Tonight's game at Indiana is a lot like Wisconsin's last two first round NCAA Tournament games: There's a lot more to lose than there is to gain--other than simply keeping the season alive.
Certainly that's important, but beating Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Cal State Fullerton in the first round (as the Badgers did the last two seasons) doesn't exactly bring a round of applause. It's simply a game you are forced to play, but one that determines if you get to play another.
Which brings us to tonight against lowly Indiana. Unlike the NCAA Tournament, Wisconsin will play another game after tonight no matter what, but a loss would almost end the Badgers' hopes of said Tournament. There's not much to gain as far as boosting their Tournament resume, but there's a whole lot to lose as far as taking that resume and running it through a paper shredder.
There's no question Wisconsin has the advantage in almost every facet of the game tonight. Indiana is smaller. Indiana is slower. Indiana is shorter. Indiana is bad.
So why is there this weird feeling of concern? Well for one, Tom Crean is their coach and he is no stranger to Bo Ryan and the Badgers. As recently as last season, Crean brought Marquette into the Kohl Center and beat a UW team that went on to win 31 games. Crean also has this team--which by the way is pretty much last year's Carmel, IN varsity team--playing its butt off in every single contest. These players know they aren't Big Ten caliber players (save a couple of exceptions like Tom Pritchard, Devan Dumes and even Matt Roth) and they also realize that there are a handful of top recruits knocking on the door, leaving these kids on the bench next season.
With those factors in mind, I would be playing my ass off every single game too.
So we got Tom Crean and the Carmel Varsity team taking on a Wisconsin team that struggled somewhat offensively against Ohio State Saturday and has already lost at Iowa this season.
Like I said, there's not a whole lot to gain, but there is PLENTY to lose.
My Prediction: Wisconsin 62, Indiana 49
Let's not forget that that not only did these Badgers lose at Iowa and at Northwestern, but they also barely squeaked by Long Beach State, Idaho State and Iona early in the season. I think this game will be similar to the Indiana-Illinois game over the weekend. Wisconsin will build a lead up to 15 points or so, but the Hoosiers will climb back in it and make it a game. Ultimately, UW's defense will be too much and the Badgers will pull away.
Ryan's Prediction: Wisconsin 64, Indiana 59
It won't take a Brian Butch bank shot three to win this one, but it will be close. The Badgers need to win the rebounding battle to get a victory Thursday night.
Eric's Prediction: Wisconsin 57, Indiana 39
The Badger defense has finally been getting it together and with the 19 turnovers they forced against Ohio State, the defense is ready for another take down, this one of lowly Indiana.