An up and down season for the Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team took a turn for the better last time out. The Badgers return to the Kohl Center resulted in a blowout of the previously winless in the Big Ten Illinois Fighting Illini.
On Tuesday night, Wisconsin goes to a place it hasn’t really liked much in the past — Carver-Hawkeye Arena — to take on the Iowa Hawkeyes. Sure, Wisconsin is on a three-game win streak at Iowa, but that is just the second longest streak it has had in program history away to the Hawkeyes.
A win would move these Badgers in to a tie with the 1912-18 versions of the team for the longest win streak on the road vs. Iowa.
With tip scheduled for 6pm CT on ESPN2, this is a massive opportunity for this team to get some big time momentum going. But, what are the points of interest in this contest?
Let’s get down to The Starting 5 for Badgers vs. Hawkeyes, the basketball edition.
Wisconsin has had a rough go of it after losing four starters off lat season’s team, but they aren’t the only former Big Ten contender that has struggled this season.
Meet the Iowa Hawkeyes, who are just 1-7 in Big Ten play entering this game and struggling with a lot of young players taking on key roles for the team too.
However, Iowa has two big men that could give the Badgers something to worry about. The combination of Tyler Cook and Luke Garza are averaging a healthy 31 points per game in 10 home games this season. They are averaging 25.4 points per game combined on the season as a whole too, so the Badgers lack of height up front could be an area of concern, even if the two are younger players going up against vets like Ethan Happ and Khalil Iverson.
But, those big men are also part of a team that hasn’t stopped anyone in Big Ten play and Wisconsin is coming off it’s best overall game of the season.
Is this going to be the case of Wisconsin on the upswing and Iowa continuing to struggle to figure out who it is?
It was fun to have a Bohannon on the Badgers side of things, but not so much when the third brother chose the Hawkeyes after Wisconsin refused to offer him. He took that anger out on the Badgers last season, hitting the game-winning three pointer to lift his team to victory in Madison…all of it after his team was down by as many as nine points late.
This season, Bohannon is pouring it in at a 13.9 points per game clip, which is second on the team amongst four players averaging double figures. That includes five made three pointers in each of the last three games for Iowa…and we all know the Badgers’ struggles in perimeter defense. He’s also becoming a dangerous passer of the ball, with four games of 10-plus assists.
Wisconsin simply has to shut him down, and a one-armed Brad Davison against Bohannon will certainly be interesting to watch.
Bad Defense, Badgers Advantage
If there was any bigger clue as to why Illinois is winless in the Big Ten this season, watching Wisconsin’s struggling offense just shred the Illini defense should’ve ben a big clue.
Let’s just say defense hasn’t been a foray of the Hawkeyes much this season either. Iowa comes in to this game dead last in team defense in Big Ten games only (84.5 points per game), while allowing teams to shoot 50 percent from the field and is also dead last in scoring margin in Big Ten games only.
Couple that with the confidence gained against an equally bad Illinois defense and one has to wonder if the Badgers confidence goes on to do something great in this game too.
Single Digit Game?
History suggests these two teams put on a good show for the neutral watcher (not sure there are a lot of those for these two mediocre teams), as nine of the last 11 games have been decided by single digits. That certainly makes for entertaining finishes.
Yet, that history is likely to be tested by two teams who are used to blowout games in Big Ten play. Iowa has only had three games in league play not be losses by 10-plus points, including its lone win which came in overtime against Illinois.
Wisconsin has been blown out a lot too, but they have been just as capable of blowing teams out too. Don’t forget those wins over Illinois and Indiana, because Wisconsin has picked apart those bad teams and Iowa is up there on the bad team scale.
It seems like this one is ripe for not being a close one for a change.
Wisconsin seems on the upswing with its last performance, but it was just one game and more reinforcements would certainly be helpful. There’s a chance for that to happen sooner than later, as sophomore point guard D’Mitrick Trice is on the mend after foot surgery in December.
He has been seen working his way back in to shape on the court with the Badgers in practice. However, we still don’t know exactly when he will be back in uniform for a game. Could it happen on Tuesday night against the Hawkeyes?
Wisconsin 77, Iowa 60
Confidence can be a dangerous thing for a young team like Wisconsin and I’m banking on that being a good dangerous thing. Illinois was the performance this team needed, as Davison did some dirty work (10-10 from free throw line), Happ continued being a double-double machine and Brevin Pritzl helped from beyond the arc.
Iowa’s defense is equally as bad as Illinois and despite the Jordan Bohannon effect, this one should be an easy road win for the Badgers. If not, you can kiss making a crazy run through February goodbye.