Ben Thorson (@benjthorson) Preview: The Badgers return to action Thursday evening as they look to build a new winning streak as they tip-off against the Ohio State Buckeyes at 6:00PM on ESPN2.
Coming off a disappointing loss Sunday at Purdue, a game in which the Badgers only mustered 55 points, UW will look to re-gain their offensive efficiency which is now ranked 15th in the country at 117.1 adjusted points per 100 possessions per KenPom rankings.
Ohio State enters Madison with a 0-3 conference record, with an overall record of 10-6. The Buckeyes haven’t played as poorly as their record may reflect. OSU lost by five at Illinois before losing by one at home against Purdue, and then most recently were defeated by ten to the surprising Golden Gophers of Minnesota.
The Buckeyes best win of the season came against Providence, who is currently ranked 63rd in the RPI, Ohio State defeated the Friars by a score of 72-67. The Buckeyes have already faced five opponents in the RPI top-40, dropping all five contests by an average of only 6.2 points per game.
Ohio State is led by junior forward Jae’Sean Tate, as Tate leads the Buckeyes with 14.5ppg to go along with 6.7rpg on .556 shooting from the field. Tate had nine points and three rebounds in his lone meeting with the Badgers last season. But in 2015, Tate scored 13 points to go along with six rebounds as a freshman against Wisconsin.
The Buckeyes are also getting strong production from sophomore JaQuan Lyle. Lyle enters tonight’s contest averaging 11.6ppg with a team-high 5.6apg. Junior center Trevor Thompson leads Ohio State with 9.1rpg to go along with a team-high 1.9bpg. The seven-foot Thompson also averages 10.7ppg.
Wisconsin enters the game with a 13-3 record, 2-1 in Big Ten play, after having their 9-game win streak snapped with a 66-55 loss at Purdue on Sunday. The Badgers are led by redshirt, sophomore Ethan Happ. The forward is averaging 13.4ppg to go along with 9.1rpg on .646 shooting from the field. Happ scored 17 of the Badgers 55 points Sunday against the Boilermakers. Happ was joined by senior forward, Nigel Hayes on the Mid-season Wooden Watch List. Hayes is averaging 13.5ppg, 5.5rpg, and a team-high 3.2apg. Nigel is coming off a lackluster performance Sunday in which he shot 4-for-12 from the field, finishing the game with ten points. Senior guard, Bronson Koenig will also look to bounce back strong tonight, Koenig leads the Badgers with 14.0ppg despite a nine point performance against Purdue.
So what can Badgers fans expect tonight at the Kohl Center? Don’t be fooled by the winless Buckeyes, Ohio State has a young, athletic, physical squad that can compete with anyone on any given night. If the Badgers want to avoid a home upset, they most expose the Buckeyes defensively. Nigel Hayes must be aggressive on the offensive side of the court, working his way to the free-throw line more than the four times he did against Purdue. If the Badgers can hit their open shots from behind the arc, it will open up the offensive for Hayes and Happ to work inside. If Wisconsin can’t get their outside jumper going, this game may become more stressful than expected as the Badgers will have to once again depend on the dominance of Ethan Happ inside.
What to watch for tonight? The Badgers bench will be under the microscope again tonight, Wisconsin got limited production from their bench Sunday against Purdue, as they finished with 12 points and five rebounds. Khalil Iverson and D’Mitrik Trice will be in the rotation for sure, as the two guards have given coach Greg Gard solid production and effort on both ends of the court. But will the Badgers see more minutes from redshirt freshman Brevin Pritzl tonight? Coach Gard mentioned this week that he is getting consistent production from Pritzl recently in practice. Can Pritzl provide the outside shot that Wisconsin needs to open up their offense? I guess we will find out more tonight!
Thorson’s Prediction: BADGERS 73 Ohio State 66 (Thorson is 14-2 on the season)
Caleb King’s Prediction (@calebking_2): BADGERS 76 Ohio State 68 (King is 10-3 on the season)