The Michigan Wolverines (21-2) have sole possession of first place in the Big Ten conference. Although they have cooled down after their record breaking start they are still playing great defense and overall have played well enough to stay in the AP top ten.
Just one game back in the Big Ten is the Wisconsin Badgers (17-6). The Badgers have climbed their way back into the top 25 and have rattled off six wins in a row. Sweeping the series against Michigan would certainly send a message to the rest of the Big Ten.
Here is the preview and prediction for Michigan Basketball vs. Wisconsin…
What: Michigan Wolverines (7) vs. Wisconsin Badgers (19)
When: Saturday, February 9 at 12:00 PM EST
Where: Crisler Center, The University of Michigan
Keys to Victory for Michigan: Michigan’s first loss of the season came to Wisconsin three weeks ago at Wisconsin. Now, the Badgers come to Ann Arbor and Michigan will get a chance to avenge their previous loss.
In the first meeting, the Wolverines played poorly offensively. They shot just 27% from three and 45% from the free throw line. Michigan’s leading scorer, Ignas Brazdeikis, played by far the worst game of his college career scoring zero points.
In order to beat the Badgers this time around, Brazdeikis will need to play much better than he did at Wisconsin. Ever since laying a goose egg against the Badgers, Brazdeikis has been on a tear averaging over 18 points per game while shooting over 45% from three in the past five games. If he keeps up his hot shooting, the Wolverines should have a much better outcome this time around.
Another key for the Wolverines will be contributions from their bench. Isaiah Livers was the only Wolverine to log more than 10 minutes in the first meeting against the Badgers compared to Wisconsin who had three bench players log at least 10 minutes.
Michigan will need the bench to score in double figures, especially against a top ten defense like Wisconsin. Both teams rely on their defense and I fully expect this game to be a slug fest. Oftentimes, in a game like this it is the bench scoring that decides the difference.
Defensively, the Wolverines played decent in the first meeting but still let Wisconsin shoot nearly 40% from three as well as giving up 26 points to Ethan Happ. No one else on the Badgers scored in double figures. If Michigan can contain Happ, their shot at winning increases significantly.
Another key for Michigan will be to win the turnover battle. In the first meeting, Michigan turned the ball over five more times than Wisconsin. The game was decided by 10 points. Win the turnover battle and there is a good chance Michigan will come out on top on Saturday.
Similar to bench scoring, turnovers are known to decide the difference in a defensive game such as this one. If the Wolverines are able to take care of the ball, limit Ethan Happ, and get some help from their bench, they will walk out of Crisler Center on Saturday with a win.
Keys to Victory for Wisconsin: If you’re Wisconsin, you want to play the exact same way you played against Michigan in the first meeting.
They disrupted the Wolverines on the three-point line forcing them well below their season average, they shut down Michigan’s best offensive player, they forced 16 turnovers on the Wolverines which is well above Michigan’s average, and Ethan Happ played like the team’s best player should.
One thing Wisconsin could improve on is a more balanced offense. Although Happ is a fantastic player, relying on him to carry the entire offensive load can prove burdensome, especially in a big game on the road. Not a single Badger scored more than nine points in the first meeting.
Wisconsin’s next best scorers, Trice and Davidson will need to give Happ some help if they are going to beat Michigan for the second time this year. Both players are shooting over 40% from three on the year yet neither of them made a three the first time around. If they can’t convert from long range, it might be a rough day for them.
As I mentioned above, Wisconsin put together a perfect game defensively in these team’s first outing. I find it doubtful they will hold Brazdeikis scoreless again so they will need to find other ways to lock the Wolverines down defensively. One way they can make this happen is by forcing 15+ turnovers again.
Michigan is second in the nation in turnovers, only giving up nine per game. In the last meeting, the Badgers forced Michigan’s three primary ball handlers to cough it up three times each. If Wisconsin can force the Wolverines to get flustered and can get transition points off turnovers, they can upset Michigan for the second time this season.
As I said earlier, whoever wins the turnover battle is going to be in a prime spot at the end of the game. Especially, in a slow defensive battle. If Wisconsin gives Ethan Happ some help offensively, and the Badger defense is able to force turnovers on the Wolverines, Wisconsin could get a second win against Michigan in a three-week period.
Prediction: Wisconsin is playing excellent basketball right now. The most points they have allowed during their six game win streak is 61. Michigan’s offense has been struggling lately but their defense has still been fantastic. This game should be close from the opening tip till the final buzzer.
In the end, I can’t see Michigan losing to Wisconsin twice in this short of a time period, especially on their home floor. The Crisler Center will be loud all day and Michigan will ultimately take care of business down the stretch thanks to a large improvement from Brazdeikis compared to the first outing.
It may not be pretty, but Michigan will pull out a W on Saturday staying in first place in the Big Ten standings.
Final Score: Michigan 59 – Wisconsin 55
If you would like to receive an email each time a new Michigan Basketball article is published, fill out our email notification form.