Wisconsin Basketball and Northwestern are both winners of two straight games heading into Saturday’s matchup. Which squad comes away with their third?
Wisconsin could really use a win over Northwestern at the Kohl Center this weekend.
It’s not that the Badgers are necessarily desperate for a victory, as they were leading up to their upset over Michigan last week. After all, they seem to be back on track after having found a way to pull out two straight wins in tightly-contested games that they easily could have lost.
However, Wisconsin will enter the gauntlet of its schedule after Saturday’s matchup with the Wildcats. In order, the Badgers will take on Nebraska (away), No. 13 Maryland (home), Minnesota (away), No. 5 Michigan (away) and No. 6 Michigan State (home).
That’s a brutal series of games, and I don’t think Wisconsin will be favorite to win any one of them. Indeed, the Badgers will be lucky to walk away 2-3 by the end.
This means that Wisconsin needs to give itself some cushion by taking down a Northwestern team that they should be heavily favored to beat at home. However, the Wildcats have been playing some pretty good basketball as of late, having won two straight against Rutgers and Indiana. They will not be a push-over.
It seems likely that we are in for another Big Ten slugfest. Who will be left standing at the end of the game?
G – D’Mitrik Trice – SO (14.0 ppg)
G – Brad Davison- SO (10.3 ppg)
F – Khalil Iverson – SR (4.7 ppg)
F – Nathan Reuvers – SO (8.9 ppg)
C – Ethan Happ – SR (19.2 ppg)
G – Anthony Gaines – SO (5.8 ppg)
G – Ryan Taylor – SR (12.3 ppg)
F – Vic Law – SR (16.3 ppg)
F – A.J. Turner – JR (8.6 ppg)
C – Dererk Pardon – SR (14.2 ppg)
Keys to the game and prediction
This matchup is a bit similar to the one Wisconsin just came out on top of against Illinois.
Like the Illini, Northwestern is not a good shooting team. Despite having a trio of dangerous scorers in Ryan Taylor, Vic Law, and Dererk Pardon, the Wildcats are a measly No. 275 nationally in field goal percentage. Unfortunately for Northwestern, Wisconsin has been one of the Big Ten’s top squads defensively for most of the season, so points will likely be at a premium for Chris Collins’ guys.
However, we saw the Badgers struggle for much of the game against a feisty Illinois defense, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see that happen again against Northwestern. Most worrisome to Wisconsin is the Wildcats’ lockdown D on the perimeter: they rank No. 16 in the country in opponent three-point attempts and No. 8 in opponent shooting percentage from behind the arc. As a result, the Badgers will likely see one of their greatest strengths taken away to an extent on Saturday.
Wisconsin will need to win this game in the paint. However, Ethan Happ will have to bang with a physical defender down low in Pardon. I still like Happ to win the majority of those one-on-one battles, but he is going to need complimentary teammates like D’Mitrik Trice, Brad Davison, and Nate Reuvers to get to the rim and convert, otherwise, we are going to see Wisconsin’s offense sputter.
There have been and will be very few (if any) easy games for the Badgers in conference play, and I don’t think Saturday’s contest is likely to buck that trend.
However, looking at the Wildcats’ 12 wins this season, none of them have come against particularly impressive opponents. The best team they defeated was probably Indiana in Evanston in their last outing, but even so, the Hoosiers have really been stumbling lately after coming out hot to start the year.
Taking down Wisconsin in the Kohl Center is an entirely different beast, as Michigan found out last weekend.
It will be another grind-it-out affair, but the Badgers are the more talented team, and I don’t envision them dropping this one in their house. Wisconsin rolls, 68-60.
All stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com