Ben Thorson’s (@benjthorson) Preview: The Wisconsin Badgers Men’s Basketball Team resumes Big Ten Conference play tonight at the Kohl Center as they square off the Michigan Wolverines at 8:00PM on ESPN.
The Badgers are coming off a strong performance last Thursday as they defeated Ohio State 89-66 to improve to 14-3 on the season. Wisconsin remains a half game out of first place in the Big Ten behind Maryland entering play tonight.
Michigan boasts a 12-6 record on the season and are 2-3 in conference play. Their most recent win came on Saturday as they defeated Nebraska 91-85 in Ann Arbor. This victory is the second of the season for Michigan against RPI top-50 opponents. Their first came on November 18th, as they defeated Southern Methodist 76-54. The Wolverines are currently 2-4 against RPI top-50 teams, and are 4-5 against RPI top-100 teams. One common opponent between Michigan and Wisconsin has been Marquette, who the Wolverines handled 79-61 on a neutral floor.
Michigan is led by senior guard Zak Irvin, who is currently averaging 14.2ppg, to go along with 4.9rpg and 3.7apg. Irvin recorded 14 points and eight rebounds in his lone meeting with the Badgers in 2015-16; a contest in which Wisconsin won 68-57 in Madison.
The Wolverines are also getting strong play from senior guard Derrick Walton Jr. and sophomore forward Moritz Wagner, who are averaging 12.4ppg and 12.2ppg respectively. Junior forward D.J. Wilson is the force inside for Michigan; the 6’10”, 240-pound Wilson is averaging 10.8ppg to go along with a team-high 6.4rpg and 1.3bpg.
Michigan head coach, John Beilein, has had a lot of success in conference play during his tenure in Ann Arbor. However Beilein has struggled against the Badgers as Wisconsin has won 15 of their 17 matchups against the Wolverines coach.
The Badgers enter tonight’s game with a little momentum after their offensive outburst against Ohio State. UW will look to continue that tonight against a defense that ranks 58th in the country in points against. Wisconsin will look to have a good balance offensively between outside and inside scoring. The Badgers connected on 12 three-point attempts in their win over the Buckeyes to go along with 21 offensive rebounds.
Wisconsin enters tonight’s contest as 11-point favorites, but the Badgers shouldn’t take this Wolverines squad for granted. Michigan is a led by a pair of senior guards who know what it takes to win in the Big Ten. The Badgers need to run their offense through Ethan Happ early, which should lead to open jumpers for Koenig among others as the game goes along. If Wisconsin can stay efficient on offense, they should be able to complete the double-digit victory, but if they fail to hit open jumpers and let Michigan hang around…well anything can happen in this year’s Big Ten.
Thorson’s Prediction: BADGERS 77 Michigan 65 (Thorson is 15-2 on the season)
Caleb King’s (@calebking_2) Prediction: BADGERS 81 Michigan 64 (King is 10-3 on the season)