On January 2nd, Wisconsin Basketball will begin conference play for the second time (thanks Jim Delany) with a home game against the Indiana Hoosiers. Both teams are in full rebuilding mode, with the Badgers at 8-7 and the Hoosiers 8-6. Despite the struggles of both teams, the game will be aired on ESPN at 6 PM.
1. New face on Indiana sideline
For the last eight seasons, Wisconsin fans have been used to dominating hated Indiana head coach Tom Crean. In fact, for most Badger fans, beating Indiana was second only to the look on Crean’s face afterwards. He was an easy target, and the type of guy that fans loved to hate. His presence created something of a rivalry between the Badgers and the Hoosiers. But now, the dynamic is different. Long time Dayton coach Archie Miller is now at the helm of Indiana. So no matter who wins this game, the entire feel of the rivalry will be different.
2. Indiana has been inconsistent
Like the Badgers, Indiana is a young team that has had some incredibly bad performances and some really good ones. The Hoosiers have a 21-point loss to Indiana State and 20-point loss to Fort Wayne on their resume. But they also won a neutral court game against Notre Dame and hung tough with Duke at home and Louisville on the road. In that regard, they are a lot like the Badgers.
3. Wisconsin has struggled at home
Okay, Wisconsin has actually struggled everywhere. But it is the three home losses that are the most alarming. Sure, they played a close game against AP No. 5 Xavier in the confines of the Kohl Center. But they also suffered 25- and 19-point blowouts at the hands of Marquette and Ohio State respectively. No matter how young and inexperienced this Badger team is, they need to defend their home court better than that.
4. Brevin Pritzl found his stroke
Wisconsin shooting guard Brevin Pritzl has started to look like the offensive threat we knew he could be. Over the last five games of the non-conference schedule, Pritzl averaged 12.4 points per game and hit 48% of his three-point attempts. Pritzl has always been hyped up as a player with a game changing shooting stroke. Let’s see if he can continue his production against a Big Ten opponent.
5. The Badgers are favored
BetOnline Sports has the Badgers favored by 5.5-points. The Badgers have also been given a 75% chance to win by ESPN’s FPI and a 70% chance by T-Rank. Keeping in mind that Wisconsin has already lost five games that they were favored in this season, the metrics all seem to agree that the Badgers should win this one.
Prediction: Wisconsin 75, Indiana 74
Both teams have been so wildly inconsistent this season that no outcome would be a real surprise. But I think the most likely scenario is that this game will go down to the wire. That’s when Ethan Happ, who will undoubtedly be the best player on the floor, will take over and bring the Badgers across the finish line by the narrowest of margins.