I-94 Rivalry Preview and Predictions: Wisconsin vs. Marquette

Caleb King’s Preview (@calebking_2): Saturday brings one of the most iconic match ups that appears every season on the Wisconsin schedule. The Badgers will make the trip East down I-94 on Saturday to the Bradley Center as they face-off with the Golden Eagles from Marquette for a game that tips-off at 1pm. 
The last meeting between the two sides came last year at the Kohl Center, where the Golden Eagles knocked off the Badgers in Madison by score of 55-57. This was Bo Ryan’s last defeat as the Badgers Head Coach.
When asking the players about the match ups with the Golden Eagles, they all will say that these games are the ones that really stick with you, especially for those who have grown up in Wisconsin.
Wisconsinite and Germantown native Zak Showalter said post-game on WednesdaySaturday everybody will be ready to go and excited. I grew up watching Wisconsin-Marquette.” Another factor hypes up the game a little more for Showalter. Luke Fischer, a senior for the Golden Eagles, is a former teammate of Showalter’s in High School at Germantown where they won multiple State Championships together. Fischer spent his first season at Indiana before transferring to Marquette.
Another Senior starter for the Badgers, and fellow Wisconsinite Bronson Koenig, had something to say about the last meeting between the two sides, saying “We were pretty disorganized. We didn’t have an identity. It was early.” Koenig has also grown up watching the Wisconsin-Marquette rivalry unfold growing up in La Crosse. He knows the magnitude of this game and what this meeting means to Wisconsin fans and Golden Eagle fans alike.
The Golden Eagles come into Saturday’s matchup with a 7-2 record, their most recent game was a home victory over Fresno State by score of 84-81. Their two losses have come against Michigan and Pittsburgh in New York. The Golden Eagles have four players averaging double figures, led by Jujuan Johnson(14.4ppg). Also in double figures are Luke Fischer(13.9ppg), Haanif Cheatham(11.7ppg), and Sam Hauser(10.3ppg). Fischer leads the way in rebounds per game with 6.2 and Traci Carter leads in assists per game with 3.6.
The Badgers come into Saturday’s matchup with an 8-2 record ranked 17th in the nation, currently on a 4-game win streak. Their most recent game was also a home victory, as they defeated Idaho State University by a score of 78-44. The Badgers have three players averaging double figure scoring; led by Bronson Koenig with 15.8ppg, followed by Ethan Happ(13.5ppg) and Nigel Hayes(12.9ppg). Happ is averaging a double-double as he also grabs 10.0 rebounds per game. Hayes leads the way in the assist column with 3.5 per game.
The Golden Eagles are notorious for playing a heavy three-point, “live or die by the three” style of basketball, and that has proved to be the difference in past match ups. As Koenig said, last season’s loss to the Golden Eagles isn’t of concern this time around. The Badgers seemed to have found their identity under Coach Gard and this matchup will no doubt be much different.
A key for the Badgers success is to step up their perimeter defense. Defensively this will be much like the Syracuse matchup a few games ago for the Badgers. Another key point will be not allowing Luke Fischer to get anything easy down low. There’s no doubt that Ethan Happ will have his hands full with Marquette’s talented center, but the same will be true for Fischer as he will have his fair share of difficulties with Happ on the low block.
In the end, this game is going to be a battle as it always is. The Badgers will need to limit turnover, work their offense, and not fall into Marquette’s style of play. Pound the ball inside, get the Golden Eagles into foul trouble, execute the fundamentals, and the offense will come. If the Badgers do these things well, I find it hard to believe that Coach Gard and company will return to Madison with a loss.
My Player-To-Watch Saturday is Ethan Happ. As mentioned before, the redshirt Sophomore is averaging a double-double and has been playing well down the stretch of games as of late. The Badgers will need Happ to be consistent on Saturday and give the Badgers that last little push to finish the game. He will play a key role in limiting Luke Fischer’s chances and remaining efficient on offense. I see Ethan having a huge game at the Bradley Center.
King’s Prediction: BADGERS 75 Marquette 65 (King is 6-2 on the season)

as always… #OnWisconsin

Ben Thorson’s Tidbit (@benjthorson): It is never easy following up Caleb’s extensive look at games. You can tell he is a bit excited about the I-94 rivalry, as well as Badgers fans should be!

Last year’s loss was tough, I never like losing to Marquette, especially when it was led by Badgers recruiting target Henry Ellenson. This could be held true again this season as Sam Hauser, older brother of Wisconsin’s top 2018 recruiting target Joey Hauser, takes the court for the Eagles.

It is hard to gauge where Joey currently stands with his recruiting, but many experts predict he teams up with his brother in Marquette over the likes of Wisconsin (his childhood favorite), Michigan State, and Virginia.

Recruiting aside (sorry I couldn’t help myself), the Badgers will have their hands full Saturday afternoon at the Bradley Center. Marquette treats this game as the ‘Super Bowl’ of their season as they re-build under Head Coach Steve Wojciechowski. The Eagles boasted the country’s 22nd ranked recruiting class coming into this season with Sam Hauser, Markus Howard, and Brendan Bailey. This was the top-ranked class in all of the Big East Conference and Marquette is loading up again with three commits already in the 2017 class.

Last season, Marquette outscored the Badgers 17-2 in fast break points. That means 17 of the Eagles 57 points came in transition. Marquette struggles in the half court, which results in a lot of three-point attempts. Wisconsin must commit to taking care of the basketball and playing great perimeter and transition defense if they want to escape Milwaukee with a victory.

This is a tough one for me to decide, Marquette has shown flashes of resurgence throughout their early schedule; but I think the Badgers experience will prove to be the difference in Saturday’s Game. Seniors Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig, Zak Showalter, and Vitto Brown won’t want to lose their final shot at the Golden Eagles.

Thorson’s Prediction: BADGERS 78 Marquette 71 (Ben is 9-1 on the season)


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