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 24 Preview and Predictions: Wisconsin at Nebraska

Caleb King’s (@calebking_2) Preview: The Wisconsin Badgers continue their Big Ten conference season and travel to Lincoln, Nebraska tonight for a matchup with the Nebraska Cornhuskers. The game is slated to begin at 8pm at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Coming into tonight’s game, Nebraska is 11-13 overall and 4-7 in Big Ten play after their impressive 3-0 start to the conference season.

The year has been a roller coaster year for the Huskers, and most of that has been downhill. They started off their Big Ten season beating Indiana, Maryland, and Iowa, who all have impressive victories thus far this season. Since then, they’ve fallen in each of their conference contests except for a very impressive victory over the Purdue Boilermakers by a margin of three points at home. They now sit 12th out of 14 teams in the conference. If there’s anything to note about this Nebraska team, it is that they’re a much better team at home than on the road. Remember the Huskers upset the Badgers last season in the Big Ten tournament’s first round. Nebraska is as unpredictable as they come this year, and there’s no easy game on the road in the Big Ten, so you can bet tonight will be interesting in one way or another.

Nebraska only has two players that have started every game for them this season, so we can see right there that there is a lot of inconsistency from the start with this team. The two that have started every game thus far are no doubt their two leaders in Tai Webster and Michael Jacobsen. Tai Webster and Glynn Watson Jr. lead the charge offensively as they average 18.0ppg and 13.9ppg respectively. Webster also leads his team in assists as he averages 4.1apg. The Huskers are also a very active team on the boards as they have three players who average at least 5 boards per game (Tai Webster 5, Ed Morrow Jr 7.9, and Michael Jacobsen 6.8). Ed Morrow Jr also averages 10.1 ppg for the Huskers.

The Badgers come into tonight’s contest ranked #7 in the nation, and sit atop the Big Ten standings with a 20-3 record overall, 9-1 in Big Ten contests with their only blemish coming at the hands of the Purdue Boilermakers on January 8th.

If I had to choose one word to describe this Badgers team, I’d say “HOT”. This Badgers side under Coach Greg Gard has only lost one game since Thanksgiving, and that was to a sharp-shooting, inside-dominating Purdue Boilermaker side in West Lafayette. Since then, the Badgers have taken care of business, no matter how ugly it might’ve been, they have found a way to win. A big part of that has been due to the outstanding performances of redshirt Sophomore Ethan Happ.

Happ has emerged as the star of this Badgers team, hands down, no questions asked. 

When Happ arrived on campus for his freshman year, which he redshirted, Vitto Brown was quoted saying that “Ethan was one of the softest guys we’d ever met.” In that recent interview Vitto said he and his fellow housemates with Happ sat him down and, for lack of a better way to put it, told him to “Man-Up” because sooner or later all the stars would be gone and it would be his program to lead.

This same Ethan Happ, just two years later, is leading the 7th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers in points (14.7ppg), rebounds (9.1rpg), blocks (1.1bpg), and steals (2.0spg) and is ANYTHING but soft. Happ recently said “It’s awesome to come from a small school, have dreams of playing in college, just getting on the court, and now I’m one of the like top three or four people on a team that’s first in the Big Ten. I think that’s amazing. I really do.”

Well Ethan, I think we can all agree you’re the top guy so far on this top-tem Wisconsin Badgers team this season.

Jay Bilas recently tweeted that, in his mind, Happ is the leading candidate for National Defensive Player of the Year, and that nobody is as good of a defender as he is. In another recent interview, Happ reveals why he seems to be particularly strong on the defensive side of the ball: Football. His prevailing strategy: ‘bat the quarterback and pounce on mistakes.’

“I would try to make him think, if he throws it over here, it’s open,” Ethan says. “Then all of a sudden I jump the route. And then pick-six.”

This is something Happ continues to use defending players today. He’ll try to position himself so that passers believe they have a chance to feed the post; then he watches and times his attack. The 6’10” Sophomore is pretty good at it. Brown said that earlier it used to be “Oh, Ethan’s on me, time to attack.” But now he’s a “master thief out there. He’s got a knack for reaching at the right time and knowing how to make guys uncomfortable. It’s amazing.” Yes, yes it is Vitto.

As clutch as Ethan has been for the Badgers thus far, he isn’t the only guy out there for this tenacious, dangerous Wisconsin team. Alongside Happ, are two of college basketball’s most accomplished players so far in their careers in Seniors Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes. The luxury of being able to say that Bronson and Nigel are arguably your 2nd and 3rd best players is coveted by many, many teams in the nation.

Bronson has been having himself quite the spurt of games. He’s been hitting deep daggers late in games to seal victories for the Badgers, particularly at Minnesota and at Rutgers, but also getting hot in the other games as well. There isn’t another guy in the nation I’d rather have taking the last shot than Bronson, there’s ice in his veins and if you can get him in a catch-and-shoot situation, watch out. Bronson is putting up some impressive numbers on a successful Badgers team that has only three losses so far this season. He’s averaging 14.0ppg and shooting .392 from the 3-point line to go along with 2.2apg and 2.3rpg.

Nigel has also had himself a nice Senior campaign so far. The Senior forward is the Badgers key to dicing up a zone defense. It is a wonder to me why any teams try a zone defense against the Badgers. Each and every time a team has showed zone, Nigel goes to the high post and either gets a high quality look himself or more often he will facilitate from the dangerous high post area to his open teammates who find pockets in the zone. It’s a glorious thing to watch. When Nigel isn’t living on the 3-point line he is thriving in the lane and driving into defenders and getting to the line. As of late, Ethan and Nigel have been doing a phenomenal job of getting the opposing team into foul trouble and getting to the line. Their free throws still aren’t as good as we would like them to be, but they’re starting to pay dividends as a game wears on.

Tonight the Badgers take on a very inconsistent Huskers side, and you can bet that a theme for Coach Gard tonight will be consistency. If the Badgers stick to their game plan and run their offense efficiently, along with keeping Tai Webster at bay on the defensive side of the ball, you can bet that this game will be no challenge for the Badgers in Lincoln. I’d imagine that Zak Showalter will have Webster for a majority of the game tonight, and Nigel and Bronson will also take their turns as well I’m sure. Webster is great at scoring and facilitating, and a majority of Nebraska’s points come from him either scoring or facilitating. I’m anxious to see how Wisconsin will defend him tonight, because that will no doubt be a crucial aspect to this game. Like I said before, no Big Ten road game is easy, so the Badgers will have to be on their “A” game tonight to knock off a streaky Nebraska side.

My Player-To-Watch tonight is Junior forward Vitto Brown. Vitto has struggled a bit the past couple of games and tonight I see a prime opportunity for Vitto to get back on track and play some quality minutes and hit some big shots. The Huskers are very active defensively, but Vitto could be a huge key to opening up the Badgers offense tonight if he can get going from the 3-point line. When Vitto is dangerous from the outside, the Badgers are incredibly dangerous all over the court.

King’s Prediction: BADGERS 72 Nebraska 57 (King is 14-3 on the season)

As Always, #OnWisconsin

Ben Thorson’s (@benjthorson) Prediction: BADGERS 66 Nebraska 57 (Thorson is 20-2 on the season)

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)

I-94 Rivalry Preview and Predictions: Wisconsin vs. Marquette

Caleb King’s Preview (@calebking_2): Saturday brings one of the most iconic match ups that appears every season on the Wisconsin schedule. The Badgers will make the trip East down I-94 on Saturday to the Bradley Center as they face-off with the Golden Eagles from Marquette for a game that tips-off at 1pm. 
The last meeting between the two sides came last year at the Kohl Center, where the Golden Eagles knocked off the Badgers in Madison by score of 55-57. This was Bo Ryan’s last defeat as the Badgers Head Coach.
When asking the players about the match ups with the Golden Eagles, they all will say that these games are the ones that really stick with you, especially for those who have grown up in Wisconsin.
Wisconsinite and Germantown native Zak Showalter said post-game on WednesdaySaturday everybody will be ready to go and excited. I grew up watching Wisconsin-Marquette.” Another factor hypes up the game a little more for Showalter. Luke Fischer, a senior for the Golden Eagles, is a former teammate of Showalter’s in High School at Germantown where they won multiple State Championships together. Fischer spent his first season at Indiana before transferring to Marquette.
Another Senior starter for the Badgers, and fellow Wisconsinite Bronson Koenig, had something to say about the last meeting between the two sides, saying “We were pretty disorganized. We didn’t have an identity. It was early.” Koenig has also grown up watching the Wisconsin-Marquette rivalry unfold growing up in La Crosse. He knows the magnitude of this game and what this meeting means to Wisconsin fans and Golden Eagle fans alike.
The Golden Eagles come into Saturday’s matchup with a 7-2 record, their most recent game was a home victory over Fresno State by score of 84-81. Their two losses have come against Michigan and Pittsburgh in New York. The Golden Eagles have four players averaging double figures, led by Jujuan Johnson(14.4ppg). Also in double figures are Luke Fischer(13.9ppg), Haanif Cheatham(11.7ppg), and Sam Hauser(10.3ppg). Fischer leads the way in rebounds per game with 6.2 and Traci Carter leads in assists per game with 3.6.
The Badgers come into Saturday’s matchup with an 8-2 record ranked 17th in the nation, currently on a 4-game win streak. Their most recent game was also a home victory, as they defeated Idaho State University by a score of 78-44. The Badgers have three players averaging double figure scoring; led by Bronson Koenig with 15.8ppg, followed by Ethan Happ(13.5ppg) and Nigel Hayes(12.9ppg). Happ is averaging a double-double as he also grabs 10.0 rebounds per game. Hayes leads the way in the assist column with 3.5 per game.
The Golden Eagles are notorious for playing a heavy three-point, “live or die by the three” style of basketball, and that has proved to be the difference in past match ups. As Koenig said, last season’s loss to the Golden Eagles isn’t of concern this time around. The Badgers seemed to have found their identity under Coach Gard and this matchup will no doubt be much different.
A key for the Badgers success is to step up their perimeter defense. Defensively this will be much like the Syracuse matchup a few games ago for the Badgers. Another key point will be not allowing Luke Fischer to get anything easy down low. There’s no doubt that Ethan Happ will have his hands full with Marquette’s talented center, but the same will be true for Fischer as he will have his fair share of difficulties with Happ on the low block.
In the end, this game is going to be a battle as it always is. The Badgers will need to limit turnover, work their offense, and not fall into Marquette’s style of play. Pound the ball inside, get the Golden Eagles into foul trouble, execute the fundamentals, and the offense will come. If the Badgers do these things well, I find it hard to believe that Coach Gard and company will return to Madison with a loss.
My Player-To-Watch Saturday is Ethan Happ. As mentioned before, the redshirt Sophomore is averaging a double-double and has been playing well down the stretch of games as of late. The Badgers will need Happ to be consistent on Saturday and give the Badgers that last little push to finish the game. He will play a key role in limiting Luke Fischer’s chances and remaining efficient on offense. I see Ethan having a huge game at the Bradley Center.
King’s Prediction: BADGERS 75 Marquette 65 (King is 6-2 on the season)

as always… #OnWisconsin


Ben Thorson’s Tidbit (@benjthorson): It is never easy following up Caleb’s extensive look at games. You can tell he is a bit excited about the I-94 rivalry, as well as Badgers fans should be!

Last year’s loss was tough, I never like losing to Marquette, especially when it was led by Badgers recruiting target Henry Ellenson. This could be held true again this season as Sam Hauser, older brother of Wisconsin’s top 2018 recruiting target Joey Hauser, takes the court for the Eagles.

It is hard to gauge where Joey currently stands with his recruiting, but many experts predict he teams up with his brother in Marquette over the likes of Wisconsin (his childhood favorite), Michigan State, and Virginia.

Recruiting aside (sorry I couldn’t help myself), the Badgers will have their hands full Saturday afternoon at the Bradley Center. Marquette treats this game as the ‘Super Bowl’ of their season as they re-build under Head Coach Steve Wojciechowski. The Eagles boasted the country’s 22nd ranked recruiting class coming into this season with Sam Hauser, Markus Howard, and Brendan Bailey. This was the top-ranked class in all of the Big East Conference and Marquette is loading up again with three commits already in the 2017 class.

Last season, Marquette outscored the Badgers 17-2 in fast break points. That means 17 of the Eagles 57 points came in transition. Marquette struggles in the half court, which results in a lot of three-point attempts. Wisconsin must commit to taking care of the basketball and playing great perimeter and transition defense if they want to escape Milwaukee with a victory.

This is a tough one for me to decide, Marquette has shown flashes of resurgence throughout their early schedule; but I think the Badgers experience will prove to be the difference in Saturday’s Game. Seniors Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig, Zak Showalter, and Vitto Brown won’t want to lose their final shot at the Golden Eagles.

Thorson’s Prediction: BADGERS 78 Marquette 71 (Ben is 9-1 on the season)

Game 8 Preview and Predictions: Wisconsin vs. Syracuse

Caleb King (@calebking_2): Tuesday night will mark the first time that Jim Boeheim and the Syracuse Orange will visit Madison to face Greg Gard’s Wisconsin Badgers.

This matchup will be part of the Big 10/ACC Challenge. The last time these two sides faced off was last season in New York at the Carrier Dome, also as part of the Big 10-ACC Challenge, where the Badgers knocked off the Orange by score of 66-58 in overtime. This will be the first time that Gard and Boeheim match up, however, because Bo Ryan was still the Head Coach for this game last season.

Syracuse comes in with a 4-1 record, their only blemish coming in their last contest where they saw defeat at the hands of South Carolina by score of 50-64. The Orange have not faced a ranked opponent, their closest win came against Monmouth, a 21-point route at the Carrier Dome. There’s no doubt that this top-25 showdown with Wisconsin will be the Orange’s first big test.

Wisconsin comes in after finishing 2-1 as the Runner-Ups in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational Tournament, and since then knocking off Prairie View A&M University on Sunday by score of 95-50 in Madison. At Maui the Badgers defeated Tennessee and Georgetown before falling to UNC in the title game.

The Badgers are definitely a more battle tested team coming into Tuesday’s clash, having already matched up with Creighton, now ranked 10th in the nation, and North Carolina, now ranked 3rd in the nation. Granted, the Badgers fell in both of those contests, giving them their two losses on the season to put them at 5-2 coming in. Wisconsin has felt the high intensity and pressure big games bring, which I believe will give them an edge in their matchup with Syracuse.

Syracuse brings in 4 players averaging double figures, the top scorer being Andrew White III, a transfer from Nebraska, who averages 17.3ppg for the Orange. There’s no doubt that White is the key player to watch for Syracuse. He’s a lanky 6-7 guard that spent his first two seasons at Kansas, then a year off, then a year at Nebraska and now will finish his college campaign with the Orange. He knows how the B1G plays and has had success against the Badgers in the past, in specific last season in the B1G tournament opening game. He’s a dynamic forward who just knows how to get buckets, it’s going to be a tough matchup for whoever (I’d assume Hayes) will take on that task. Look for Zak Showalter to have a matchup on Frank Howard. A lot of the Orange’s offense goes through this man, averaging 9.2ppg and 6.4apg. Showalter will make it hard for Howard to facilitate the offense as he’s accustomed to doing.

Obviously the Badgers will see a classic Orange 2-3 zone on Tuesday night, look for the Badgers to really settle into ball movement and penetrating the lane and kicking it out to shooters. It will be key for the Badgers to be active on the offensive glass as they were against Georgetown, Syracuse isn’t a great rebounding team and it will be essential for the Badgers to capitalize down low when given the chance. The Badgers perimeter defense will also need to be strong, Syracuse is known to love the outside chance which is a big reason why they aren’t a great rebounding team. It will be dangerous for the Badgers to allow them to get going early from beyond the arc.

My Player-To-Watch for tomorrow night is Vitto Brown. In a game like this, Vitto plays a big role in stretching that 2-3 zone and getting in those perimeter pockets to shoot. If Vitto can get going early it will be difficult for the Orange to maintain their effectiveness in the zone. There’s no doubt they will want to key on Koenig and not allow him to get open looks, but if Vitto can prove early on to be a threat, I believe this game will open up pretty fast.

King’s Prediction: BADGERS 64 Syracuse 54

#OnWisconsin

Ben Thorson (@benjthorson): Caleb did a great job previewing this game, so I will make my comments short and simple. Here’s a list of strengths and weaknesses for the Badgers as they match up against Syracuse.

Strengths:

  • Rebounding advantage: The Badgers outrebounded the Orange 51 to 25 in last year’s meeting. Wisconsin currently ranks fifth in the country with a +14.6 rebound margin.
  • Effective forwards: UW found success last year penetrating zone and capitalizing on second chance opportunities. Nigel Hayes finished last year’s contest against the Orange with 15 points and 12 rebounds. While Ethan Happ collected 18 points and 15 rebounds. Look for dominant play from Hayes and Happ once again tonight.
  • Pritzl Factor: The Badgers could look to use Brevin Pritzl against the Syracuse zone. Pritzl got live reps with the game day lineup in Monday’s practice, as he could look to boost the Badgers dismal 3-point shooting percentage (31.6%)

Weaknesses:

  • Jump Shooting Team: We have already witnessed the result of games in which the Badgers are too dependent on jump shots. Wisconsin may think they have open looks against the zone, but should place emphasis on trying to penetrate and score easy buckets. The saving grace in this, is that the Badgers won last year in the Carrier Dome on 5-for-18 shooting from deep.
  • Turnovers: The Badgers still haven’t done a good job of protecting the basketball. Wisconsin is currently averaging 13.3 turnovers per game, which ranks 136th in the country. Last season the Badgers turned the ball over 20 times against the Syracuse zone.

Limiting turnovers, dominating the boards, and strong play from Happ and Hayes will lead the Badgers to victory at the Kohl Center on Tuesday night.

Thorson’s Prediction: BADGERS 61 Syracuse 55