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What to expect from Northwestern vs. Wisconsin

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Plus a Q&A with Inside NU

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The Wisconsin Badgers hope to make it three in a row as they welcome the Northwestern Wildcats to the Kohl Center on Saturday afternoon.

Northwestern (12-7, 3-5 Big Ten) comes off a victory against Indiana but is just 1-3 in road contests this season.

Wisconsin leads the all-time series 116-65 and holds a 66-23 advantage in Madison. Greg Gard’s squad comes off a 72-60 victory at Illinois on Wednesday night, a contest where sophomore forward Nate Reuvers posted his first career double-double while setting career highs in points (22) and rebounds (10).

Here are some team and KenPom stats and Wildcats to watch on Saturday.

Northwestern team stats

  • Points per game: 70.5
  • Opponents’ points per game: 64.4
  • Field goal percentage: 42.6
  • Opponent field goal percentage: 42.6
  • Three-point percentage: 33.9
  • Opponent three-point percentage: 27.7
  • Free throw percentage: 73.3
  • Turnovers per game: 11.4
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 13.5
  • NCAA NET ranking: 53

Key KenPom.com stats

  • Team rank: 56
  • Adjusted offensive efficiency: 106.8 (101th in nation)
  • Adjusted defensive efficiency: 94.5 (38th in nation)
  • Effective field goal percentage (offense): 49.3 (228th in nation)
  • Effective field goal percentage (defense): 47.0 (40th in nation)
  • Offensive turnover percentage: 16.8 (50th in nation)
  • Offensive rebound percentage (offense): 26.5 (238th in nation)

Potential Northwestern playmakers

  • Redshirt senior forward Vic Law: 16.3 points per game; 6.6 rebounds per game; 2.9 assists per game; 83.5 percent free throw shooter
  • Senior forward Dererk Pardon: 14.2 points per game; 7.6 rebounds per game; shooting 61.9 percent from the field (just two of 13 from three-point range for the season)
  • Graduate guard Ryan Taylor: 12.3 points per game; 1.8 rebounds per game; shooting 35 percent from three-point range

To help us break down Northwestern’s season so far, Inside NU’s Caleb Friedman answered our questions.

Northwestern comes off a 73-66 win over Indiana on Tuesday and is currently 12-7, 3-5 in the Big Ten. What’s the general feeling about this season so far, and what did that win against the Hoosiers signify for the Wildcats, if anything?

The season has been a disappointment thus far, but the margins have been thin. Northwestern lost to Indiana and Michigan by a combined four points, then dropped an overtime contest to Oklahoma. If NU had won any of those games, particularly the latter two, then the season looks a lot different. NU got blown out by Michigan and Michigan State on the road, and blew a second half lead to Iowa, all of which were poor overall performances.

The Wildcats have no bad losses, but lack any signature wins. As it stands, a home victory over a depleted Indiana team is Northwestern’s best win. It’s been an up-and-down season, though many opportunities remain.

We always ask this—who will guard Ethan Happ, and how effective can he/they be?

Dererk Pardon will likely guard Happ. Pardon is a true center, and Northwestern has rarely doubled Happ in the past (to take away the three-point shot), so expect to see a lot of one-on-one between the two bigs in the post. Pardon is a good interior defender with long arms, and he’s a great rebounder, which should limit Happ’s second-chance opportunities. His foot speed isn’t elite, however, so Happ will likely get by him a few times as the game unfolds. This should be a fun matchup to follow.

Three Wildcats—Vic Law, Dererk Pardon and Ryan Taylor—all average double figures currently. What has made them stand out this season, and who else should Wisconsin fans know for Saturday?

I’ll start with Pardon, who’s been the team’s most consistent player this season. He loves getting to his left hand for baby hooks and flips around the rim, and he’s added more of a mid-range shot as his career has grown. He could improve as a passer out of the post, but he’s able in that department.

Law is a streaky shooter who can live in the mid-range, but also hit consistently from the outside when he’s on. He isn’t really a creator, but his presence as a floor spacer and athlete (he skies for alley-oops with the best of them) make him a major talent. He’s also NU’s best perimeter defender.

Ryan Taylor is more of a pure shooter—he has a sweet stroke and has had some hot stretches this season, but he hasn’t been nearly as consistent this season as he was last season with Evansville. He gets most of looks off of catch-and-shoots, so he’s really there to space the floor, but he’s due for an explosion at some point this season.

The other guy to know is A.J. Turner, a natural wing who plays point guard for Northwestern. He definitely isn’t a true point guard, but that’s his role. He’s proven competent in handling the ball and being a facilitator, but he’s at his best when he’s shooting threes off the catch. He’s another player who can change games by catching fire from deep.

Where could Northwestern have an advantage against Wisconsin, and vice versa, where could the Badgers have the upper hand?

With Wisconsin, this one’s simple. Happ could get Pardon into foul trouble, and that would really put NU in a bind. Behind Pardon, the frontcourt depth for the Wildcats isn’t great. Plus, Wisconsin’s defense could expose Northwestern’s lack of a true playmaker, and the NU offense could very well stagnate, as it often has for stretches this season.

For Northwestern, I’d say Pardon at the other end is the biggest advantage. Pardon is a tough cover because of his quickness and efficiency down low, and that could create space for NU’s shooters to get good looks.

What’s your game prediction?

68-60 Wisconsin.