Wisconsin and Minnesota, both coming off wins over Michigan State, meet Thursday night in Minneapolis for another Border Battle rivalry. And with court storming once again becoming a major focus within college basketball, Gophers officials reportedly spent the week determining how such a scenario might be handled at Williams Arena.
The #Gophers athletic department has spent considerable time this week to have the right plan in place if a court-storming occurs tonight.— Darren Wolfson (@DarrenWolfson) March 5, 2015
Wisconsin, one spot lower this week at No. 6, rebounded from its loss to Maryland with a 68-61 win over Michigan State on Sunday. The Big Ten's regular-season champs have only the finale against Ohio State left after tonight's game, and the chance to enter the conference tournament on a three-game winning streak would obviously bode well for the Badgers (26-3, 14-2 Big Ten).
The Gophers (17-12, 6-10 Big Ten) lost three straight before defeating Michigan State at Michigan State on Feb. 26, 96-90 in overtime. We'll see what they have in store for Wisconsin; in the teams' first matchup on Feb. 21, the Badgers won 63-53 in Madison.
In Zach Sinykin's preview earlier today, he identified the Williams Arena crowd as one x-factor to watch. Tipoff is at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN.
Volume will be an factor for each team, as Williams Arena (or as the locals and students call it, "The Barn") has been know to hold a raucous student section. That won't change Thursday night, especially with top 10-ranked and hated neighbor Wisconsin coming into town. If the Badgers can overcome the crowd and the loud noise that it produces, it could be rather smooth sailing for the experienced Bo Ryan-led team. With the loss to Maryland, the Badgers have failed to post a high-quality road win other than this season. Winning against Minnesota is no large feat, however it is hard to beat them when the game will be nationally televised, and when the underrated, young unit has the opportunity to knock off one of the top teams in the country.
We all know how the Badgers have some deadly three-point shooters, however Minnesota has some stingy perimeter defense, and getting points in the paint will be a huge factor in the Badger's overall offensive output on Thursday. With the solid guard play that the Gophers possess in Hollins, Nate Mason and DeAndre Mathieu, they force opposing offenses to go inside, which may not pose problems for Wisconsin. However, Maurice Walker played a very solid game last season at home against Frank Kaminsky, so it will be interesting to see how the senior big defends against No. 44 this time around. The Badgers have no shortage of solid interior offensive players, as Kaminsky, Hayes, and Dekker have all proven to be capable back to the basket scorers and have shown the ability to drive in the lane for easy buckets.