Mandatory Credit: Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Wednesday's Big Ten Border Battle A Must-Win for Badgers


Let’s be frank for a moment – Wednesday’s Big Ten border battle is a must-win for the Badgers if they want to be serious contenders inside the Big Ten and NCAA come tourney time.

The once infinite pendulum of good fortunes has swung back hard for the Wisconsin Badgers (16-2, 3-2) men’s basketball team.

Talks of an NCAA No. 1 seed have somewhat subsided after back-to-back conference losses to Indiana and Michigan. Needless to say it’s brought a lot of folks in Wisconsin back down to Earth after a 16-0 start, the best ever in program history.

Next on the agenda is a confident Minnesota team who’s been up and down over their last three games. After losing in overtime to then No. 4 Michigan State, they upset Ohio State. The roller coaster ride continued as they fell on the road in Iowa. It leads them into their first of two matchups with Wisconsin this season.

Bo Ryan’s crew, who’s 16-5 all-time against the Minnesota Golden Gophers (14-5, 3-3), now must simply right their ship as one more loss in Big Ten play likely puts them completely out of the title talks, moving forward. Ryan talked about the competitiveness of his team, moving forward.

“You know, they’ve all played sports.  I’ve seen some of them play in the — play games as they’re growing up, even if it’s not just basketball, but where you’re not getting things done, and then you have to figure out how to get things done better,” Ryan said.

Wisconsin and Minnesota will be playing for the 194th time Wednesday night, making the Gophers the most played opponent in UW history. Minnesota leads the all-time series 101-92 and the Gophers own a 68-31 edge in games played in Minneapolis.

The Badgers have won 16 of the last 21 against the Gophers and 5 of the last 6. UW and UM split a pair of meetings last season with both teams winning on their home floor. Each of the last 2 UW-UM meetings at Williams Arena have gone to overtime with the teams splitting.

Losing three games in a row isn’t something Wisconsin’s become accustomed to under Ryan. UW’s last 3-game losing streak came in the 2011-12 season when it dropped games to Iowa, No. 10 MSU in OT and at No. 16 Michigan.

No doubt a lot of responsibility falls on the shoulders of Wisconsin’s bigs, tonight. In the most recent loss to Michigan, Josh Gasser led four UW players in double figures, scoring 16 points, going 4-for-5 from 3-point range. Ben Brust and Frank Kaminsky each scored 14 points while Sam Dekker tallied his 4th double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

In his Monday press conference, Ryan also talked about getting increased production from his bench. Guys like Vitto Brown, Evan Andersen and Zach Bohannon could see increased time against Minnesota, tonight.

A lot of talk this week has also revolved around Traevon Jackson whose defense, particularly against Michigan, was called to question.

Jackson, who averaged 8.0 ppg in 2 meetings with Minnesota last season, had one of his biggest moments as a Badger in a 45-44 win over the Gophers. Jackson sank UW’s final two baskets, including a game-winning 15 foot jumper with just 2.1 seconds remaining at home last year.

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Tags: Badgers Basketball Ben Brust Big Ten Basketball Bo Ryan Frank Kaminsky Minneapolis Minnesota Minnesota Golden Gophers Sam Dekker Traevon Jackson Tubby Smith Williams Arena Wisconsin

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