Game 30 Preview and Predictions: Wisconsin vs. Iowa

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)

Game 17 Preview and Predictions: Wisconsin vs. Ohio State

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)

Game 16 Preview and Predictions: Wisconsin at Purdue

The Wisconsin Badgers continue their Big Ten journey this afternoon as they travel to West Lafayette to take on the Purdue Boilermakers at Mackey Arena. The game is scheduled to tip at 3:30pm on CBS; yes of course ten minutes before kickoff of the Packers playoff tilt with the Giants.

Last season, the Badgers lost both of their meetings with the Boilermakers, first to start off Big Ten play and then again to end the regular season. They were defeated by scores of 55-61 (Kohl Center) and 80-91 (Mackey Arena).

The Purdue Boilermakers have had a bit of an unexpected start to conference play, as have many teams in the B1G. They currently sport a record of 13-3, 2-1 conference. 2-1 doesn’t seem so bad, but how they’ve gotten there is what brings me to say it. Purdue was my pick to open the season to go undefeated at home, but in their second home test in conference play the Boilermakers lost at Mackey Arena to the Minnesota Golden Gophers despite a 20-point, 20-rebound performance from superstar, big-man Caleb Swanigan. The Boilermakers knocked off Iowa to open Big Ten play, and escaped Ohio State on Thursday with a 76-75 victory on the road. After coming into the B1G season ranked #15 and seeing their first couple of opponents, the Boilermakers haven’t exactly performed to the level they’d like.

Nonetheless, the Boilermakers, just like Indiana, are not a team that anyone can look past in this, seemingly weaker than normal, Big 10 conference. Purdue is led by, in my opinion, the best all-around big man in the conference, and one of the best in the nation, Sophomore Caleb Swanigan. Swanigan is currently posting impressive numbers: 18.3ppg, 12.9rpg, and also can take his defender outside the arc as he shoots 40% from the 3-point line. In the past 20 years the Big Ten has seen six ‘20 point-20 rebound’ games. Four of those belong to Caleb Swanigan, all of them coming this season. That’s impressive. Purdue is also led by 7’2” Isaac Haas (13.4ppg), Vincent Edwards (12.4ppg, 3.8apg, 5.5rpg), and Carsen Edwards (10.8ppg).

But let’s get back to the hottest team in the Big Ten, your Wisconsin Badgers. The Badgers come into this afternoons contest with an overall record of 13-2, 2-0 in conference play. They are currently riding a 9-game win streak coming into West Lafayette, their last loss coming at the hands of North Carolina in the Maui Invitational Championship on November 23rd. Wisconsin’s most recent win came against a tough Indiana team on the road in Bloomington where the Badgers defeated the Hoosiers by the score of 75-68 at Assembly Hall. The Badgers are really starting to flex their experience and resiliency; especially in this last game against a tough and athletic Indiana team. The Badgers come into their matchup with Purdue ranked number 13 in the nation. Wisconsin sits a half-game behind the 3-0 Nebraska Cornhuskers in conference play; as the Badgers and Huskers are the only unbeatens in the conference after Michigan States loss at Penn State on Saturday.

The Badgers are led, per usual, by their consistent starting-5 in Ethan Happ, Vitto Brown, Nigel Hayes, Zak Showalter, and Bronson Koenig. Ethan Happ has been moving his way up into the conversation for Player of the Year in the Big 10 and also on the Wooden Award Watch List, and deservingly so. The redshirt Sophomore is averaging 13.1ppg and 9.4rpg, a near double-double. But it’s not just the numbers that are impressive about Happ, it’s his skill in the lane and his footwork and his hustle. Jay Bilas said during the Indiana game that he is so impressed with Ethan Happ because it’s arguably difficult to find a game where he hasn’t played well, and I have to agree with him. Even in a game like North Carolina where the Badgers were clearly outplayed, the Sophomore still put up a solid 13 points and 6 rebounds which was head-and=shoulders above anyone else on the Badgers roster. Happ’s ability to get to the rim is something special. The Badgers are also led by Senior duo Bronson Koenig (14.3ppg) and Nigel Hayes (13.7ppg, 5.5rpg, 3.2apg). Koenig is coming off an impressive performance at Indiana where he scored 17 points and went 5-5 from the 3-point line, but only played 25 minutes due to foul trouble throughout the game.

A crucial aspect of the game this afternoon will be the rebounding battle, and the big question is: can Wisconsin’s rebounding stand up to Purdue? The Badgers currently rebound 38.8% of shots on their offensive glass, which is 10th in the country; a mark that ranks higher than any of Bo Ryan’s 15 Wisconsin teams. Greg Gard loves to push the offensive glass, but in the way of all of this is Caleb Swanigan, who may be the only person standing between Ethan Happ and the Big 10 Player of the Year honors. Swanigan grabs nearly 34% of available defensive rebounds on a team that collectively corrals 77% of available defensive rebounds, that’s hard to handle. The defensive battle will be crucial for the Badgers game plan to be successful at a tough Mackey Arena. If the Badgers are able to limit Caleb Swanigan on the glass and get Ethan Happ going down low; the Badgers should have a good recipe for success. Ohio State held Swanigan to five points in the first half on Thursday and lost the game by one. If the Badgers can somewhat replicate that defensive lockdown and dominate the glass I can see Wisconsin escaping West Lafayette with another victory over a top-25 opponent.

I think it’s easy to tell that my Player-To-Watch this afternoon is Ethan Happ. Happ is coming off a big game against Indiana where he scored 19 points to go along with 6 rebounds where he completely outplayed and out-hustled the Indiana big men, including Thomas Bryant. If Happ can stay out of foul trouble and make Swanigan really earn everything he gets down low, that will help the Badgers immensely to escape with a victory. At the beginning of the season Happ wasn’t so great when the opponent doubled down on him in the post, but as of late he has been phenomenal in finding open teammates out on the perimeter to knock down open shots after the double team.

As I mentioned before, the Purdue Boilermakers were my pick at the beginning of the season to go undefeated at their Mackey Arena, which is an extremely tough place to play. But Minnesota proved that they can be beaten. While the Badgers are playing to keep their undefeated conference record alive and to possibly crack the top-10 in national rankings, there is one more thing that can motivate this Badgers team this afternoon: The Badgers have not won at both Assembly Hall and at Purdue in the same season since 1972. After the big win at Assembly Hall on Tuesday against the Hoosiers, the Badgers have an opportunity to break that streak and emerge victorious at both venues for the first time in 45 years.

King’s Prediction: BADGERS 78 Purdue 71 (King is 10-2 on the season)

As always, #OnWisconsin

Ben Thorson’s (@benjthorson) Prediction: I’m pretty torn over this one, earlier in the week I mentioned I would pick Purdue at home. It is a team that the Badgers don’t matchup great against as Swanigan and Isaac Haas create so many matchup problems for many Big Ten teams. In the Badgers last loss, against North Carolina, they struggled to defend forward Kennedy Meeks who finished the game with 15 points and 16 rebounds. But Wisconsin on Tuesday proved they are getting better against physical teams as they limited Indian center, Thomas Bryant to six points and three rebounds. The Badgers proved to me that their experience is going to pay dividends, and it may even be the reason they hoist the Big Ten crown by years end. After trailing Indiana 56-57 late in the second half, the Badgers finished the game on a 19-11 run over the final 7:06 to escape Assembly Hall with the victory. UW will most likely need a similar finish to defeat Purdue on Sunday afternoon as I expect the game to be close throughout. The biggest question marks are: can Ethan Happ stay out of foul trouble and who will guard the Purdue bigs with Happ on the bench? If the Badgers can survive these daunting tests, then I expect the Badgers experienced lineup to find a way to gut out another win.

BADGERS 73 Purdue 69 (Thorson is 14-1 on the season)

Badgers offer Faion Hicks

 

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The Wisconsin Badgers football program is looking to add another cornerback to its 2017 recruiting class, officially offering a scholarship to Faion Hicks on Monday.

Hicks is an aggressive and physical football player with great speed. He needs more work with his tackling but makes up for it with great instincts. According to his HUDL page, Hicks has a verified 4.57 40-yard dash time and an impressive 36.9 inch vertical.

Back in early August, Hicks trimmed his list to eight schools which included Illinois, Iowa State, and South Florida. However, he was waiting to hear from Wisconsin. An offer from the Badgers was important to Hicks, one he was anxious to receive.

“Means a lot, one I’ve been waiting on so I’m excited to get things going with the coaches and learning more about the program,” Hicks said.

”I’ve heard nothing but great things,” Hicks said. “The people up there are awesome, the atmosphere is great and really crazy.”

The Badgers already have two cornerback commits for this class, Madison Cone and Ke’Shan Pennamon but are looking to add one more.

“I’ve been talking to Coach [Breckterfield] and Coach Leonhard and the relationship is good, they check in with me before every game, and even after games,” Hicks said. “Coach Leonhard is excited to get working with me and my craft as I plan to graduate early.”

Hicks, a 5’11 cornerback from Pembroke Pines, Florida is scheduled to visit Madison Oct. 15 when the Badgers face off against Ohio State.

Don’t be surprised if Hicks leaves the Ohio State game at Camp Randall a Badger.