen on their roster but are led by their senior guard Robert Hubbs. Hubbs is second on the team with 13.5 points per game which is up from his 10.6 average in 2015-16. The Volunteers have also had impressive play from freshman Jordan Bone; Bone leads the team in scoring (14.0ppg) and assists (4.5apg).
It may be easy for the Badgers to overlook Tennessee in their opening matchup; as possible contests against Oregon and North Carolina await. But I feel this Badgers team is unsatisfied with their opening three games and will come out with a statement victory.
Thorson’s Prediction: BADGERS 74 Tennessee 63