Green Bay Preview: Badgers' hurdle is physical, not mental

Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin's task is more physical than normal against a bigger Green Bay squad.

As a part of the scheduling agreement between its fellow Division 1 state schools, Saturday night's tilt between Wisconsin and Green Bay is UW's first return trip to the Resch Center since the 2009-10 campaign, when the Phoenix knocked off the Jon Leuer-led Badgers, 88-84, in overtime.

Wisely, Green Bay head coach Brian Wardle acknowledged this week that a four-year old result has no bearing on the outcome of this year's game:

"It’s just different teams, different rosters, different style of play. Just too many different scenarios to really bring that up," Wardle said. "Our guys know they’re going to have to play an excellent game and play it to the best of their abilities and play together to win this game."

Further supporting Wardle's sentiments, Wisconsin (2-0) has had it's way, more or less, in this series ever since that loss.

Alec Brown, a projected second-round pick in next summer's NBA draft thanks to his 7'1" frame, is the only senior who has made his way through the Green Bay program from start to finish. That is to say, no player on the roster was around when Green Bay beat Wisconsin last.

On top of all that, Brown has struggled of late. After scoring 18 points and eight rebounds as a freshman, Brown has shot only 7-of-23 in the teams' last two meetings.

Of course, this season is a fresh start for the Phoenix. After facing a tumultuous offseason and another slew of transfers, Wardle has enough returning firepower to have Green Bay (1-0) picked to win the Horizon League this year. The Phoenix ran roughshod over Northern Michigan to start the year, like any good team should.

Diminutive point guard Keifer Sykes joins Brown as the offensive engine of the team, after averaging a team-high 15.9 points and 4.3 assists last season. Sykes is just one of five Chicago natives on the Phoenix roster. Fellow starters Greg Mays and Vincent Garrett also hail from the Windy City.

Behind Brown and Mays (6'9", 220) up front, and Garrett (6'6") in the backcourt, Green Bay will have one advantage versus Wisconsin that a mid-major program doesn't usually have: size. Other than Traevon Jackson at the point, the Badgers are shorter than their Phoenix counterpart throughout the starting lineup.

Garrett led four Green Bay scorers in double figures last Saturday with 15 points.

Rather than worry about correcting a negative result from years ago, Wisconsin should be focused on making sure it's group rebounding effort continues to be successful against a confident and well-equipped underdog.

George Marshall will reportedly miss the game due to a concussion suffered on Friday. That should mean more opportunities for heralded freshman Bronson Koenig to make an impact.

Tip time tonight is set for 7 p.m., with coverage on WISC-TV (Ch. 3) locally in Madison.

Projected Starting Lineups

Wisconsin Pos. Green Bay
Frank Kaminsky, Jr. F / C Alec Brown, Sr.
Sam Dekker, So. F Greg Mays, Jr.
Josh Gasser, Jr. G / F Jordan Fouse, So.
Ben Brust, Sr. G Vincent Garrett, Sr.
Traevon Jackson, Jr. G Keifer Sykes, Jr.

KenPom win probability: 70% (64-60 W) 60 possessions

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For more Wisconsin basketball coverage, follow Phil on Twitter @hoopsmarinara.

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