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Badgers Basketball Preview: Maryland edition

The Basics:

Where: Madison, Wis.; Kohl Center (17,287)
When: Sunday, Feb. 19; Noon CT
Channel: CBS (Brad Nessler & Clark Kellogg)
Spread: Wisconsin -9
All-Time Series: Wisconsin leads 6-4
Last Meeting: Wisconsin won 70-57; Feb. 13, 2016 (College Park, Md.)

The matchup most Badgers fans have had circled on the schedule for a better part of a month is finally here. It also has lived up to the potential hype, as the matchup is all about the Big Ten regular season title.

It’s as simple as the winner stays in the race, while the loser bows out. With Purdue owning wins over both the Terps and Badgers the loser would no longer control its destiny in the race.

What we won’t know is Bronson Koenig’s status for this game, but it should be telling that UW’s game nots have Trice making the start in place of Koenig. That means a very interesting matchup just got more interesting to say the least.

Can UW get the job done at home and end a two-game losing streak? It certainly won’t be easy with the visitors riding high after a win over Northwestern in Evanston the last time out.

Projected Starting Lineups

No. 23 Maryland Terrapins (22-4 10-3)

G Melo Trimble — Jr. 6-3, 185 (17.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.5 apg)
G Anthony Cowan — Fr. 6-0, 170 (10.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.7 apg)
F Kevin Huerter — Fr. 6-7, 190 (9.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.5 apg)
F Justin Jackson — Fr. 6-7, 225 (11.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 0.9 apg)
C Damonte Dodd — Sr. 6-11, 250 (6.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 0.4 apg)

No. 11 Wisconsin Badgers (21-5, 10-3)

G D’Mitrick Trice — Fr. 6-0, 178 (5.7 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 1.7 apg)
G Zak Showalter — Sr. 6-3, 185 (8.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.9 apg)
F Nigel Hayes Sr. 6-8, 240 (13.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.8 apg)
F Vitto Brown Sr. 6-8, 235 (7.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.0 apg)
C Ethan Happ — So. 6-10, 280 (14.5 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 2.9 apg)

Matchup to Watch: Melo Trimble vs. Zak Showalter

This would usually be the matchup between two of the best guards in the Big Ten, but with Bronson Koenig out today and for the foreseeable future, it won’t happen. It also means that on defense we’re likely to see UW’s best perimeter defender take on someone his own size.

No way does freshman D’Mitrick Trice get the call against one of the best pure scorers in the Big Ten. That’s not to say he isn’t a good defender, it just would be a complete physical mismatch, and Showalter on Trimble is the better defensive matchup.

Last time out Trimble simply went off, scoring a career high 32 points in a crucial win over Northwestern. Clearly the best defender needs to be on Trimble.

Additionally, Wisconsin needs to see Showalter help them out offensively. He was nowhere to be found when the team needed him most from beyond the arc on Thursday and that has to change if UW is going to get a result in this matchup.

No pressure, but this game could be on Showalter’s ability to contribute on both ends of the court today.

3 Numbers to Know

— 6: That is the number of games in a row Wisconsin has failed to shoot over 40 percent from the field. Simply put, Wisconsin’s offense needs to get going and continue to roll if it wants a chance to do some damage come tournament time. An injured Koenig wasn’t helpful to that matter, but even without him the Badgers couldn’t up the shooting percentage. If it wants to beat Maryland it has to shoot better than 40 percent, plain and simple.

— 10.5: That is Ethan Happ’s rebounding average in two career games against Maryland. One way to help a team struggling to shoot is to rebound well, and few in the Big Ten are better on the boards than Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ. He has owned the Terps on the boards so far in his career, and having that continue on Sunday would be a huge help to Wisconsin’s chances.

— 13.7: That is Nigel Hayes’ career scoring average against the Terps. As we pointed out earlier this week, no player has done more talking about Wisconsin’s problems than Hayes has. He also failed to back up the talk with his own play against Michigan, hitting on just 3 of 7 shots and basically being invisible for large parts of the game. He’s shown up huge against the Terps though, and perhaps this high-profile meeting will get the juices flowing for Hayes.

Prediction

Maryland 68, Wisconsin 60

As much as it is tempting to think the Badgers are going to find a way out of their slump, I don’t see it happening against a really good Terps team. Even playing at the Kohl Center hasn’t helped Wisconsin’s offensive woes as of late.

It also doesn’t help that it appears the coaching staff is grasping at straws in terms of contributors not named Trice or Iverson off the bench. No one outside of those two has been able to give UW the punch needed to get them going, whether it has been Brevin Pritzl, Jordan Hill, Charlie Thomas or Alex Illikainen.

Heck, even Aaron Moesch has been known to make a first half appearance or two as well. Wisconsin hasn’t shown signs of life, and until its bench can show it can help out beyond one player that’s not good news against a deep and athletic Terps team.

Maryland really doesn’t have the problems UW does, and that will be the difference for the Terps as they end Wisconsin’s hopes of a Big Ten regular season title and send UW back to the drawing board with a third straight loss.

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He’s a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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