Wisconsin Basketball has a shot at a season-changing victory over the Michigan Wolverines on Saturday. What are the keys to the game, and who wins?
When you consider the circumstances surrounding Wisconsin’s matchup with No.2 Michigan on Saturday, you can’t help but be reminded of the events that took place in Madison on the afternoon of February 9, 2013.
On that day, the unranked Badgers squared off with the No.3 Wolverines at the Kohl Center. Much like his squad this season, John Beilein’s team was exceptionally talented that year. Led by future NBA draft picks Glenn Robinson III, Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Nik Stauskas, and Mitch McGary, Michigan would go on to become the national runner-up on to Louisville in the spring.
Similarly to this weekend’s contest, it’s safe to say Wisconsin was the underdog that day. However, the magical events that unfolded will be remembered fondly by Badgers fans for years to come.
The Badgers and Wolverines were neck and neck throughout the game, but with less than 3 seconds left in regulation, Hardaway Jr. hit a tough 3-pointer to put his team up 65-62. As someone who was there to witness it in person, I can assure you that the mood in the Kohl Center was incredibly grim after that shot. The Badgers were as good as dead.
However, with just over 2 seconds remaining, Wisconsin forward Mike Bruesewitz inbounded the ball to Ben Brust, who caught it on the run, took one dribble, and heaved up a prayer from half court. Unbelievably, he hit the shot and sent the game to overtime, where the Badgers found a way to pull off the upset. My fellow students and I then proceeded to storm the court in celebration.
Fast forward six years and Wisconsin once again has a golden opportunity to pull off an epic upset victory.
It won’t be easy, though. The undefeated Wolverines could very well be the best team in the country this season, and with Duke’s loss earlier this week, they will be crowned as such on Monday if they can take care of the Badgers. Meanwhile, Wisconsin has been creeping increasingly closer to the NCAA Tournament bubble due to a string of brutal losses.
Can the Badgers resurrect some of that 2013 magic and turn their season around on Saturday?
G – D’Mitrik Trice – SO (14.4 ppg)
G – Brad Davison- SO (10.5 ppg)
F – Khalil Iverson – SR (4.6 ppg)
F – Nathan Reuvers – SO (8.2 ppg)
C – Ethan Happ – SR (19.4 ppg)
No. 2 MICHIGAN (17-0)
G – Zavier Simpson – JR (8.6 ppg)
G – Jordan Poole – SO (13.4 ppg)
G – Charles Matthews – SR (14.1 ppg)
F – Ignas Brazdeikis – FR (15.6 ppg)
C – Jon Teske – JR (8.4 ppg)
Keys to the game and prediction
From a purely statistical standpoint, Wisconsin should have no chance against this Michigan team. Being arguably the best team in the country, the Wolverines would be the toughest matchup on the schedule for just about any opponent. However, they are a particularly bad one for the Badgers.
First and foremost, Michigan is an absolute buzzsaw defensively. We are talking about a group that is No. 3 nationally in opponent points per game and No. 28 in opponent field goal percentage.
The Wolverines boast one the Big Ten’s best defenders down low in 7’1 center Jon Teske, who ranks second in the conference in both total blocks and blocks per game and fourth in block percentage. Simply put, Ethan Happ and any other Badger who gets in the lane are going to have a difficult time converting.
To make matters worse, Michigan’s opponents have struggled to get off three-point attempts so far this season, as the Wolverines are No. 9 nationally in that category. The Badgers rely on Happ and three-pointers for most of their points. If both those assets are neutralized, there’s no question Wisconsin will lose, most likely in embarrassing fashion.
Also damaging to Wisconsin’s hopes of an upset is that Michigan is not a team that shoots itself in the foot very often. The Wolverines rarely turn it over (No. 2 in the nation) and rarely foul (No. 5) and have three go-to scorers in Poole, Matthews, and Brazdeikis who are all capable of burying Wisconsin in a hurry if the Badgers get out to another slow start.
Nonetheless, my gut tells me that Wisconsin is going to come ready to play with a winning conviction on Saturday. This team is desperate for a victory, as well as sick and tired of getting in their own way and dropping close games they should win.
It seems like forever ago, but let’s not forget that this is a group that showed that they belonged on the floor against Virginia, an elite team that is right there with Michigan in the conversation for the best team in the land. With an electric Kohl Center crowd behind them and a fierce determination to show the college basketball world that they are still the contender they once appeared to be, I have a feeling that we will see the Wisconsin team we watched early in the season on Saturday.
As with the 2013 game, I think this is going to be a back and forth affair that will need overtime to crown a winner. In the end, I like Wisconsin to pull out a 78-76 season-changing victory.
All stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com