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 18 Preview and Predictions: Wisconsin vs. Michigan

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)

Game 15 Preview and Predictions: Wisconsin at Indiana

Caleb King (@calebking_2) Preview: The Wisconsin Badgers continue their Big Ten conference schedule on Tuesday night as they travel to Indiana to take on the Hoosiers at Assembly Hall for a game that is scheduled to begin at 6pm on ESPN.

The Hoosiers come into the game with an overall record of 10-4 and an unexpected conference record of 0-1. Indiana’s opening B1G game saw the Hoosiers fall surprisingly at Assembly Hall by a score of 83-87 to Nebraska. Indiana is currently on a 2-game losing streak, with their most recent loss coming against #6 Louisville in Indianapolis by score of 62-77. After starting the season at 10-2, including impressive wins over #2 Kansas and #3 North Carolina, the Hoosiers now find themselves unranked in many polls or ranked 25th in others after being ranked 16th to begin last week.

No matter how things have been going as of late for the Hoosiers, this is not a team any program in the nation can overlook. Indiana has a high powered offense which is led by a lot of experience and success. The Hoosiers are led by their “Big 4” in James Blackmon Jr (17.3ppg, 5.8rpg), Robert Johnson (13.8ppg, 4.1rpg, 2.4apg), OG Anunoby (12.2ppg, 6.2rpg), and big man Thomas Bryant (12.1ppg, 7.6rpg). There are a total of six Hoosiers that are currently averaging over seven points per game.

The Badgers come into the game with an overall record of 12-2 and a 1-0 record in the B1G following their opening conference contest where they defeated Rutgers handily, 72-52 at the Kohl Center in Madison. The Badgers are ranked nationally at #13 and are currently on an 8-game winning streak, including wins over Oklahoma, Syracuse, Marquette, and Rutgers over that stretch.

Wisconsin is led as of late by their “Big 3” in Bronson Koenig (14.1ppg), Nigel Hayes (14.0ppg, 5.8rpg, 3.3apg), and Ethan Happ (12.7ppg, 9.6rpg, 1.6spg). Zak Showalter is coming off a big game against Rutgers where he scored his season-high point total of 18, to go along with four steals in 30 minutes. Showalter is averaging 8.1ppg and fellow senior, Vitto Brown is also contributing 7.8ppg and 4.0rpg. D’Mitrik Trice continues to impress and is proving to be an effective sixth man for the Badgers. The Freshman guard is putting up 6.5ppg and sometimes shares the court with Bronson Koenig, to allow Koenig more scoring opportunities at the 2-guard.

In comparison to Indiana’s 9-1 record when scoring 80 points, the Badgers have only allowed 80 points in one contest this season, and in that contest they defeated Marquette on the road by score of 93-84. The Badgers are 4-0 when they score 80 points or more in a game. Putting that all in perspective, on paper it seems that the winner of this game will be the first to 80, but it will be much more than that.

A key matchup for the Badgers tonight will be the play of Happ, Brown, and Charlie Thomas vs. Indiana center, Thomas Bryant. If the Badgers bigs can dominate the boards and keep Bryant off the glass it will open up the game for Wisconsin to move their offense through the post with Happ and Nigel Hayes. Ethan Happ’s footwork will be critical against the very physical Bryant, but after two games last season vs Bryant, the Badgers sophomore forward knows what it takes to match up with the Indiana big man and will hopefully stay out of foul trouble defending him.

It’s no secret either that the backcourt game is vital for success tonight as well. The Hoosiers love to run their guys off of a lot of screens and get open from the outside and hit open jumpers. The Badgers will have to keep their defensive rotations on lockdown as they look to limit the Hoosiers from getting easy looks from the outside. OG Anunoby will take you anywhere on the floor and prove his athleticism both outside and around the rim. Anunoby has the ability to cause a lot of problems for the Badgers if they are unable to communicate on defense against the 6’8” forward for Indiana.

Despite Indiana being on the edge of or out of the national top-25 rankings; this Hoosiers team has all the pieces to be a top-15, even a top-10 team in the country. Don’t forget, Indiana has two of the most impressive victories in the conference to this point. It will take nothing short of the Badgers best effort to take down the Hoosiers in Bloomington at the historic Assembly Hall. Coaches Tom Crean and Greg Gard will have their teams ready for a March-like showdown tonight.

My Player-To-Watch is Nigel Hayes: Last year at Assembly Hall the Badgers fell by score of 58-59 and Hayes had a quiet 15 points on 3-13 shooting, and three of those points were on account of a half-court shot to end the game. Later in the season the Badgers took down the Hoosiers in Madison by score of 82-79 and Hayes led the Badgers with 31 points on 7-12 shooting as the forward also connected on 17-22 shooting from the charity stripe. Purely from last season’s outcomes and Hayes’ influence on the Badgers offense; I consider him the player-to-watch tonight. If the Badgers are able to work their offense through Hayes and get him the ball in the high and low post, then Nigel should be able to facilitate and score from their effectively.

King’s Prediction: BADGERS 79 Indiana 75 (King is 9-2 on the season)

As always, #OnWisconsin

Ben Thorson’s Prediction (@benjthorson): Since I’m picking a loss Sunday at Purdue, I’m going to bet on the Badgers not losing both road games this week. Wisconsin escapes with a huge road win in Bloomington, and maybe they can even change my mind for Sunday!

BADGERS 73 Indiana 68 (Thorson is 13-1 on the season)