It’s the first big test of the 2017-18 season for head coach Greg Gard and the unranked Wisconsin Badgers, as the No. 15 Xavier Musketeers come into town on Thursday night as part of the 2017 Gavitt Games.
Xavier (2-0, 0-0) boasts a talent line-up that includes senior guard Trevon Bluiett, a two-time, first-team All-Big East selection. Wisconsin (2-0, 0-0) will also have to contend with the likes of senior guard J.P. Macura, sophomore forward Tyrique Jones and freshman Paul Scruggs, among others.
The Badgers come off an 89-61 win over Yale on Sunday night, with forward Khalil Iverson tallying a career-high 17 points and forward Ethan Happ registering his second double-double in as many games to start the year off on the right foot.
When and where is the game?
Wisconsin and Xavier will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis.
How can I watch?
The game will be broadcast on FS1 with Tim Brando assigned to play-by-play duties, Bill Raftery as the analyst.
How can I stream the game online?
Via FOXSportsGO.com and the FOXSportsGo mobile app (iOS/Android).
How can I listen to it on the radio?
On the Badgers Sports Network, where you’ll find the usual team of Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas. Head to BadgerSportsNetwork.com to find it. You can also listen on iHeartRadio (iOS/Android/online) by searching “WIBA.”
- Guard D’Mitrik Trice: Sophomore; 13.5 points, two rebounds, 3.5 assists per game
- Guard Brevin Pritzl: Redshirt sophomore; 11.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, two assists per game
- Forward Andy Van Vliet: Junior; 15.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 0.5 assists per game
- Forward Khalil Iverson: Junior; 8.5 points, four rebounds, 2.5 assists per game
- Forward Ethan Happ: Redshirt junior; 16 points, 11 rebounds, 1.5 assists per game
Xavier is now 2-0 and up to No. 15 in the Associated Press poll this week. What are the expectations for the Musketeers entering 2017-18?
I think it depends on who you ask, but personally my expectations for this Xavier team are that they should be in the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, if not the Final Four. They return pretty much all of a team that went to the Elite Eight last year, and brought in a top 10 recruiting class. Not to mention they have one of the best coaches in the nation in Chris Mack. They've never made a Final Four in school history and the NCAA Tournament is a crapshoot, but the stars seem to be aligned for the Musketeers to make a run this year.
Senior guard Trevon Bluiett already is scoring 25.5 points per game and shooting over 65 percent from the field. What makes him such a tough match-up?
Bluiett is a tough matchup because he can score from anywhere on the court. He's able to drive in, he utilizes the mid-range (a lost art in basketball these days), and is a quality three-point shooter. I'm glad Xavier's run to the Elite Eight last season introduced him to the entire nation, because he's been one of my favorite players to watch since the Big East reformed.
How can the likes of J.P. Macura, Paul Scruggs and Tyrique Jones create problems for Wisconsin and other opponents on their schedule?
For starters, J.P. Macura is essentially Sid from Toy Story on a basketball court. He's an absolute menace who does a bunch of little things and gets under your skin. Frankly, he's the type of player that Big Ten fans should appreciate. He's also from Minnesota, if Badgers fans want a little bit of extra ammo against him. He's going to do something that absolutely infuriates you. Be it hitting a big three, coming up with a key steal, or talking literally the entire game. Scruggs is the crown jewel of the aforementioned top 10 recruiting class, and he's being eased in to the flow, but it's hard not to be impressed with what he's given them so far. I think Jones can be a key player, because he'll likely be down low trying to stop Ethan Happ for most of the game, which is a major key to shutting Wisconsin down.
Where can Xavier possibly be exploited, and what are the keys to the game in your opinion?
It's really hard to see flaws in Xavier right now, given they've issued two drubbings to mid-major foes, defeating Morehead State 101-49 and Rider 101-75. This is obviously their first big test of the year, and it's probably the best matchup of the Gavitt Games, if only for just the storylines. Musketeer fans haven't forgotten the 2016 NCAA Tournament, even if Bronson Koenig is gone. As noted above, I think Jones (and Sean O'Mara, another Xavier big man) attempting to limit Ethan Happ and forcing Wisconsin to lean heavily on a secondary option would be big. The home-court advantage also comes into play, as the Kohl Center isn't exactly kind to opposing nonconference teams. In all, though, I think Wisconsin has their work cut out for them in finding a flaw to exploit in the battle tested Musketeers.
P.S.: Bill Raftery is on the call for this game, so we're actually all winners right off the bat.