Caleb King’s (@calebking_2) Preview: The Wisconsin Badgers return home to the Kohl Center for their final two games of their Big Ten regular season schedule; the first coming tonight against the Iowa Hawkeyes. The game is slated to begin at 8:00p.m. on ESPN.
The Iowa Hawkeyes come into tonight’s contest with a 16-13 overall record. They currently sit alone in 8th place in the Big Ten with a record of 8-8. They are on a two game winning streak, defeating Indiana at home and then Maryland on the road. Their last loss came at the hands of Illinois on their home floor. After their matchup with Wisconsin, Iowa will finish their Big Ten regular season on Sunday with a home game vs Penn State.
This year has been an up-and-down year for the Hawkeyes, as it has been for many Big Ten teams. They have some very impressive wins, one of which came against the current first place Purdue Boilermakers, a more than solid Maryland team, and even an impressive win against the Cyclones from Iowa State. The Hawkeyes lost A LOT of fire power from last year’s squad, and the only vital player from last year returning was Peter Jok. But make no mistake about it, Peter Jok has not disappointed Iowa fans.
Peter Jok averages 21.0ppg for the Hawkeyes and carries the majority load every night. If there’s one thing to say about Peter Jok it’s that the guy doesn’t quit. He doesn’t ever give up on himself or on his team and he always performs. There is one, and only one, Big 10 arena that Jok has not won at in his career at Iowa. That is the Kohl Center in Madison. Jok visits for the final time tonight to achieve something that is so difficult to do in the Big Ten. Let’s hope the Badgers put a stop to that plan really fast tonight.
The two other primary contributors for Iowa are Tyler Cook, who averages 11.8ppg, and then Jordan Bohannon, who averages 9.2ppg for the Hawkeyes.
Wait, Bohannon? That name sounds familiar. If your Wisconsin Basketball brain’s gears are sharp you’ll have fond memories of Bohannons at the Kohl Center. Jordan Bohannon is the younger brother of two former Badgers, Jason and Zach, who played under Coach Bo Ryan. Jason Bohannon was on the Badgers radar when he was in the recruitment process, but the unknown at the time of who would be in charge of the program for Wisconsin led the final Bohannon to choose his father’s alma mater, Iowa, over the Badgers. Former Badgers Jason and Zach will join their parents in rooting for Iowa and their younger brother tonight at the Kohl Center, unlike D’Mitrik Trice’s brother Travis, who still rooted for his alma mater Spartans on Sunday when Trice came to the Breslin Center with the Badgers. Am I throwing some shade? Maybe a little, but I do think it’s cool to have brotherly support in a situation like this. Either way, it will be a unique experience for all involved. Bohannon has been a great shooter for the Hawkeyes this year and just an all-around athlete to help complement Peter Jok’s consistent heroics.
Now let’s get to our Wisconsin Badgers.
The Badgers come into tonight’s contest with an overall record of 22-7, and ranked 22nd in the nation. They currently sit alone in 2nd place in the Big 10 standings with a 11-5 record looking up at Purdue. If the Badgers win out against Iowa and then Minnesota on Sunday and get some help from Northwestern to defeat Purdue in their final Big 10 game, the Badgers will have a share of the Big 10 regular season title.
The Badgers have lost 4 of their past 5 games, the lone win coming at home against Maryland on the 19th of February. The four losses came against Northwestern at home, Michigan on the road, Ohio State on the road, and Michigan State on the road.
The Badgers haven’t exactly found their rhythm yet. February was a long shortest month of the year. But now it’s March. This is where the Madness begins. This is where champions are born. This is where nothing is given, and everything is earned. And if there’s one thing this veteran Badgers team understands, it’s March.
A big key going down the stretch now is leadership for this Badgers team. Bronson Koenig has emerged as a leader in so many aspects of his life, and realizes he’s down to as few as 4 games left in a Badgers uniform. But he has no intentions of early exits in the Big 10 tourney or the Big Dance. The Senior point guard is too determined to get the Badgers back where they belong.
Sometimes all it takes is one event to really catapult you forward. For Koenig, it was missing that game at Michigan. Koenig said “This being my last year, it reminded me of how much I really love this game and how much I want to be out there with my teammates.” Koenig and Hayes understand that the end of their Wisconsin Basketball careers are coming to a close sometime in the next month. They’re hoping it’s on April 3rd in Phoenix, AZ.
Just take a quick moment to reflect on Nigel and Bronson. Remember when they were freshman coming in and began to contribute just halfway through the non-conference season? We’ve had an awesome opportunity to watch these two players grow in ways that words cannot express, on and off the court. Two great contributors on the two Final Four teams. Koenig’s huge shot against Xavier last March. There’s no quit in those two guys, and you can bet that these two guys are going to do anything in their power to keep Wisconsin dancing through March as long as possible.
The Badgers are led by Koenig (13.9ppg), Hayes (13.7ppg, 6.1rpg, 2.9apg) and Ethan Happ (14.1ppg, 9.0rpg, 2.9apg, 1.2bpg, 2.1spg).
There’s no doubt that a key to victory for the Badgers tonight to get back on track from a 2 game losing streak and losing 4 out of their last 5 is to shut down Peter Jok. I’d assume Zak Showalter will be the man to stop the top scorer in the Big 10, and I’d also assume Khalil Iverson will give his minutes as well. Last season at Carver-Hawkeye arena Iverson had a Top-10 windmill slam-dunk. We’ll see if this year will bring another Top-10 jam for the Sophomore guard. Jok’s pure athleticism will give the Badgers trouble without a doubt, it has given everyone trouble this season. The offense runs through Jok. If the Hawkeyes escape with a win tonight at the Kohl Center, it better be someone else other than Jok who gets it done for Iowa.
My Player-To-Watch tonight is Ethan Happ. Happ has had a couple of rough games in terms of scoring and getting shots off because of double and triple teams, but I think tonight Happ will be a tough matchup for the Hawkeyes down low. Look for Happ to be active on the boards and use his footwork to really dominate Iowa down on the block. Maybe this is a bold statement, but I have a hunch Happ may make a jumper tonight as well!
King’s Prediction: Badgers 76, Iowa 72 (King is 15-5 on the season)
As always, #OnWisconsin
Ben Thorson’s (@benjthorson) Prediction: BADGERS 73 Iowa 65 (Thorson is 23-3 on the season)