There is one regular season game left for the Wisconsin Badgers (25-5) basketball squad and it’s shockingly…quite a doozy.
Two months ago, the Badgers’ season finale against the Nebraska Cornhuskers (18-11), seemed like a laugher. An exclamation point to end the year on. A cakewalk. A slam dunk. Ok I’ll stop.
But now, the Cornhuskers are one of the hottest teams in the Big Ten. You read that right. They have gone 7-1 in their past eight games. Damn. And this is the same Nebraska team which began Big Ten play 1-5. Plus, they are literally playing for their tournament lives. The Huskers are a bubble team and a win over Wisconsin would be a huge statement for the selection committee to consider.
Not to be outdone, the Badgers have gone 8-0 in their past eight games. That’s the longest Big Ten winning streak for UW since 1941.
Wisconsin is still holding out hope for a one-seed and beating Nebraska is imperative to keep that (not far-fetched!) dream alive. Of course, a run through the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis would have to follow the win over the Cornhuskers for that dream to be realized (where the Badgers have a bye yet again).
How did Nebraska orchestrate such a remarkable turnaround?
Simply put, they are playing amazing defense. In the past eight games, only two teams have reached the 60-point plateau against them. But it hasn’t all been defense, sophomore Terran Petteway has led the Huskers with an impressive 17.8 points-per-game. His play has resurrected Nebraska’s season.
I look for Josh Gasser to draw the defensive responsibility on Petteway. Brust will also most-likely get numerous chances to slow down Petteway. If the Badgers’ guards can slow the sensational sophomore, it will go a long way to ensuring that Wisconsin’s winning streak will hit nine games heading into championship week.
Wisconsin’s Junior Frank “The Tank” Kaminsky is coming off one of his best games of the season, 22 points in the Badgers’ victory over Purdue. Conversely, team-leader Sam Dekker is coming off his worst campaign, 5 points on 1-7 shooting. Look for Dekker to comeback in a big way against Nebraska — I’m calling 20+ points for “Slam” Dekker in this game.
Petteway isn’t the only ‘Husker that Wisconsin will have to look to slow down though. They have another sophomore who makes a lot of noise on the court in Shavon Shields. He is the team’s top rebounder and chips in 12.2 points-per-game. Shields’ offense has kicked up into another gear during Nebraska’s winning streak.
The 6-foot-7 guard/forward hybrid can potentially cause many issues in the paint for the Badgers. And in the paint is exactly where the Badgers were hurt during their two weeks of hell. You remember that two-week stretch when they went 1-5 in consecutive games earlier in the conference season. That rough patch was mostly thanks to their hapless defense around the rim. But, it seems they’ve figured that out — lets hope it continues in this game.
Nebraska will undoubtedly play as hard as any opponent the Badgers Bball team have faced this year. The ‘Huskers are a desperate team, and desperate teams are dangerous teams. Not to mention, the game is in Lincoln, so their crowd will be as raucous as its been in recent years.
For anyone who thinks this game is going to easy hasn’t been paying attention to Big Ten basketball for the last month.
I see the Badgers squeaking out a 63-61 victory against Nebraska. Free throws down the stretch will be huge as usual (I’m looking at you Nigel Hayes).
Head coach Bo Ryan has 699 career wins over his entire career coaching college basketball. Against Nebraska, he is looking to hit the 700 win plateau; a potentially monumental moment in his illustrious career.
The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network on Sun, Mar. 9 at 6:30 PM CT in Lincoln, Nebraska.
On Wisconsin! All the way to a nine-game winning streak and a potential one-seed in the Big Dance! Hey, it’s alright to dream until the dream is dead, kiddos!