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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 dropped by Ducks for 1st time in NCAA tourney

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The Wisconsin Badgers return to the NCAA tournament was not a happy one, as they got dumped 72-54 by the No. 12 seed Oregon Ducks on Friday afternoon.

The loss ends the Badgers season earlier than they have seen since an eerily familiar loss to Ole Miss in the first round of the 2013 tournament.

After 20 minutes it was all-square at 25-25, but then the second half happened and Oregon pulled away with 47 points to their name and some quality work on the defensive end of the court.

Oregon freshman guard Payton Pritchard led much of that second half outburst and he ended up with 19 points in the win. The Ducks also got double digit scoring from Louis King (17) and Paul White (14).

Wisconsin was led senior duo Ethan Happ and Khalil Iverson, who each had 12 points. No other Badgers player reached double figures.

The game remained close for the first 30 minutes, but that’s where the two teams diverged. Oregon began to be more consistent on offense and suffocated the Badgers on the other end of the court.

UW was doomed largely by an inability to hit from the perimeter, going just 6-of-30 from beyond the arc in the game and shooting just 33.3 percent from the field.

Ironically, Wisconsin cut the Ducks lead to just five points at 50-45 with 7:27 left to play thanks to a D’Mitrick Trice triple.

But, the Badgers went on a nearly three-minute scoring drought late in the game and allowed Oregon to control the game. By the time Happ stopped the bleeding, the Ducks led 59-49 with 3:56 to play.

Wisconsin would make two buckets the rest of the way — both in the final minute when the game was well out of reach.

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Badgers Basketball

5 things to know about Badgers vs. Oregon in NCAA tournament

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When the Wisconsin Badgers saw their name back up in the NCAA tournament bracket after a one-year absence there was much joy.

However, for the fan base there was also much groaning thanks to yet another matchup with the Oregon Ducks in the NCAA tournament. It’s also a team that most fans will know as a dangerous one, even if they are a No. 12 seed.

Oregon is arguably the hottest team in tournament, riding an eight-game win streak. They’ve outscored opponents 72.0 to 54.2 points per game and holding opponents to 34.6 percent shooting from the field and 23.1 percent from beyond the arc.

All of that tells us just how serious the Badgers have to take this matchup with the Pac-12 champions.

So, ahead of Friday’s matchup with the Ducks at 3:30pm CT, let’s look at the 5 things we need to know about this matchup.

5: Wisconsin has allowed just 5 teams to score 70-plus points in a game this season

There’s a reason why the Badgers are ranked 3rd in the country in Adjusted Defense by KenPom.com and thats’ because they don’t let teams score points in droves.

To that point, the Badgers have allowed opponents to score 70 or more points against them in just 5 of 33 games played so far this season.

Furthermore, just two teams this season have scored 80 points or more, with losses in both of those games (84-80 OT to Purdue & 83-76 to Western Kentucky). So, keeping the Ducks offense from getting going is going to be vital.

4: Wisconsin has reached the Sweet 16 in 4 of last 5 seasons

Birth, death, taxes…and the Wisconsin Badgers making the Sweet 16? It’s been almost automatic as of late for UW, who have made it to the second weekend of the tournament in 4 of the last 5 seasons.

The Badgers have also done it in 6 of the last 8 years.

Impressive, right? But did you know that no other team in the country has matched or topped that number? It’s true…it’s damn true.

Additionally, Oregon’s resurgence has come largely thanks to a switch to a “big” lineup with 4 players 6-9 or taller in the starting lineup.

3: Both teams have 3 starters averaging double figures

Both Wisconsin and Oregon will feature three starters each that are averaging double figures this season. Leading all six of those players is Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ (17.5). He’s joined by Brad Davison and D’Mitrick Trice — both of whom are averaging 10.7 points per game.

Oregon is led by freshman guard Louis King (13.1) and is joined by fellow guard Payton Pritchard (12.7) and forward Paul White (10.6).

What this game could come down to is how the rest of the group shows up. UW has been able to count on another big man in Nate Reuvers plenty throughout the season and Khalil Iverson has been a huge presence as of late. Will that continue after nearly a week off?

2: Pritchard scored 20 or more points twice in the Pac-12 tournament

If you need a reason for why the Oregon Ducks are even in the tournament, look no further than the hot hand of Payton Pritchard. In three games in the Pac-12 tournament, Pritchard put up 20 points twice and in the third game he hit for 18 points.

That’s an average of 19.3 points per game and a scary matchup for the Badgers efficient defense to have to deal with.

On the flip side of that hot hand, it does seem as if 20 points is his ceiling on the scoring front. Pritchard has managed to score more than 20 points just once this season, and that happened in the season opener against Portland State in which he put up 22 points in a large win.

1: Ethan Happ is the No. 1 player in the KenPom.com player ratings

In an age of stretch forwards and 7-footers with jump shots galore, Happ is a throwback player who rarely shoots from outside of three feet. But, that hasn’t stopped him from being one of the most dominant players in the country. So much so that Ken Pomeroy has him ranked as the No. 1 player in the country.

Not only is Happ averaging 17.5 points, but he is also averaging 10.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. Should he finish the season averaging 16 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists per game, he would be just the second player in 20 years to accomplish that.

Oh, and Happ is 1 of 6 players in NCAA history to record 2,000 points, 1,000 boards and 400 assists, joining Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird, Danny Ferry, Stacey Augmon and John Konchar.

Enjoy his final games in a Badgers uniform.

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Badgers Basketball

Badgers get Oregon again in NCAA tournament

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After bowing out in the Big Ten tournament semi-final on Saturday afternoon, everyone was waiting to find out where the Wisconsin Badgers would be heading in the NCAA tournament.

It didn’t take long to get that answer, as the Badgers were given a No. 5 seed in the South region, which was the second region to be revealed in the selection show.

Their opponent? Oregon. AGAIN.

The destination? Go West young man.

Wisconsin will meet the Ducks in San Jose, Calif. on Friday and the winner will get the winner of Kansas State vs. UC-Irvine in the next round on Sunday.

This will be the third matchup between the two teams in the last five years of the NCAA tournament.

Wisconsin has won both previous matchups between these two teams, topping the Ducks 85-77 in a second round matchup. UW would do it all over again the next year, besting the Ducks 72-65 in another second round matchup.

Wisconsin is in the top half of the South region bracket and that could set up another very familiar matchup, as the Virginia Cavaliers are the No. 1 seed in the region.

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5 Things to know about Badgers vs. Nebraska in Big Ten tournament

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The season of redemption has reached the postseason and unlike last year, the Wisconsin Badgers of this season are firmly in the NCAA tournament. There’s no need to win the Big Ten title to get to the dance.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the Badgers won’t want to showcase themselves by winning the whole tournament either.

Wisconsin will step on to the United Center court for the first time in the Big Ten tournament on Friday afternoon. Across from them will be a red-hot Nebraska Cornhuskers team, who have won twice — including an upset of No. 5 seed Maryland — to get here.

So, what do we need to know about this matchup and the Badgers in the Big Ten tourney in general? Let’s get it going.

5: Nebraska and the 55-point mark are vital to this game

Wisconsin is one of the best defensive teams in the country this year, ranking 4th in defensive efficiency according to KenPom.com. That doesn’t bode well for the Nebraska Cornhuskers though, because they’ve only managed to top 55 points in 7 of the 13 previous matchups since joining the Big Ten.

All four of the Badgers losses to Nebraska since they joined the league have come with Nebraska scoring more than 55 points (58 being their lowest in a win over UW). The Huskers are averaging a meager 57.9 points per game against UW overall since joining the B1G.

The Badgers have also held Nebraska to 55 points or less in four of the nine wins in the series since becoming league foes.

4: The Badgers are the No. 4 seed in the Big Ten tournament

Let’s just say this program is coming back home when it comes to postseason play, shall we? After all, the Badgers have been amongst the top 4 seeds in the conference tournament in 16 of the last 18 years.

By earning those seeds, one would think the Badgers have a history of success in the tournament or something? Is that true? Let’s find out together.

3: Wisconsin has won 3 Big Ten tournament titles.

That may not seem like a lot, but for those of us who are in our 30’s and can still remember the days without a Big Ten postseason tournament that number is a lot. UW won tournament titles in 2004, 2008 and 2015. So, math tells us they are likely due for another banner to be risen in to the rafters at the Kohl Center.

Wisconsin has not been a slouch in the tournament overall either, having played seven more times in the title game and owning a .571 record in the history of the tourney.

2: Happ’s continued run at history

We all know that Ethan Happ is historically good. But, did you know that Happ is on pace to be just the 2nd player in the last 20 years in all of D1 basketball to average 16 ppg, 10 rpg & 4 apg.

Right now, Happ is averaging 17.8 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game — so he’s well on his way to achieving that mark.

As for the matchup with Nebraska, Happ is averaging 14.2 ppg, 9.2 rpg and 2.6 apg in five games against them. If he’s going to stay on track for his record-breaking season and career, he’ll likely have to duplicate if not exceed most of those numbers.

1: The Badgers own the Big Ten’s best March winning percentage in last 6 seasons

Winning titles only happens by winning games and the Badgers have a very long history of doing that in March. So much so that its 29-9 (7.63) mark is the best amongst all Big Ten teams during games played in the month of March.

When you say Wisconsin in March, you said it all.

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