Wisconsin Basketball goes for season sweep of Iowa tonight

MADISON, WISCONSIN - FEBRUARY 18: Tyler Wahl #5 of the Wisconsin Badgers walks down court during the first half of the game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Kohl Center on February 18, 2023 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)
MADISON, WISCONSIN - FEBRUARY 18: Tyler Wahl #5 of the Wisconsin Badgers walks down court during the first half of the game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Kohl Center on February 18, 2023 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images) /

After Saturday’s heartbreaking 1-point loss to Rutgers, tonight’s matchup against Iowa is as close to a “must-win” game as there is. Luckily for the Badgers, they know they can beat the Hawkeyes, having done so earlier in the season, 78-75 in overtime.

Wisconsin Basketball needs Tyler Wahl

In his first three games back, Wahl scored 10, 11, and 13 points and I think the natural assumption was he was well on his way to resuming his role as team leader.

Ankle injuries linger longer than almost any other injury on the body. Particularly for a basketball player, with so much lateral movement and sudden shifts in direction, a player may not recover to full strength until well after the season is over.

A player with grit and moxie, such as Tyler, can play with this injury but try as he might, it can be difficult to fully overcome the limitations that the body is imposing.

In the next seven games, Wahl averaged 7.7 points per game, only once scoring in the double digits. That game? Wisconsin’s victory at Penn State.

I have been a huge Connor Essegian fan since I started covering the Badgers this year. I truly believe he has an incredible college career in his future. I know that the last game was a total aberration.

But I think that both Essegian and Hepburn need Wahl to start scoring again, to lighten their collective loads a bit. An offensive resurgence by Wahl allows the guards to stop trying to force things.

Connor Essegian needs a short memory

All great players will fail multiple times in their careers. One of the attributes that make them great is the ability to compartmentalize and separate their failures from their successes.

Sounds simple enough, right? However, it is very easy for players to get “in their heads” and have one bad game turn into a multi-game slump.

Connor’s role in Wisconsin basketball has been increasing more and more every game. Maybe he just tried to do too much last game.

This ties right in with my previous section. If Wahl can reassume some of the scoring that has been missing in the past few games, Connor can stop feeling the pressure of needing to score so much.

Once before in this season as a starter, Essegian posted a goose egg in the made field-goal department.

His response? Going on the road to Ohio State and putting up 17 points and 7 boards.

Something tells me tonight will be very similar.

Wisconsin Basketball fundamentals

Maybe it’s my advancing years, but as progress in time, I realize how important basketball fundamentals really are. It’s kind of self-explanatory, really.

Fundamental things are always important.

Rebounding and foul shooting. Some of the very first things you learn about in your Saturday youth leagues and every other step in your basketball journey.

In the win against Michigan, the Badgers out-rebounded the Wolverines 14-8 on the offensive glass. Wisconsin scored 7 second-chance points off of those rebounds. The final score of that contest? 64-59, a five-point margin of victory.

The game against Rutgers saw Wisconsin with a 9-4 offensive rebound advantage. While the Badgers obviously lost the game, the five second-chance points they earned from their offensive rebounds most definitely put them in the position to win the game at the end.

For most of the season, Wisconsin basketball has struggled with another fundamental, foul shooting.

However, for the past two contests, their foul-shooting percentage has been 77.8% from the line. They went 14-18 in the win against Michigan and 7-9 in the excruciating loss against Rutgers.

But, only having a high free-throw shooting percentage is not enough. They must get to the line and make an adequate amount of foul shots to be successful.

This season, they have made 12 or more free throws a total of eight times. Their record in those games is a stellar 6-2, with two losses being the OT loss to current #4 Kansas and the three-point setback to Wake Forest.

Iowa’s current form and outlook for Wisconsin Basketball

Iowa comes into the Kohl Center with an overall record of 17-10 and a mark in the conference of 9-7. In contrast, Wisconsin stands at 15-11 overall and 7-9 in the conference.

The Hawkeyes are led by the junior All-Big Ten forward, Kris Murray. He is averaging 23.7 points per game, shooting 34.7 from beyond the arc and hauling in 9.4 rebounds per contest.

However, in the last 10 games, his scoring average is down a full four points, his field goal percentages are down and his rebounding is down to 6.5 boards a game.

In his most recent game, a 20-point Iowa loss to Northwestern, he only scored 14 points and 5 rebounds.

It would seem that the Big Ten is grinding down his output.

In their normal game, Iowa likes to play a quicker, high-paced and high-scoring affair. In the first meeting between these two squads, it was an overtime affair, with Wisconsin winning 78-75.

I see this one as being much slower, more methodical, and much lower scoring. The current total is 139.5 but I don’t see either team getting above the 70-point threshold. Iowa is sitting as a 1-point favorite.

Call me a homer, but Wisconsin has already beaten these guys, in their house. I’m sure it won’t be pretty, but I’ll take Wisconsin to win but really load up on the under.