Wisconsin Basketball: Preview vs. Michigan Wolverines

Feb 9, 2019; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers guard Brad Davison (34) dribbles defended by Michigan Wolverines guard Zavier Simpson (3) in the second half at Crisler Center. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 9, 2019; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers guard Brad Davison (34) dribbles defended by Michigan Wolverines guard Zavier Simpson (3) in the second half at Crisler Center. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

The Wisconsin basketball team will take on the undefeated Michigan Wolverines when they travel to Ann Arbor on Tuesday night.

The Wisconsin basketball team has a couple of big games this week. They start with the undefeated Michigan Wolverines. Michigan jumped Wisconsin this week in the latest AP Poll. The Wolverines went up to number seven, pushing the Badgers back a spot from eight to nine.

That makes this matchup between two top-10 teams, the first time the Badgers will play another team ranked higher than 12. The Wolverines are also sitting on top of the Big Ten with a 10-0 overall record and a 5-0 record in the conference. The Badgers are currently third in the Big Ten, with a 4-2 conference record. A win Tuesday night would bring Wisconsin closer to the top of the conference and would look very nice on their postseason resume.

Michigan preview

Michigan has quietly risen to the top ten, which is weird, considering they are undefeated. You’d think a team that is 10-0 would have been lingering around the top ten in the polls sooner than Week 8 of the college basketball season. They started the season unranked and have been rolling for most of the season. Their closest game was a four-point victory over Penn State at home in mid-December.

I’m guessing they haven’t been mentioned much until recently is because of the strength of their schedule. On ESPN, Michigan ranks 107th in the strength of schedule rankings. They haven’t necessarily been playing any world-beaters this season. The Wolverines have played just two ranked teams, #19 Northwestern and #16 Minnesota. Both games were victories at home last week.

Their non-conference schedule was relatively weak. They played Bowling Green, Oakland, Ball State, UCF, and Toledo. Michigan also didn’t partake in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, where they were slated to take on NC State at home. The game was canceled due to covid concerns within the NC State program.

I don’t think this Wolverine team has really been challenged. They beat a Northwestern team that finished second-to-last in the Big Ten last season who are likely over-performing this season. Then, they defeated Minnesota, who for some reason, cannot play well away from The Barn. The Gophers are 10-0 this season at home, but 0-4 on the road.

This will be the first big game the Wolverines will play this year. They have the advantage because they will be at home against Wisconsin, who is just 1-1 on the road this year, but their win came against Michigan State in East Lansing on Christmas Day.

Game preview

I think Michigan is a better team than most people thought they would be this year. Do I think they are a top-10 team? We’ll see. This definitely isn’t the caliber of team they were just a few years ago when they made a National Championship appearance in 2018. They have a nice mix of youth and experience. Two of their top four scorers are underclassmen, including a freshman, Hunter Dickinson, who leads the Wolverines in scoring with 18.0 points per game.

The Badgers have faced and struggled against teams whose primary scoring comes from a big man. They gave up 19 points to Cameron Krutwig in their 14-point win over Loyola-Chicago. More recently, they allowed Trayce Jackson-Davis to score 23 points in their 2OT victory over Indiana. Jackson-Davis did pretty much whatever he wanted in the post. The big man matchup for this game is going to be huge. Nate Reuvers and Micah Potter are going to have to become more stout down low and force Michigan to score outside of the paint. Michigan prefers to score in the paint. From The Michigan Insider’s Zach Shaw on their win over #16 Minnesota:

"Michigan’s days of living and dying by the 3-point shot are long gone, but Wednesday was a clinic for the Wolverines in dominating without needing to hit on jump shots. Michigan shot 7 for 7 on dunks, 14 for 16 on layups and hit only 12 of its 35 other shots, including just four 3-pointers on 13 attempts. Before emptying the bench with four minutes to go in the game, Michigan scored a whopping 46 points in the paint in 36 minutes. At that point, Minnesota as a team had just 45 points total."

We all know that the Wisconsin basketball guards can defend. The Badgers will need to plug up the middle and stay out of foul trouble if they are going to go into Ann Arbor and come out with a win.

Game prediction

Currently, according to ESPN’s BPI, the Badgers have a 44.2% chance to win this game. This tells me that ESPN’s BPI model thinks that the Wolverines are a legitimate team in the Big Ten. I still think the jury is out and I need to see them play in a game like this before I can pass judgment.

We know what we have in Wisconsin. This veteran leadership really is a big deal. If the Badgers get down early, that doesn’t mean they are out of it. Younger teams would panic, but this Wisconsin team will continue to stick to what they do and will stay competitive.

I think this game is close all game, but the Badgers pull out a close one and escape Ann Arbor with a win and improve to 11-2 before they travel to Piscataway to face Rutgers on Friday night.

Prediction: Wisconsin 75 – Michigan 71