The Michigan Wolverines (17-0) are off to their best start in school history. They have been clicking on all cylinders and will be looking for the top spot in the nation if they take care of Wisconsin on Saturday since Duke lost to Syracuse earlier in the week.
The Wisconsin Badgers (11-6) got off to a great start to the year but they will be looking to get back on track as they host Michigan after losing four of their last five games. An upset over Michigan could be just what they need to start moving in the right direction again.
Here is the preview and prediction for Michigan Basketball at Wisconsin…
What: Michigan Wolverines (2) at Wisconsin Badgers
When: Saturday, January 19th, 12:00 PM
Where: Kohl Center, University of Wisconsin
Keys to Victory for Michigan: Michigan may have caught Wisconsin at the right time as their only win in the last 20 days was against an inferior Penn State team. But the Wolverines cannot underestimate the Badgers. They have an absolute stud in Ethan Happ and they are a well coached team. Playing on the road in the Big Ten can be tough especially when you have the number two rank locked into your back.
Michigan’s main goal will be limiting Senior forward Ethan Happ. Happ has good size and great body control. He’s averaging over 19 points a game for a reason. He hasn’t made a three pointer all season so Michigan won’t need to worry about him from the outside, but he is very active on the boards and likes to battle down low. Jon Teske’s defense will be vital in determining the outcome of this game.
Besides Happ, Wisconsin is littered with three point shooters. They have a deep rotation that can all shoot the three at a very high level. Their second and third leading scorers, D’Mitrik Trice and Brad Davidson are each shooting over 43% from downtown with the rest of the rotation hovering in the mid to high 30’s. As a team, Wisconsin is 19th in the nation in three-point percentage. If Michigan doesn’t defend the three-point line, it might be a tough day for the Wolverines.
Wisconsin also has a top 25 scoring defense. They are only allowing 63.6 points per game. Michigan will need to come in and shoot the three well, and will need to give the Wisconsin defense a variety of different looks. No single player from Michigan can beat them alone as they will need a balanced attack.
Each of Michigan’s starters have led the Wolverines in scoring in at least one game this year, and that is the kind of balance that will give Michigan the favor. All five starters are capable of scoring on any given night and they will need to put together a collective effort to beat the Badgers in Wisconsin.
If they can guard the three and open things up on the offensive side of the floor, they should move to 18-0.
Keys to victory for Wisconsin: The big key for Wisconsin will be to knock down threes. Michigan has the third best scoring defense in the country and they are only allowing opponents to shoot 30% from three-point range. Michigan has great wing defenders and they are very good at staying in front of their man. Wisconsin will need to move the ball constantly and stay away from isolations.
Ethan Happ should look to distribute the ball as well. Teske is a great defender but Michigan will likely provide Teske with plenty of help. Happ will have to find the open man to give Wisconsin easy looks from three.
On defense, there isn’t just one or two players Wisconsin can focus on. As mentioned, Michigan can score from just about anywhere on any given night. In Michigan’s last win over Northwestern, the two leading scorers of that game were averaging the fourth and fifth most points per game for the Wolverines on the year.
In other words, Wisconsin will need a collective effort from everyone to defend Michigan. A key will be to keep the Wolverines from getting hot early. Michigan has beaten some high quality opponents and in each of those games they have come out of the gate on fire. If Wisconsin lets them go on a big run early, it will be tough for them to climb back into it against Michigan’s defense.
If Wisconsin is able to knock down threes and limit the Wolverines from going on large runs they will have a shot to upset Michigan and get their season back on track. As a team going through a slump right now I am sure they will be motivated and determined with an undefeated team coming to town.
Prediction: The way these two teams are playing; I don’t see Wisconsin coming out with an upset. Michigan has been on fire while Wisconsin well, has not. But it is at home and we have seen Michigan in some close road games so far this year so I am not counting them out.
Wisconsin was a top 15 team earlier in the season and they certainly have some talent so this won’t be an easy win for the Wolverines. I expect a low scoring defensive battle, giving Michigan a slight edge all the way through. Michigan could blow this thing open but I think Wisconsin will respond well on their home court keeping this thing relatively close.
Final Score: Michigan 69 – Wisconsin 64