Wisconsin Basketball takes on NC State in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge Tuesday evening at the Kohl Center. What must the Badgers do to come out on top?
Wisconsin’s performance in last season’s ACC-Big Ten Challenge can best be described by one word: ugly.
At least offensively, that is. Though the Badgers held a Virginia squad that went on to dominate the ACC en route to the No. 1 overall seed in last year’s NCAA Tournament to just 49 points, they managed to only put up a measly 37 themselves in a losing effort. Wisconsin shot a horrendous 15 % from beyond the arc and just 31.3 % overall.
It is highly unlikely we will see a similar showing by the Badgers in this season’s Challenge matchup with NC State on Tuesday evening, as Kevin Keatts’ squad is not close to the caliber of that Virginia team. With how well Wisconsin has shot the ball this season, points should not be nearly as difficult to come by against the Wolfpack.
That being said, NC State is 6-0 (though their schedule to this point has not been difficult, to say the least) and returns much of its production from a team that went 21-12 and made the Big Dance last season, with some key graduate transfers also joining the roster. I expect the Wolfpack to give the Badgers a fight at the Kohl Center.
No. 22 WISCONSIN (5-1)
G – D’Mitrik Trice – SO (16.8 ppg)
G – Brad Davison- SO (9.0 ppg)
F – Khalil Iverson – SR (5.8 ppg)
F – Nathan Reuvers – SO (7.5 ppg)
C – Ethan Happ – SR (17.8 ppg)
NC STATE (6-0)
G – Braxton Beverly – SO (7.6 ppg)
G – Torin Dorn – SR (18.2 ppg)
G – Markell Johnson – JR (10.3 ppg)
G – C.J. Bryce – JR (12.8 ppg)
F – Wyatt Walker – SR (6.5 ppg)
Keys to the game and prediction
These two teams have had very different starts to the season.
Wisconsin has faced a handful of tough tests against quality teams already and has emerged victorious in all but one of them. Even in the loss to Virginia in the championship game of the Battle 4 Atlantis, the Badgers showed a ton of grit and battled back in the second half to give the Cavaliers all they could handle.
NC State, on the other hand, has played six straight cupcake games to open the 2018-19 campaign, and barely escaped with a win the last time out against Mercer. However, aside from that game, the Wolfpack have blown out their opponents as you would expect them to, winning their first five contests by an average of just under 39 points. There’s no question that Wisconsin will be this team’s first real test of the season, but Keatts has the firepower offensively to keep up with the Badgers.
The vast majority of NC State’s production comes from its backcourt: with four of their five starters being guards, the Wolfpack will go small early and often and get the ball in the hands of Torin Dorn, C.J. Bryce, and Markell Johnson. However, Greg Gard has used four-guard lineups quite a bit so far this season and has been pretty successful in doing so, so the Badgers should match up with NC State’s style of play nicely.
That being said, Wisconsin has the clear advantage in this one thanks to Ethan Happ, who has been playing the best basketball of his career lately. The senior is having a Naismith Player of the Year type of season so far in 2018, and the Wolfpack are just not going to have an answer for him down low. Happ should have his way against whoever Keatts throws at him, whether it’s Wyatt Walker or reserve big man DJ Funderburk, and we have seen just how badly he can shred defenses when double teamed.
I think the Wolfpack will keep this close into the second half, but look for Happ and this Wisconsin offense to ultimately overpower them and come away with a 74-58 victory.
All stats courtesy of ESPN.com