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Badgers Basketball Preview: at Nebraska edition

The Basics

Where: Lincoln, Neb.; Pinnacle Arena
When: Thursday, Feb. 9; 8p.m. CT
Channel: BTN
Spread: Wisconsin -8.5
All-Time Series: Wisconsin leads 13-12
Last Meeting: Nebraska won 70-58 (March 10, 2016 in Big Ten Tournament)

Projected Starting Lineups

Nebraska Cornhuskers (10-13, 4-7)

G Tai Webster — Sr. 6-4, 195 (18.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 4.1 apg)
G Evan Taylor — Jr. 6-5, 206 (4.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.2 apg)
F Jack McVeigh — So. 6-8, 215 (7.6 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 0.6 apg)
F Michael Jacobson — So. 6-9, 230 (6.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.1 apg)
C Jordy Tshimanga — Fr. 6-11, 275 (4.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 0.2 apg)

No. 7 Wisconsin Badgers (19-3, 5-1)

G Bronson Koenig Sr. 6-3, 190 (14.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.2 apg)
G Zak Showalter — Sr. 6-3, 185 (7.7 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.0 apg)
F Nigel Hayes Sr. 6-8, 240 (13.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.1 apg)
F Vitto Brown Sr. 6-8, 235 (7.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.0 apg)
C Ethan Happ — So. 6-10, 280 (14.7 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 2.8 apg)

Matchup to Watch: Badgers Guards vs. Tai Webster

Nebraska goes as far as Tai Webster goes — one look at the stat sheet makes that abundantly clear. Such is the case when you have a very young team and his veteran status for Nebrasketball.

He’s a matchup nightmare for a lot of teams because of his combination of height, length and speed. But, the Badgers have some of the better backcourt defenders in the league in Bronson Koenig and Zak Showalter. The two have combined to average 2.1 steals per game, with Showalter chipping in 34 steals in just 23 games this season.

That’s especially important given the fact that Webster has been a turnover machine this season — coughing up the ball 67 times in just 22 games (3.0 turnovers per game). If Wisconsin can get after Webster and frustrate him on the offensive end of the floor it could be a tough night.

Conversely, Webster is a really good rebounder on a team that ranks ninth in the Big Ten. He’ll have to be on his game against the three-point shot though, as the Badgers like to shoot from deep. It hasn’t been the strength of this Nebraska team, nor Webster much of this season and is something to really watch (more on that later).

3 Numbers to Know

— 54.4: That is the average points per game Wisconsin has given up to Nebraska since they entered the Big Ten. UW’s defense this season has been lights out for the most part, and with an opponent that has just one player averaging double figures this could be a really bad night for Nebrasketball.

— .455: That is the three-point shooting percentage of Huskers’ Big Ten opponents this season. It also happens to be the worst three-point shooting defense in league play. UW has attempted just 192 three-pointers in conference play, which is third fewest, but may find themselves open for those shots on the regular in this game. If the Badgers can get going from the outside (easier said than done), look for this to be a long night for the hosts.

— 9: That is the average margin of loss for Nebraska during the last eight games. Nebraska comes in having lost seven of their last eight games and that likely means many Badgers fans expect an easy victory here. However, all of those seven losses have been pretty close, and when you add in the fact that Wisconsin hasn’t exactly been in blow-out mode on the road as of late, it could mean a tighter affair than most expect.

Prediction

Nebraska and Wisconsin have met nine times in Big Ten play, with the Huskers winning just twice no matter where this game has been played. It just so happens the second of those victories came the last time these two teams met. You can bet this veteran Wisconsin team remembers that shocking loss.

You can also bet that the Huskers aren’t the same team that beat UW last season either. Look for Ethan Happ and Nigel Hayes to dominate down low, while Bronson Koenig and Vitto Brown may have a lot of fun on the perimeter as well.

This is a mismatch in terms of experience and ability, look for it to end with the Badgers winning going away.

Wisconsin 68, Nebraska 55

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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