The skinny on Wisconsin: This team has a high basketball IQ, which is typical of a Bo Ryan squad. The Badgers always have a shot at victory because they play terrific defense and limit turnovers. But Wisconsin gets into trouble when it has an over-reliance on jump shots. When those attempts are falling, the Badgers are tough to beat. When they aren’t, things can get ugly—very ugly. For Wisconsin to score another win over Michigan this season, it will need to impose its will on the Wolverines by slowing the pace and thus “taking the air out of the ball.”
Key number: 55.8, points per game allowed by Wisconsin, the fewest of any team in the Big Ten in league action.
The skinny on Michigan: In dispatching Penn State by 17 points in the first round of the Big Ten tourney, the Wolverines showed no hangover from that tough home loss last Sunday to Indiana that cost it a shot at sharing the Big Ten title. This looks like a motivated and riveted Michigan team that may be peeved at having to play in the opening round of the Big Ten tourney as a No. 5 seed despite ranking No. 8 in the nation in the coaches poll. It’s no secret what Michigan wants to do vs. Wisconsin: run and score. If this game is played in the 80s, the Wolverines will win running away.
Key number: 4, players the Wolverines had in double-figures vs. Penn State. Tim Hardaway, Jr., ,had 15; Nik Stauskas had 15; Trey Burke had 21; Jon Horford had 11. It’s that balanced scoring that makes Michigan so tough.
This season: Michigan and Wisconsin played once this year—and it was a memorable encounter. The Badgers took a 65-62 decision in overtime in Madison. But the game almost didn’t reach OT, as Wisconsin’s Ben Brust had to nail a shot just inside of half court to force the extra session.
What’s next: The winner will battle the victor of the Indiana-Illinois game on Saturday for the right to play for the title.