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Wisconsin Badgers Basketball Preview: Indiana in B1G Tourney edition

The Basics:

When: Friday, March 10; 5:30p.m. CT
Where: Washington, D.C.; Verizon Center (20,356)
Channel: BTN
Spread: Wisconsin -4
All-Time Series: Indiana leads, 95-72
Last Meeting: UW won, 65-60 (2/5/17)

The last time we left you, the Wisconsin Badgers found themselves in a near must-win situation on Senior Day, and said seniors made sure they went out in style. A big win in the Border Battle ended up securing the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten tournament.

However, that win is just the second in the last seven games for UW and a good showing in the B1G tourney is likely needed to move up in the minds of the NCAA tournament selection committee.

In what has been a crazy season throughout the conference, one constant has remained and that is Wisconsin’s domination of Indiana under the direction of Tom Crean. Naturally, the two teams would find themselves meeting in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament.

With two wins in the books, can the Badgers make it a clean sweep and move on as the top remaining seed in the Big Ten tournament? Let’s take a look inside this matchup.

The Lineups:

Indiana Hoosiers (18-14, 7-11 Big Ten)

G Josh Newkirk — Jr. 6-1, 195 (9.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 3.2 apg)
G James Blackmon Jr. — Jr. 6-4, 200 (17.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.9 apg)
G Robert Johnson — Jr. 6-3, 195 (13.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.6 apg)
F Juwuan Morgan — So. 6-8, 230 (7.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.1 apg)
C Thomas Bryant — So. 6-10, 255 (12.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.5 apg)

No. 23 Wisconsin Badgers (23-8, 12-6 B1G)

G Bronson Koenig — Sr. 6-3, 190 (14.2 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 2.0 apg)
G Zak Showalter — Sr. 6-3, 185 (8.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.7 apg)
F Nigel Hayes Sr. 6-8, 240 (13.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.9 apg)
F Vitto Brown Sr. 6-8, 235 (6.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.0 apg)
C Ethan Happ — So. 6-10, 280 (13.9 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 2.9 apg)

Matchup to Watch: James Blackmon Jr. vs. Zak Showalter

Blackmon Jr. simply put the Hoosiers on his back yesterday, pouring in 23 points and hitting 7 of 9 from the field. That included knocking down 4 of 5 from three-point range. Those numbers should scare a Wisconsin defense that is allowing opponents to shoot 37.8 percent on the season. That was good for just 12th in the Big Ten this season.

However, Showalter is one of the best defensive guards in the conference and often draws the opponents best shooter for a reason. Showy showed up big in the first game between these two teams in Bloomington, Ind., allowing Blackmon Jr. to only score 10 points and get off just nine shots.

Don’t sleep on Showalter at the other end of the court either, and his performance against Blackmon Jr. in that game proves it. He had 14 points on 5 of 8 shooting for the game, including a pair of makes from beyond the arc.

Showy was impressive in the season-ending win over Minnesota, putting up 12 points for his third-straight game in double figures. If he does that against Indiana it could spell the usual trouble for Tom Crean’s kids.

3 Numbers to Know:

— 12: That is the number of three-pointers Indiana made in its win over Iowa yesterday. Oh, and it also happens to be the number of made three pointers in the two games against Wisconsin in the regular season. James Blackmon Jr. was leading the way from deep, can he continue that against a Badgers defense that has been inconsistent at best on the perimeter?

— 2: That is Wisconsin’s seed in the Big Ten tournament. It has been a pretty darn good seed to the Badgers overall, as UW holds a 6-2 record and won the 2004 tournament title from the No. 2 seed position. All three of Wisconsin’s Big Ten tourney titles have come from the No. 1 or No. 2 seed.

— 62: Wisconsin has held Indiana to 62.0 points per game in the Tom Crean era. That stands in stark contrast to this season’s Hoosiers, who are putting up 80.4 points per game. However, it seems as if the trend is towards the 62 number as IU scored in the 60’s in both matchups in the regular season. UW’s ability to hold them down in the 60’s again today will be huge.

Prediction

Wisconsin 74, Indiana 62

A look at Indiana from last night and over the last three games could scare most in the country. Then Wisconsin realizes that Tom Crean is on the bench and all of that tension goes away.

For whatever reason, Wisconsin has had his number. Sure some of it is UW’s rise and Indiana’s overall struggles, but UW has dominated few Big Ten teams during that same span the way they have IU.

Betting against that happening is just stupid…and I’m not stupid. Look for the hot-hand of the Hoosiers to cool off, and the Badgers to take full advantage of finally getting a big win at the end of the regular season.

Happ works over Bryant down low and Koenig hits some clutch shots to end an early second-half run by the Hoosiers and secure a victory.

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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