The Minnesota rematch that awaits the Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team is a statement game.
And there is something to be sadi for protecting your home court against someone who’s never played well there.
Coming off what was an ugly, but gutsy win over a top-ten ranked Michigan State Spartans team, UW looks directly into the eyes of their next opponent and sees a team not too intimidated.
Losses at Indiana, at home to Michigan and then on the road at the Barn was a low as low could get for Badgers players, coaches and fans.
After a win at Purdue ended some of the stinging, Wisconsin dropped back-to-back home games inside the Kohl Center to unranked Northwestern and No. 24, Ohio State.
A big win over Michigan State leads them into Thursday’s Big Ten battle where reminiscing isn’t something Bo Ryan needs to do much of to see what went wrong, last go around with the Gophers.
The Badgers finished 5 for 20 from behind the arc, and they didn’t fare any better around the basket. Letting the Gophers do almost whatever they wanted inside, whether throwback post moves or drive-and-dish layups, the Badgers were outscored 48-24 in the paint.
Though Sam Dekker went off for 20 points and Bucky turned the ball over just six times on the night, it didn’t spell victory for the Badgers.
It’s time for Wisconsin to look at the big picture. Though ideas of a Big Ten regular season crown are fading, working their way into a higher seed for the NCAA Championship Tourney isn’t too far from fetched.
UW is 5-2 against the current AP Top 25, the most such wins of any team in the nation.
When Wisconsin struggles, there are two common occurences – they don’t shoot the ball well from outside and they get beat man-on-man inside.
The resurection of Frank Kaminsky is going to tell a lot about what the Badgers will be able to do down the stretch.
His three point bomb to extend a lead, late in the game vs. Michigan State this past Sunday, was hopefully a boost for the big man.
And the crowning of Big Ten freshman of the year in the making, Nigel Hayes, only helps solidify the rotation at the 4 and 5 positions.
The balance offensively needs to improve. Although UW has had six different players have lead them in scoring in at least 2 games this season, a go-to scorer remains absent.
Bo Ryan’s lack of confidence in Sam Dekker has been rather public. As have the critical mistakes defensively and ill-timed turnovers, offensively for Dekker.
The Badgers need just one more victory to post 20 wins for the 11th time in Ryan’s 13 seasons. It would also be the 8th straight for the program, trailing only the Buckeyes who can make it 9 this year with their 20th win.
The Badgers have only fell once inside the Kohl Center to Minnesota. The Gophers pulled out a 78-74 overtime win in 2009. Prior to that, Minnesota’s last win in Madison came in 1994 at the UW Field House.
Game time is set for 8 p.m. CST, Thursday. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.