After falling to 2-3 because of three straight losses to AP Top-25 opponents, the Wisconsin Basketball team rebounded with a win against in-state rival UW-Milwaukee. But now they have to face yet another really good opponent. As part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, Wisconsin will play a road game against the always-tough Virginia Cavaliers. The game will tipoff at 8 pm on ESPN2. Here are five things you need to know about the game.
1. Ignore the polls: Virginia is really good
Virginia is currently unranked in the AP Poll. But that is absurd. It’s almost as absurd as Kirk Herbstreit leaving Wisconsin out of his playoff top-4 for this week. While they will likely crack the top-25 when the new poll comes out on Monday, they will still be too low. They have wins against Rhode Island, Vanderbilt, and at VCU. According to the Pomeroy College Basketball Rankings, they are the third best team in the country, behind only Duke and Wichita State. Vegas odds makers agree, as Wisconsin is currently 8.5-point underdogs. For comparison, the Badgers were favored by one-point against Xavier and UCLA, and were one-point underdogs to Baylor. Wisconsin has played tough teams. But it doesn’t compare to playing a team like Virginia on the road.
2. Expect a painfully slow pace
There are only a handful of teams in the country that play a slower pace than Wisconsin. Virginia is one of them. In fact, the Cavaliers have the slowest adjusted tempo in the entire country. This game is going to be extremely slow. The lack of possessions will make it very low scoring. College Basketball fans are going to make jokes about it. NBA fans are going to use as a way to prove that college basketball stinks. Jay Bilas is going to propose a billion different rule changes because of it. This game is going to be absolutely brutal, similar to Wisconsin’s 48-38 win a few years ago. And that was when the Badgers had one of their best offenses ever.
3. Virginia point-guard Kyle Guy is a stud
You probably haven’t heard much about him, but he is quietly putting together a very impressive season. He is Virginia’s go-to scorer, averaging 15.8 points per game on 47% shooting from the field and 48% shooting from three-point range. Those shooting numbers aren’t anything new either. Last season, he hit 51 out of 103 three-point attempts. That is really, really good.
The Badgers will likely use Brad Davison to guard him. Guy isn’t the quickest uhhh… guy… around, so it might be a good matchup for the ultra-energetic Davison. If Davison can get a hand in his face and make him uncomfortable, Virginia’s offense will be forced to go to plan-B.
4. Wisconsin’s rotation is closer to being figured out
It isn’t perfect yet, but we finally have a bit more clarity on what Wisconsin’s rotation will be moving forward. The starting line-up will be Trice-Davison-Iverson-Ford-Happ. Brevin Pritzl and Kobe King will be the guards off the bench. Andy Van Vliet and Nathan Reuvers will be the first bigs to come in. Charles Thomas and Alex Illikainen will fight for scraps.
5. Hot shooting will be needed to pull the upset
As anybody that has watched any college basketball for the last 5 seasons knows, Tony Bennett and Virginia play a very stingy pack line defense. The only way to beat it? Get hot from three-point range. Now, Wisconsin will still obviously try to get the ball inside to Ethan Happ quite a bit. But the pack line defense is usually pretty successful at taking away post players.
In order to win, they are going to need explode from three-point range. The bad news is that Wisconsin has struggled from three-point range this season. The good news is that this team is due. They showed in the preseason tournaments and exhibitions that they can get hot. This is the time to do it.
Prediction: Virginia 59, Wisconsin 50
I still think Wisconsin is a good basketball team that is just playing a hard schedule. I still think they are going to win a lot of games this season. I just don’t see how this can be one of them. There will not be many possessions in this game, which means both teams are going to have to really make them count. Virginia is a lot better at doing that at this point in the season than Wisconsin is. They turn the ball over less, and are more efficient on offense and defense. I think Virginia will be in control of the game the whole way.