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Badgers Basketball Preview: Michigan 2.0 edition

The Basics:

Where: Ann Arbor, Mich.; Crisler Arena (13,751)
When: Thursday, Feb. 16; 6p.m.
Channel: ESPN
Spread: Wisconsin -1.5
All-Time Series: Michigan leads, 88-74
Last Meeting: UW won, 68-64, on January 17, 2017 (in Madison, Wis.)

Projected Starting Lineups

Michigan Wolverines (16-9, 6-6)

G Derrick Walton — Sr. 6-1, 190 (14.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3.8 apg)
G Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman — Jr. 6-4, 190 (8.3 ppg, 2.5 apg, 2.0 apg)
G Zak Irvin — Sr. 6-6, 215 (12.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.2 apg)
F D.J. Wilson — Jr. 6-10, 240 (10.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.5 apg)
F Moritz Wagner — So. 6-11, 240 (11.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 0.5 apg)

No. 11 Wisconsin Badgers (21-4, 10-2)

G Bronson Koenig Sr. 6-3, 190 (13.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.2 apg)
G Zak Showalter — Sr. 6-3, 185 (8.0 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.0 apg)
F Nigel Hayes Sr. 6-8, 240 (13.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.9 apg)
F Vitto Brown Sr. 6-8, 235 (7.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.0 apg)
C Ethan Happ — So. 6-10, 280 (14.2 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 2.8 apg)

Matchup to Watch: Bronson Koenig’s Health

Normally we’d be talking about a specific matchup on the court. However, the biggest battle that seems to be fought these days is Bronson Koenig vs. his own health. It is clear he has been struggling through injury, but he hasn’t missed a single start this season.

Word is that Koenig was held of practice on Tuesday and Wednesday with that calf issue. Could it be that he also misses his first start this season and UW is forced to go with a different starting five for the first time this year too? Don’t count on it happening, but we should expect to see more of D’Mitrick Trice than we have been if he continues to struggle.

UPDATE: UW has notified the media that Trice will indeed get the start according to Badger247.

It may not be the worst thing with a Big Ten regular season championship on the line. With Maryland visiting the Kohl Center on Sunday, this could be a good time to allow some healing for Koenig.

Trice can hit the triple and distribute the ball well. He is hitting 46.2 percent from outside the arc this season, while Koenig has struggled to get to the 25 percent mark since the start of his injury.

At some point the long-term plan has to be in place and a little extra rest wouldn’t hurt Koenig at all for the tournament stretches. Let’s see if Gard and Co. have the gumption to actually tell their senior point guard to sit down for the benefit of the team.

3 Numbers to Know

— 11: Wisconsin’s 21 wins means they have 20-plus wins for the 11th straight season. It is also the longest current 20-plus win streak in the Big Ten. Oh, and UW’s 10th conference win also means they have a winning B1G record for the 17th straight season.

— +8.3: That is Wisconsin’s rebounding margin, which is good for 10th in the country. However, the last time these two teams met it was a draw on the boards, with both teams hauling in 32 rebounds. If the Badgers want to win on the road they’ll need to control the boards on both sides of the ball.

— 41: That is number of combined points Michigan has won its last two games by. It also indicates a Michigan team finding its stride just as Wisconsin has hit rock bottom. Maybe it is the wake-up call of the Northwestern loss and Michigan’s sudden rise that will snap UW out of its funk?

Prediction

Wisconsin 68, Michigan 60 

Things weren’t pretty the last time out to say the least. But, that was only Wisconsin on offense. It’s defensive effort hasn’t really changed all that much. That’s the good news coming off a shock loss to Northwestern this past Sunday.

A lot of talk has been about waking up, however getting fully woke on the road is a difficult task. Look for Wisconsin to play better basketball on the offensive end of the floor but for them to still not break in to the 70-point range. Instead they’ll settle for a nice win on the road and build towards Sunday’s huge matchup with Maryland.

Last time out, Ethan Happ hit just three field goals — expect that to not happen tonight and for him to be the catalyst for Wisconsin getting back on the winning track.

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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