Game 27 Preview and Prediction: Wisconsin vs. Maryland

Ben Thorson’s (@benjthorson) Preview: The Wisconsin Badgers Men’s Basketball team returns to action Sunday afternoon as they host the 23rd-ranked Maryland Terrapins at the Kohl Center. The game is scheduled to tip-off at 12:00p.m. on CBS.

After losses to Northwestern and Michigan, the Badgers will look to avoid falling out of first place in the Big Ten Standings. Entering play on Saturday, Wisconsin is in a 3-way tie with Purdue and Maryland with a 10-3 conference record. Purdue takes on Michigan State at 3:00p.m. on Saturday.

Maryland comes into Madison off back-to-back wins against Ohio State and Northwestern as the Terrapins boast an overall record of 22-4. Maryland is currently ranked 17th in the RPI rankings with their top wins coming against Minnesota, Oklahoma State, and Northwestern. The Terps are 3-1 against RPI Top-50 opponents; their only loss was a 72-73 defeat to Purdue on February 4th. Maryland does have some questionable losses this season as they have fallen to three teams outside the RPI Top-50: Pittsburgh, Nebraska, and Penn State.

The Terps are led by guard, Melo Trimble; who leads Maryland with 17.2 points per game and 1.2 steals per game. The junior also posts 3.5 rpg, 3.5 apg and 44.4% shooting from the field. Trimble isn’t doing it alone however, as he is getting help from a trio of freshman led by forward Justin Jackson. Jackson leads the Terps with 6.3rpg to go along with 11.0ppg. The freshman can also spread the floor as he has connected on 36 three-pointers this season on 80 attempts (45.0%).

The other two freshman of note are guards Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter. Cowan is averaging 10.7ppg, 4.0rpg, 3.7apg. and 1.2spg. While Huerter contributes 9.0ppg and 5.0rpg.

After previewing this Maryland squad, what do the Badgers need to do Sunday to end their two-game skid?

  1. Nigel Hayes needs to be more assertive: In the absence of Bronson Koenig against Michigan on Thursday, the Badgers were looking for major production from their other three senior starters. Hayes, Vitto Brown, and Zak Showalter combined for 14 points on 5-for-19 shooting. The Badgers need more production from Hayes, who didn’t attempt a single free throw in Thursday’s loss. Hayes has proven unstoppable in spurts this season when he drives to the basket and works in the low post; as defenders are left a step-behind resulting in an easy finish for Nigel or a foul. Look for Hayes to be more assertive Sunday in what may be the biggest game of his senior campaign to date.
  2. Play with the lead in the final 10 minutes: We all understand the Badgers offensive struggles recently; these struggles have allowed opponents to go on runs and ultimately force the Badgers to play from behind late in games. This will prove even more important on Sunday as Melo Trimble has proven to be one of the most ‘clutch’ players in the conference and one of the most consistent free-throw shooters late in games. If the Badgers trail late, they most likely will be trading buckets with a pair of made free throws from Trimble.
  3. Play a Badgers brand of basketball: Wisconsin returns to their home floor in need of a big victory. We know the Kohl Center will be rockin’ but will we see the same sluggish, turnover-prone offense from the Badgers on Sunday? Wisconsin has to take more pride in protecting the basketball and getting to the free throw line. The play of Ethan Happ has proven consistent over Big Ten play, but who will step up Sunday to help keep the Badgers on top of the Big Ten conference; in my opinion it needs to be a complete team effort.

Thorson’s Prediction: BADGERS 63 Maryland 60 (Thorson is 21-2 on the season) At the time of writing this article, the status of senior guard Bronson Koenig is still undetermined, but my prediction holds true in either situation, here’s why…Koenig has been relatively ineffective ever since this calf injury came about sometime between the Penn State and Rutgers games, as result the Badgers offense has become sluggish and doesn’t have a ‘go-to’ scoring option down the stretch. But this stretch has now gone on for too long for Greg Gard and his staff to not have an answer. And the answer hinges on playing ‘elite’ defense, taking care of the basketball, and Nigel Hayes playing like a member of the All Big-Ten Conference First Team.

According to Kenpom rankings, the Badgers have the most efficient defense in the Big Ten conference and are currently ranked 7th in the country on this end of the floor. This defense has allowed 61.8 ppg in Big Ten play, which includes three overtime periods; in regulation time they have allowed 59.5ppg. I expect this stout defense to continue Sunday on their home floor with an understanding that Melo Trimble is going to get his points but don’t allow him to get consistent production from his trio of freshman who have never seen a defensive unit as solid as the Badgers.

This carries on to many Badgers fans concern over the play of Koenig’s replacement D’Mitrik Trice. The freshman guard was 2-for-15 from the floor Thursday night as Trice recorded nine points in his first career start. First of all, Trice should have never been in a position to take this many shots, Hayes was non-existent on the offensive end and Brown stopped shooting after an 0-for-5 start. If anything I am actually encouraged that Trice was willing to take that many shots, because if he’s in that position again Sunday, D’Mitrik is too good of a shooter to only make two. Second, Trice had four assists, four free throw attempts, and two turnovers in his first ever road start against a much-improved Wolverines team. Trice proved to be the most assertive Badger behind Ethan Happ on Thursday night and I think he’s in for a better performance Sunday if called upon to start again.

There are many concerns and questions leading into Sundays game with Maryland but the Badgers have always proven to me that they have a response; and I expect that response to come Sunday afternoon with a top-25 victory!

Game 14 Preview and Predictions: Wisconsin vs. Rutgers

Caleb King’s (@calebking_2) Preview: The Badgers open up their Big Ten season at home at the Kohl Center tonight against the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers; a game slated to start at 6pm in Madison on ESPN2.

The Scarlet Knights come in with an impressive record compared to years past as they are 11-2 on the season (8-0 at home, 2-2 on the road, 1-0 neutral). The Scarlet Knights’ schedule hasn’t been all that tough so far this season, their two toughest tests resulted in their only two losses, one to Miami (61-73) and one most recently to Seton Hall (61-72). The Scarlet Knights have yet to face a ranked opponent, so tonight’s test against the veteran Badgers will be a good gauge to see where this Rutgers team is at. Rutgers is led in scoring by Junior guard Nigel Johnson (12.7ppg). Deshawn Freeman leads the way in the rebounds column (9.5rpg) and Corey Sanders leads the Knights in assists (3.85apg).

The Badgers also come into tonight’s contest with an impressive 11-2 record (8-0 at home, 1-1 on the road, 2-1 neutral), but, as the 14th-rank in the nation explains, the Badgers non-conference road has been much tougher than that of Rutgers. To highlight some of Wisconsin’s non-conference victories; the Badgers have defeated Syracuse, Oklahoma, Georgetown, and Marquette. While the Badgers only two losses have came to top-10 opponents in Creighton (undefeated) and North Carolina. This Badgers team has a lot of experience coming into B1G play, and they are also riding a current 7-game winning streak. The Badgers are led by their “Big 3” in Bronson Koenig (14.6ppg), Nigel Hayes (13.5ppg, 5.8rpg, 3.4apg), and Ethan Happ (12.9ppg, 9.5rpg, 2.8apg). Another notable for Wisconsin is Freshman guard D’Mitrik Trice, who is shooting 60% from behind the arc(18-30 on the season). Ethan Happ is also shooting 69.2% from the floor; which is impressive from the big fella’ down low. Vitto Brown and Zak Showalter are also scoring 8.0ppg and 7.4ppg respectively.

But don’t count out this Rutgers team. Their non-conference schedule hasn’t been the toughest, but this team is much improved from last season, which was a team that went 7-25 overall and 1-17 in the B1G. Since the Scarlet Knights joined the B1G, the Badgers hold a 1-1 record against them. The last meeting between the two sides came last season where the Badgers defeated the Scarlet Knights by score of 79-57, but that game was tight throughout before Wisconsin used an 18-4 run to put the game away in the middle of the second half. Greg Gard and the Wisconsin Badgers know that they’ll need to put forth their best effort in every game of their Big Ten schedule if they want to win this conference, and Rutgers is no exception. Rutgers already has four more wins than last season and it’s easy to tell that they’re hungry for success in the B1G; and what better way to begin than knocking off the 14th-ranked Badgers in Madison.

But Wisconsin will be prepared. Greg Gard knows how to prepare his side for a battle in the B1G, and you can bet there won’t be anything Coach Gard isn’t ready for. With so many dangerous combinations that Gard can put on the floor; Koenig, Happ, Hayes, Brown, Showalter; and Iverson along with Trice mixed in with Thomas, Illikainen, and Hill, this Badgers team has much more depth than most people realize.

Success in the B1G is nothing foreign to this Badgers team. In each of the past 16 seasons the Badgers have finished with a winning conference record and Wisconsin has finished top-4 in the conference each of the past 15 seasons. The Badgers have high hopes of winning the B1G this season, but they’ll need to play solid Wisconsin basketball through the season to do so in this power-packed conference. A big factor in playing a ‘Wisconsin brand of winning basketball’ is efficiency on both ends of the court; which the Badgers sport one of the top-10 most efficient offenses in the nation. And on the defensive side of the ball, the Badgers have held 9 of their 13 opponents to their season low in point totals. Tonight’s match-up with Rutgers is just the beginning of this B1G season with the top half of the conference all being ranked in the top-52 of the country, and the Badgers want to start it out right with a ‘W’ in front of their home fans at the Kohl Center.

When asked about Rutgers season thus far, Gard had this to say, “You look at the numbers of shooting percentages, defensive field goal percentage, points per game, all those things are considerably lower than they were a year ago. What they are doing defensively, you freeze the film and watch how they are positioning. Coach Pikiell is doing a very good job.”

Rutgers has been dangerous this season off of dribble penetration and on the offensive glass. The Badgers back court will have to do a good job of keeping their guys in front of them defensively, while forcing the Knights to shoot from the perimeter. After shots go up, UW will have to box out and win the battle of the boards.

My Player-To-Watch tonight is Nigel Hayes. This is Hayes’ final season in the B1G and he’s a leader on the court for this Badgers team. Nigel does much more than just score, he facilitates and puts his teammates in positions to be successful. If Nigel is able to take control of the high post area and either drive or dish along with being active on the glass on the defensive side, it will be hard for Rutgers to keep pace. I’m looking for a big double-double tonight from Nigel!

King’s Prediction: BADGERS 75 Rutgers 59 (King is 8-2 on the season)

As always, #OnWisconsin

Ben Thorson’s (@benjthorson) Prediction: BADGERS 71 Rutgers 57 (Thorson is 12-1 on the season)

Game 10 Preview and Predictions: Wisconsin vs. Idaho State

The Badgers will look to extend their win streak to four games tonight as they host the Bengals from Idaho State at 6pm.

The Bengals come in with a record of 1-7, their lone win coming at home against Lamar University by score of 77-60. The Badgers will be the first top-25 opponent of the season for Idaho State, and the second foe from a Power 5 conference. The Bengals lost to Texas Tech 91-58 on November 25th.

The Bengals are led in scoring by Ethan Telfair, younger brother of former NBA guard Sebastian Telfair, who averages 19.8ppg this season. They also have two other players averaging double figures in Brandon Boyd (14.3ppg) and Geno Luzcando (11.9ppg). Novak Topolovic is the Bengal’s leading rebounder, averaging 5.0rpg.

The Badgers enter Wednesday’s contest ranked #17 in the nation with a record of 7-2. They are coming off of a 3-win week, as they defeated Prairie View A&M 95-50, Syracuse 77-60, and Oklahoma 90-70. The biggest storyline for the Badgers this past week has been Nigel Hayes and his performances as of late. Hayes had a near triple double vs Syracuse and followed that up with 28 point performance against the Sooners; it seems like Nigel has found his rhythm again. Hayes comes in averaging 13.1ppg along with 5.7rpg and 3.8apg. Bronson Koenig comes in averaging 15.2 ppg, and to round out the Badgers big three Ethan Happ comes in averaging a near double-double with 13.7ppg and 9.8rpg.

The key for the Badgers expected success tonight is to make Idaho State play a Wisconsin brand of basketball. The Badgers need to show their superiority right from the get-go as they did against PVAMU. If the Badgers dominate the boards, finish down low and have a relatively solid shooting night, they shouldn’t have any problem with this game. Freshman D’Mitrik Trice has proved to be a spark off the bench and a threat from the 3-point line. Trice has the ability to open up the floor for his teammates and finds pockets for himself to score. Badger fans are loving watching this kid play early on.

My Player-To-Watch tonight is forward Charlie Thomas. Assuming this game stays out of reach for the Bengals, Thomas will get a lot of chances tonight to settle in. He’s seen some time the past couple games vs Syracuse and Oklahoma, but never seemed to be able to settle in completely. Tonight look for Thomas to get significant minutes off the bench and to settle into his role in the post and see more production as a result.

Caleb King’s (@calebking_2) Prediction: BADGERS 87 Idaho State 54

Ben Thorson’s (@benjthorson) Prediction: BADGERS 91 Idaho State 55

#OnWisconsin

Maui Invite: Wisconsin vs. Tennessee Quarterfinal Preview and Predictions

Caleb King’s (@calebking_2) Preview and Prediction for Monday’s Quarterfinal game between Wisconsin and Tennessee:

There certainly is a lot of excitement that surrounds this Maui Invitational Tournament.

Following their arrival in Maui, the Badgers have been living the good life. From swimming and wake boarding in the Central Pacific to enjoying the sunset on the beach, watching Aleem Ford and Charlie Thomas learn to hula dance to Vitto Brown carrying the team to a corn hole championship vs UNC’s squad, and so much more excitement that surrounds Coach Gard and the rest of the Head Coaches and their staffs at the tournament.

But as fun as these past couple days have been, we don’t want the fun to stop outside the Lahaina Civic Center, where the Badgers will open up their tournament play vs Tennessee today at 1:30. This matchup with Tennessee will be another test for these Badgers to show that they are above a mid-major program, and show they deserve a battle with either Georgetown or Oregon in the semi-finals.

Coming off of a big win vs Chicago State in Madison last Thursday, this Wisconsin team’s confidence is right where it needs to be to take care of this Tennessee team. Tennessee is coming off of a win in their latest contest vs Appalachian State by score of 103-94. They come in with a 1-1 record with their loss coming to Chattanooga where the Volunteers gave up 82 points. One notable thing about this Volunteer team is that they give up a lot of points, at least through these first two games. Obviously this is an SEC team that plays a little different of style than the Big Ten’s physical, grind-it-out type of play. It will be important for these Badgers to execute their offensive sets against a weaker Volunteer squad and not stray from their game plan as we had done in our loss at Creighton. They need to make Tennessee adjust to their style. If the Badgers play this game fundamentally sound, both offensively and defensively, you won’t see this game get away from them. The key is for the Badgers to play Wisconsin’s style of basketball, in specific, not the Warrior’s style of basketball. Guard play is big for the Volunteers in Jordan Bone and Lamonte Turner who have put up majority points for the Vols thus far this season, but nothing will be easy when you’re matched up with Showalter.

My player-to-watch tonight is freshman D’Mitrik Trice. Trice has come off the bench each of the past 3 games for the Badgers and has been a spark each time he’s entered the game and has earned the trust of Gard early on, along with the trust of his teammates to step in and run the sets even sometimes while Koenig is on the floor. Trice helps to open up the game for the Badgers, he’s an outside threat and will find his teammates in scoring spots as well. Look for Trice to continue to be a spark for these Badgers through Maui and throughout the season as well.

This has been a memorable trip already for the Badgers, but a tough week and early flight home will leave a sour and disappointing taste in their mouths. Who knows, maybe the pre-tournament corn hole tournament is foreshadowing for the Maui Championship on Wednesday night. We’ll just have to wait and see.

King’s Predition: BADGERS 71 Tennessee 56

#OnWisconsin

Ben Thorson’s Prediction (@benjthorson): The Badgers open up the Maui Jim Maui Invitational against Tennessee on Monday afternoon. Tennessee enters the week with a 1-1 record with their win coming against Appalachian State and their loss to Chattanooga. Initially, a 13-point defeat to Chattanooga looks pretty bad, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Mocs made it to the NCAA Tournament and give their opening round opponent all they can handle. With that being said, Tennessee has 13 underclassmen on their roster but are led by their senior guard Robert Hubbs. Hubbs is second on the team with 13.5 points per game which is up from his 10.6 average in 2015-16. The Volunteers have also had impressive play from freshman Jordan Bone; Bone leads the team in scoring (14.0ppg) and assists (4.5apg).

It may be easy for the Badgers to overlook Tennessee in their opening matchup; as possible contests against Oregon and North Carolina await. But I feel this Badgers team is unsatisfied with their opening three games and will come out with a statement victory.

Thorson’s Prediction: BADGERS 74 Tennessee 63

Badgers Victory by the Numbers

The Wisconsin Badgers Men’s Basketball Team was victorious in their season opener on Friday night as they defeated the Central Arkansas Bears 79-47. The Badgers were led by senior guard Bronson Koenig who finished the game with 16 points on 6-for-12 shooting and four rebounds. Senior Nigel Hayes had a strong game as well finishing with 14 points, five assists, and four rebounds.

10: Ten different Badgers saw the court in the first 11 minutes of Friday nights win. Badgers fans can expect to see a 10-man rotation throughout the non-conference slate but this may drop to 8-9 players come January.

47.1: The Badgers shot 47.1% from the field as they connected on 24 of their 51 shot attempts.

29: Wisconsin attempted 29 three-point shots in the victory over the Bears. The Badgers connected 11 times from behind the arc including four treys from Koenig.

43: After being out-rebounded in the first half 18-16, the Badgers finished the game with 43 boards compared to 28 by Central Arkansas. Sophomore Ethan Happ led the way with nine rebounds.

9: Hayes and Happ combined for nine assists in the victory. The Badgers big men showed great court-vision throughout the game.

78.3: After going 2-4 in the first half from the free throw line, the Badgers finished the game with 23 attempts while hitting 18 of their freebies (78.1%).

Other Notes:

  • True freshman D’Mitrik Trice finished his college debut with eight points and two rebounds as he connected on both of his three-point attempts.
  • Before the game, freshman Aleem Ford decided to redshirt this season; along with walk-on Michael Ballard.