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Wisconsin Badgers Basketball Preview: Minnesota Gophers Edition

The Basics

Where: Minneapolis, Minnesota; Williams Arena
When: Saturday, Jan. 21; 3:30 CT
Channel: BTN
All-Time Series: Minnesota leads 96-93
Last Meeting: UW won 62-49 at Minnesota (March 2, 2016)

Let the Border Battle weekend commence…you know, with hockey and a basketball game just for starters.

Projected Starting Lineups

Minnesota Golden Gophers (15-4, 3-3)

G Nate Mason — Jr. 6-2, 190 (13.9 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 5.4 apg)
G Dupree McBrayer — So. 6-5, 190 (11.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 2.9 apg)
F Amir Coffey — Fr. 6-8, 195 (11.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.8 apg)
F Jordan Murphy — So. 6-6, 240 (10.2 ppg, 8.1 rpg, .8 apg)
C Reggie Lynch — Jr. 6-10, 260 (8.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg, .4 apg)

No. 13 Wisconsin Badgers (15-3, 5-1)

G Bronson Koenig Sr. 6-3, 190 (14.0 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.9 apg)
G Zak Showalter- Sr. 6-3, 185 (8.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.1 apg)
F Nigel Hayes- Sr. 6-8, 240 (13.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 3.2 apg)
F Vitto Brown*- Sr. 6-8, 235 (7.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.1 apg)
C Ethan Happ- So. 6-10, 232 (13.4 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 2.9 apg)

* Forward Vitto Brown is questionable for the game with a lower right leg injury. If he unable to go, Wisconsin will likely start either forward Khalil Iverson or guard D’Mitrik Trice.

Biggest Matchup: Ethan Happ vs Reggie Lynch

Minnesota Center Reggie Lynch is widely regarded for his stellar post defense. Per Jeff Potrykus of the Journal Sentinel, Wisconsin assistant coach Joe Krabbenhoft said that Lynch might be the best post defender Wisconsin sees all season. That could be a problem for the Badgers, since their best offense comes from playing through the post. Especially worrisome is the fact that Wisconsin’s best post player, Ethan Happ, is in the midst of a slump.

Over the last two games, Happ has hit just 8/23 shots, which is far lower than his 61% shooting for the season. Wisconsin is going to need Happ to break out of his mini-slump in order to win this game, and having to go up against Reggie Lynch won’t make the task any easier. The best way to beat Lynch is to get him in foul trouble. He does have the tendency to commit a lot of fouls, so if Happ attacks him early and often, Wisconsin might have some luck.

3 Numbers to Know

— 0. That is the number of games more challenging than this one left on Wisconsin’s schedule according to KenPom. Minnesota is one of only four teams in the Big Ten ranked in the top 40, which also includes Wisconsin, Purdue, and Indiana. The Badgers already faced Purdue and Indiana on the road, so this remains at the toughest test the Badgers have left. If the Badgers can win this game, it will go a long way towards their hopes of winning a Big Ten Title game and playing their first round NCAA Tournament game in Milwaukee.

— 4. That is the number of teams that that have a better defensive efficiency rating than Minnesota in America.The only teams ahead of them are Gonzaga, Louisville, Cincinnati, and South Carolina…so the Gophers are in good company. Points may be hard to come by on Saturday.

— 272. That is Wisconsin’s national ranking in team free throw percentage. Nigel Hayes and Ethan Happ draw the most fouls on the team by far, and both struggle mightily from the free throw line. At some point this season, missed free throws are going to cost Wisconsin a game. Hopefully it isn’t this one.


Minnesota’s defense is really good. Like, really, really good. Good enough that combined with how loud the “Barn” is expected to be, will keep the game close. But the disparity between Wisconsin and Minnesota’s offensive efficiency is breathtaking. Minnesota will need to have a great shooting game to win this one, and Wisconsin’s defense is pretty good itself.

Wisconsin 61 — Minnesota 57


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