Caleb King (@calebking_2) Preview: The Wisconsin Badgers continue their Big Ten conference schedule on Tuesday night as they travel to Indiana to take on the Hoosiers at Assembly Hall for a game that is scheduled to begin at 6pm on ESPN.
The Hoosiers come into the game with an overall record of 10-4 and an unexpected conference record of 0-1. Indiana’s opening B1G game saw the Hoosiers fall surprisingly at Assembly Hall by a score of 83-87 to Nebraska. Indiana is currently on a 2-game losing streak, with their most recent loss coming against #6 Louisville in Indianapolis by score of 62-77. After starting the season at 10-2, including impressive wins over #2 Kansas and #3 North Carolina, the Hoosiers now find themselves unranked in many polls or ranked 25th in others after being ranked 16th to begin last week.
No matter how things have been going as of late for the Hoosiers, this is not a team any program in the nation can overlook. Indiana has a high powered offense which is led by a lot of experience and success. The Hoosiers are led by their “Big 4” in James Blackmon Jr (17.3ppg, 5.8rpg), Robert Johnson (13.8ppg, 4.1rpg, 2.4apg), OG Anunoby (12.2ppg, 6.2rpg), and big man Thomas Bryant (12.1ppg, 7.6rpg). There are a total of six Hoosiers that are currently averaging over seven points per game.
The Badgers come into the game with an overall record of 12-2 and a 1-0 record in the B1G following their opening conference contest where they defeated Rutgers handily, 72-52 at the Kohl Center in Madison. The Badgers are ranked nationally at #13 and are currently on an 8-game winning streak, including wins over Oklahoma, Syracuse, Marquette, and Rutgers over that stretch.
Wisconsin is led as of late by their “Big 3” in Bronson Koenig (14.1ppg), Nigel Hayes (14.0ppg, 5.8rpg, 3.3apg), and Ethan Happ (12.7ppg, 9.6rpg, 1.6spg). Zak Showalter is coming off a big game against Rutgers where he scored his season-high point total of 18, to go along with four steals in 30 minutes. Showalter is averaging 8.1ppg and fellow senior, Vitto Brown is also contributing 7.8ppg and 4.0rpg. D’Mitrik Trice continues to impress and is proving to be an effective sixth man for the Badgers. The Freshman guard is putting up 6.5ppg and sometimes shares the court with Bronson Koenig, to allow Koenig more scoring opportunities at the 2-guard.
In comparison to Indiana’s 9-1 record when scoring 80 points, the Badgers have only allowed 80 points in one contest this season, and in that contest they defeated Marquette on the road by score of 93-84. The Badgers are 4-0 when they score 80 points or more in a game. Putting that all in perspective, on paper it seems that the winner of this game will be the first to 80, but it will be much more than that.
A key matchup for the Badgers tonight will be the play of Happ, Brown, and Charlie Thomas vs. Indiana center, Thomas Bryant. If the Badgers bigs can dominate the boards and keep Bryant off the glass it will open up the game for Wisconsin to move their offense through the post with Happ and Nigel Hayes. Ethan Happ’s footwork will be critical against the very physical Bryant, but after two games last season vs Bryant, the Badgers sophomore forward knows what it takes to match up with the Indiana big man and will hopefully stay out of foul trouble defending him.
It’s no secret either that the backcourt game is vital for success tonight as well. The Hoosiers love to run their guys off of a lot of screens and get open from the outside and hit open jumpers. The Badgers will have to keep their defensive rotations on lockdown as they look to limit the Hoosiers from getting easy looks from the outside. OG Anunoby will take you anywhere on the floor and prove his athleticism both outside and around the rim. Anunoby has the ability to cause a lot of problems for the Badgers if they are unable to communicate on defense against the 6’8” forward for Indiana.
Despite Indiana being on the edge of or out of the national top-25 rankings; this Hoosiers team has all the pieces to be a top-15, even a top-10 team in the country. Don’t forget, Indiana has two of the most impressive victories in the conference to this point. It will take nothing short of the Badgers best effort to take down the Hoosiers in Bloomington at the historic Assembly Hall. Coaches Tom Crean and Greg Gard will have their teams ready for a March-like showdown tonight.
My Player-To-Watch is Nigel Hayes: Last year at Assembly Hall the Badgers fell by score of 58-59 and Hayes had a quiet 15 points on 3-13 shooting, and three of those points were on account of a half-court shot to end the game. Later in the season the Badgers took down the Hoosiers in Madison by score of 82-79 and Hayes led the Badgers with 31 points on 7-12 shooting as the forward also connected on 17-22 shooting from the charity stripe. Purely from last season’s outcomes and Hayes’ influence on the Badgers offense; I consider him the player-to-watch tonight. If the Badgers are able to work their offense through Hayes and get him the ball in the high and low post, then Nigel should be able to facilitate and score from their effectively.
King’s Prediction: BADGERS 79 Indiana 75 (King is 9-2 on the season)
As always, #OnWisconsin
Ben Thorson’s Prediction (@benjthorson): Since I’m picking a loss Sunday at Purdue, I’m going to bet on the Badgers not losing both road games this week. Wisconsin escapes with a huge road win in Bloomington, and maybe they can even change my mind for Sunday!
BADGERS 73 Indiana 68 (Thorson is 13-1 on the season)