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The Starting 5: Wisconsin vs. Northwestern basketball preview

Wisconsin may be struggling, but so too is the opponent on Thursday night as the Northwestern Wildcats come to the Kohl Center.

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Wisconsin Badgers basketball is struggling, few would debate that. After squandering a golden chance to erase some bad vibes on Monday, the Badgers return to the Kohl Center hoping to get back to winning ways.

Standing in their way is an equally struggling Northwestern Wildcats program. Expectations were high following the Wildcat’s first NCAA tournament appearance and victory in school history. But, even most of the same parts back hasn’t helped them live up to expectations and NU is struggling just as bad as Wisconsin.

It leads to a very interesting matchup on Thursday night between the two teams.

Which team wants it more? Let’s look at “The Starting 5” for tonight’s Big Ten clash between the Badgers and Wildcats from the Kohl Center. Tip is scheduled for 7:30pm CT on FS1.

40 Minutes

Can the Badgers actually play a full 40 minutes of competent basketball? So far this season that answer has only been yes against weak D1 opponents.

That was on full display on Monday against Nebraska for sure. Wisconsin looked like it was in control of the game for 30 minutes or so..and then it forgot how to make a field goal for nearly 10 minutes and found themselves the losers. Ok, to be fair, the Badgers managed three made field goals in the final 10 minutes. But, they did also go over 6 minutes between made field goals to end the game. Just brutal stuff at home.

Northwestern has the ability to sting you if you aren’t playing quality basketball, so Wisconsin can’t afford to let off the gas in this one.

How do the Badgers put 40 minutes together? It requires something pretty easy, but so hard for this team to do — be able to hit from the perimeter. Defenses aren’t respecting the Badgers from deep and it’s creating challenges for Ethan Happ and Khalil Iverson. Having someone like Brevin Pritzl or Brad Davison starting to hit consistently from deep would be a huge help.

But, asking for a quality 40 minutes may be a task too much for this team and if they can’t put it together against Northwestern, the Badgers are in more trouble than we previously thought (and we think they are seriously bad this season).

Free Throws Again

Last time out we highlighted the fact that Wisconsin gave away the game in Lincoln by allowing the Huskers to go to the free throw line whenever they wanted. We also highlighted the need to reverse that trend, what we apparently forgot to tell the team was that they also needed to make free throws.

UW came in tot the game against Nebraska as one of the best free throw shooting teams in the Big Ten, a stat that mattered little apparently because the Badgers went a paltry 18 of 31 from the free throw line. Most of that could be attributed to Happ’s sudden decline back to last season’s free throw shooting form, as he went 8 of 19, while the rest of the team was a much more respectable 8 of 12.

This team can’t look to bang inside and get to the line and not make its free throws, they’re too inconsistent from the field to be that kind of team.

Trice May Not Be Back This Season?

We’ve known that point guard D’Mitrik Trice has been seen practicing in varying forms with this team for a few weeks now. This is also the timeframe when Greg Gard believed Trice would be ready to go. He didn’t dress on Monday, but could a few extra days make the difference?

That doesn’t appear likely here, as Trice has gone from practicing to not according to reports:

His presence would certainly help give the Badgers a chance against anyone, if for no other reason than the fact that it moves Brad Davison off the ball and gives everyone in the backcourt a chance to breath on the bench once in a great while. That appears to be a pipe dream and with less than a month to go in the season shutting him down seems to be the smart thing to do.

It’s not like his return is the difference between an NCAA tournament berth or not.

First to 60

Casual fans may not enjoy watching this game, as it could be brutal on the eyes given the stat sheets of both of these teams. Northwestern and Wisconsin come in as two of the lowest scoring teams in Big Ten play this season, with Northwestern 12th at 647. points per game and the Badgers one spot lower at 62.8 points per game.

Those are some ugly numbers, especially because Wisconsin is also 12th in scoring margin at -6.9 points per game during B1G play. Northwestern is at least holding its own on the defensive side of things.

Simply put, getting to 60 points might be a stretch for two of the most streaky shooting teams in the conference. My bet is on the first to 60 winning this one, because we might not even see 60 happen.

More Schlundt Please

T.J. Schlundt has been eating up minutes off the bench for most of this season, and for most of the season he hasn’t done much that makes you take notice of him. But, on Monday the former walk-on did just that in a small sample size. He managed 3 points, 3 rebounds and 1 steal in just 11 minutes off the bench. That’s more than UW is used to seeing out of him on the stat sheet and it could be helpful against a team where every point counts.

Wisconsin could use any sort of offensive production from him and most of the bench frankly. Let’s see if Monday’s performance gives him the confidence to make some more moves on the offensive side of the court or not.

Hey, what could go wrong? He goes cold? It’s not like we haven’t seen that from anyone in the Badgers starting lineup either….oh wait.

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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Badgers Basketball

Badgers top Xavier in Gavitt Tipoff Games

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A trio of big nights from Ethan Happ, D’Mitrick Trice and Brad Davison helped the Wisconsin Badgers avenge last season’s defeat in the Gavitt Tipoff Games, defeating Xavier 77-68 on Tuesday night. 

The trio combined for 71of Wisconsin’s 77 points in the victory, as the Badgers improved to 2-0 on the young season. 

Senior All-American Ethan Happ continued his history-making start to the season, pouring in 30 points while making a career high 15 field goals. 

He had a double double, adding 13 rebounds and also 5 assists in the win. 

Trice, who had a career high 21 points in the win over Coppin State followed that up by making a new career high with 22 points, including 5-5 from beyond the arc. 

Sophomore guard Brad Davison also got in to the act, adding 19 points in the win. The final three of those points came on a late step-up triple with the shot clock running down and the Badgers lead at just 69-60 with just over a minute to play. 

Following the big make, Davison gave Xavier a piece of their own medicine with a JP Macuria-like chomp. 

Xavier made a late run after that chomp, but Trice and Kobe King hit three late free throws to put the icing on the victory. 

Davison helped pick up the Badgers in the second half as they erased any and all momentum Xavier had thanks to a 12-4 run to end the first half. 

The hosts used that run to make it a 30-28 game at the half, but UW went on a 7-0 run early in the second half and made it 39-30. The Musketeers never really got within serious striking distance after that, largely due to Davison’s production being added to what Happ and Trice did. 

Xavier would test the Badgers mettle a few times in this game, but ultimately its inability to hit from the perimeter cost the hosts. The Musketeers shot just 21percent (5-24) from beyond the three-point line in the loss. 

Naji Marshall led the Musketeers in scoring with 24 points on 10-15 field goals. 

Wisconsin raced out to a 10-2 lead inside the first four minutes of the game. It was led by 4 points from Happ and back-to-back triples from Trice. 

Xavier ended that run with a pair of baskets of its own to bring it to 10-7 with 15:42 to play in the first half. 

It would be the only offensive firepower the Musketeers would have until late in the first half. Xavier went 3:20 without a single basket at one point and one field goal in 6:27 for the Musketeers. 

The Badgers weren’t much better from the field either and it led to Xavier being able to slowly chip away at Wisconsin’s lead.

Wisconsin ended the half shooting just 39 percent from the field, but were 4 of 8 from beyond the arc to help them take a 30-28 advantage in to the locker room. 

Trice led the way with 3 of 3 from beyond the arc for 11 points. Happ led all Badgers with 12 points on 6-12 shooting himself.  

Xavier would end the half shooting 12 of 31 from the field, including just 3 of 14 from three-point range. 

It felt a lot like deja vu to start the second half, as the Badgers used a quick start to control the game. This time it was a 16-2 run that made it 48-32 Badgers with just over 14 minutes to play. 

Xavier fought back, but ultimately it couldn’t find a way to win the battle on the boards (40-32) or hit the big buckets to end Wisconsin runs to really get back in the game. 

Despite the close moments late in both halves, the game was tied just one time and the lead never went out of the Badgers favor. Wisconsin led for all but 1:27 and still managed to let the Musketeers hang around late. 

A lot of it had to do with free throw shooting, as Happ struggled to a 0 of 4 night from the free throw line and the team was just 6 of 13. Yet, they stepped up when it really mattered, knocking down three of the last four to ice Xavier out of the game. 

Up next is a contest with Houston Baptist on Nov. 17. Tipoff is scheduled for 7pm CT on BTN. 

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Badgers Basketball

Badgers Basketball Preview: Xavier edition

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After a season-opening trouncing of Coppin State, the Wisconsin Badgers will take the court a week later. The competition will be much stiffer this time around. 

That’s because it’ll be the Gavitt Games and a road trip to Xavier on the docket. It’s also because these two teams had one heck of a matchup last year. 

Xavier came in as the No. 15 team in the nation and nearly were upset by a Badgers squad trying to find itself. The game ended with a Musketeers 80-70 victory, but it appeared to be a step in the right direction for a young Badgers squad. 

Even if that wasn’t what happened for the Badgers after that game, this is a bellwether matchup once again.  That’s because the roles will be reversed this season, as Wisconsin returns a ton of its production from last season and Xavier are the ones trying to figure themselves out. 

Tip is scheduled for 5:30pm CT and can be seen on FS1. 

Let’s look inside the matchup. 

Wisconsin Badgers

Record: 1-0 (0-0 B1G)
Head Coach: Greg Gard, 3rd full season at UW (58-36 overall, 31-23 B1G)
Notable: Last time out the Badgers got a triple double from center Ethan Happ. It was just the second one in program history. The Badgers also got a career high 21 points from D’Mitrick Trice in his return from a season-ending injury suffered 10 games in to last season.

Probable Starters (stats): 

G – D’Mitrick Trice – 21 ppg, 4 rpg, 1 apg
G – Brad Davison – 9 ppg, 5 rpg, 0 apg
F – Khalil Iverson – 7 ppg, 5rpg, 1 apg
F – Nate Reuvers – 8 ppg, 4 rpg, 1 apg
C – Ethan Happ – 10 ppg, 11 rpg, 12 apg

Xavier Musketeers 

Record: 2-0 (0-0 Big East)
Head Coach: Travis Steele, 1st year at Xavier and overall
Notable: Last time out, Xavier was a 6-point winner over Evansville, as they struggle with the transition away from Chris Mack and a group of solid seniors from last season’s team that beat the Badgers by 10 points. 

Probable Starters (stats): 

G – Paul Scruggs, So. — 14.5 ppg, 6 rpg, 4.5 apg
G – Kyle Castin, Sr. — 7.5 ppg, 7 rpg, 0.5 apg
F – Naji Marshall, So. — 9.5 ppg, 6 rpg, 5.5 apg
F – Tyrique Jones, Jr. — 18 ppg, 13 rpg, 1.5 apg
F – Ryan Welage, Sr. — 14.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.5 apg

Matchup to Watch: The Frontcourt

Xavier has been really good at eliminating opponents scoring up front. With an athletic group of players up front, opposing teams are having trouble scoring inside. 

Now, of course, teams are having a field day scoring from outside. How else do you describe a team that allows opponents to score 77 points per game so far this season? 

Teams are shooting just 40 percent from the field overall, but are 26 o 60 (.433) from beyond the arc. Wisconsin was on fire from outside for most of the contest against Coppin State, but can that outside shooting be trusted to be consistent? 

It’ll be a big help if Ethan Happ and Khalil Iverson are lighting it up inside the paint again. Happ is easily the toughest opponent Xavier has seen on the inside and Xavier’s length and athleticism are trouble for Happ as well. 

Last season, Happ had 21 points, but was just 7 of 13 from the field and added seven points from the free throw line. If he can get Xavier in trouble on the foul front, it will be a huge help again. 

But, given the changes to the Xavier frontcourt group going in to this season, this is a matchup that will look a lot different. 

Prediction:

Wisconsin 70, Xavier 65

While this game is on the road and that can be a huge factor, what I saw from the inside-out game of the Badgers last time out is enough to make me believe this is a win for the good guys. 

Additionally, Xavier has seen its share of struggles early on this season and nearly lost to Evansville, a middling Missouri Valley squad at best. Look for the experience of the Badgers to matter and for them to win this one at the free throw line of all places. 

Season Prediction Record: 1-0

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Badgers Basketball

Happ, Trice lead Badgers to easy win over Coppin State

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The return of redshirt sophomore D’Mitrick Trice was one to remember.

After missing all but 10 games last season, Trice poured in a career high 21 points in his return to the team, leading the Badgers to an 85-63 win over the Coppin State Eagles.

Trice got there thanks to 5 of 9 shooting from deep and 7-13 overall from the field. He had 17 of those 21 points in the first half alone, and UW needed those points. 

Three straight makes from deep for Trice with the Badgers trailing by five points gave the team the kick start they needed. It was the start of a 20-2 run that blew the game open from an 11-6 deficit to a large Badgers lead that never got close again.

However, he wasn’t the only headline of the night for the Badgers. 

Star senior center Ethan Happ showed just how versatile he can be with a season-opening triple double. He had 10 points on just 3-7 shooting, but hit all four of his free throws and added 11 rebounds and 12 assists on the night. 

No other Badgers player had more than one assist. 

Happ and Trice were joined in double digits scoring by senior guard Brevin Prtizl who had 16 points on 4 of 7 shooting from beyond the arc. 

As a team, the Badgers shot just 38.7 percent from deep on the night, but happened as the team cooled off late in the game as the bench got cleared out. UW shot 52.9 percent (9 of 17) from the three-point line in the first half alone.

Coppin State was led by a pair of double digit scores in Lamar Morgan (15) and Taqwain Drummond (11), but they were never really in the game after the first three minutes of action. 

Wisconsin’s other returning player from injury, redshirt freshman Kobe King, had a bit more of a struggle off the bench. He had 8 points on 3 of 6 shooting from the field, but missed on both of his deep attempts. he did add four rebounds, good for third on the team. 

Perhaps the biggest shock came from the free throw line, as Wisconsin shot an impressive 88.5 precent (23 of 26) on the night. 

Wisconsin also was able to get its big lead thanks to much better play on the defensive end of the floor. UW held Coppin State to just 35.6 percent shooting on the night and just 11 of 29 from beyond the arc. 

Up next for Wisconsin is next Tuesday as they go to Cincinnati to take on the Xavier Muskateers in the Gavitt Tipoff Games. Tip is scheduled for 5:30pm CT and will air on FS1. 

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Badgers Basketball

Badgers Basketball Preview: Coppin State edition

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It’s here, Wisconsin Badgers basketball is back and looking to start a new era of NCAA tournament appearances. 

Up first is a matchup with the Coppin State Eagles, a team from one of the worst conferences in D1 basketball. Will it be a nice way to ease in to the season or will the visitors put the Badgers to the test in a contrast of styles? 

Let’s dig in to the matchup. 

Wisconsin Badgers

2017-18 Record: 15-18 (7-11 B1G)
Head Coach: Greg Gard, 3rd full season at UW (57-36 overall, 31-23 B1G)
Notable: Wisconsin will have 94.7 percent of its scoring from last season back and will see two young players return to the lineup after missing most of the 2017-18 season due to injury in guards D’Mitrick Trice and Kobe King. 

Probable Starters (2017-18 stats): 

G – D’Mitrick Trice – 9.4 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 2.3 apg
G – Brad Davison – 12.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.5 apg
F – Khalil Iverson – 8.6 ppg, 5.1rpg, 1.8 apg
F – Nate Reuvers – 5.3 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 0.8 apg
C – Ethan Happ – 17.9 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 3.7 apg

Coppin State Eagles

2017-18 Record: 5-27 (5-11 MEAC)
Head Coach: Juan Dixon, 2nd season (5-27, 5-11 MEAC)
Notable: Guard Dejuan Clayton missed almost all of the 2017-18 season due to injury after being selected to the MEAC All-Rookie team in 2016-17. He averaged 12.4 points and 3.1 assists per game in his debut season and could be a huge X-factor for this team. 

Probable Starters (2017-18 stats): 

G – Dejuan Clayton (So.) – 12.4 ppg, 3.1 apg (2016-17 due to injury)
G – Lucian Brownlee (Sr.) – 4.9 ppg, 0.9 rpg, 0.5 apg
F – Cedric Council (Sr.) – 5.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 0.7 apg
F – Lamar Morgan (Sr.) – 12.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 0.4 apg
F – Chad Andrews-Fulton – 6.5ppg, 4.9 rpg, 0.8 apg

Matchup to Watch: Chad Andrews-Fulton vs. Ethan Happ

The Eagles didn’t win a lot of games last season, but when they did it had a lot to do with Chad Andrews-Fulton and his play. In the five wins the Eagles had he averaged 15 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. 

Ethan Happ is more than accustomed to battling high-level scorers down low and usually good at winning those battles. Happ has also been one of the most effective big men in college basketball for the past two years. Expect Happ to be able to frustrate Andrews-Fulton on defense and take him down low on the block. 

As long as Happ wins this battle in the first half this should be an easy win overall for Wisconsin. If not, the Badgers may make this closer than expected for far too long. 

Prediction: 

Wisconsin 84, Coppin State 55

This is your typical opener against a really bad mid-major program. Yes, Juan Dixon played at a high level at Maryland, but he hasn’t shown the ability to coach a team to success ever. That includes his lone stint as a women’s basketball coach in which his University of the District of Columbia team won just six games. 

Wisconsin has experience and athletic advantages it won’t have every game this season. Look for this to be an easy win for the Badgers and one in which they’ll get some rotational questions figured out. 

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