Maui Invitational Championship Preview: Wisconsin vs. North Carolina

The Badgers Men’s Basketball team has advanced to the Maui Invitational Finals after a 73-57 victory over Georgetown on Tuesday night. Wisconsin will face off against the 4th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels, who boast a 6-0 record after defeating Oklahoma State 107-75 late last night.

So who will cut down the nets tonight in Maui? Inside Wisconsin basketball insider, Ben Thorson (@benjthorson) breaks down the game:

Thorson: The Badgers are in for a tough task on Wednesday night as they square off against a red-hot Tar Heels team. North Carolina is averaging 96.5 points per game, which ranks 8th in the country. They are led by junior Joel Berry, who averages 16.3ppg to go along with 4.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists. The Tar Heels also get strong production from junior Justin Jackson, who is second on the team with 16.0ppg. Senior Kennedy Meeks, leads North Carolina with 9.8 rebounds per game as the Tar Heels rank 7th in the nation with 48.3rpg.

Hawaii has provided the toughest competition for UNC thus far. The Rainbow Warriors lost by a score of 83-68 but no other Tar Heels opponent has kept the score within 20 this season.

As for the Badgers, they are coming off their most impressive game of the season in which it defeated Georgetown 73-57. Wisconsin dominated the boards, collecting 50 rebounds (20 offensive) to the Hoyas 21 (1 offensive). Sophomore Ethan Happ proved unstoppable as he finished the game with 19 points and 15 rebounds on 8-13 shooting and senior Bronson Koenig led the Badgers with 20 points.

So what will it take for the Badgers to cut down the nets in Maui?

  1. Limit Turnovers- Wisconsin is averaging 14.2 turnovers per game thus far. It must keep this total to single digits and avoid giving North Carolina fast break opportunities.
  2. Win the Rebound Battle- The championship game will feature two of the top rebounding teams in the country; limiting second chance opportunities for the Tar Heels will help the Badgers keep this one close.
  3. Superstar Production- Bronson Koenig has led the Badgers in scoring in each of the five games this season. Oklahoma State sophomore guard Jawun Evans dropped 30 points in 27 minutes last night against the Tar Heels. Look for a big game once again from Bronson!

It may sound like I have North Carolina as heavy favorites, but at the moment the Tar Heels are just playing a little better brand of basketball than Wisconsin. A loss tonight doesn’t mean we won’t be ready to compete with the nation’s best come March. If anything a loss will help us grow, and a win over the Tar Heels would give us a huge confidence boost moving forward.

If the Badgers can limit turnovers, win the rebounding battle, and keep the Tar Heels from scoring in transition; then UW has a good chance of being crowned Maui Champs!

Thorson’s Prediction: BADGERS 71 North Carolina 78 (Prove me wrong men!)


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