Hello and Happy New Year. Welcome back to a miniature B1G Roast that will take on the Wisconsin Badgers’ upcoming opponents, Minnesota and Penn State.
College football has finished playing all of its exhibition games (read: the entire season) and now Clemson-Alabama IV can finally happen. The Green Bay Packers are terrible, the Minnesota Vikings are somehow worse and the Chicago Bears are in the playoffs (don’t worry, Nick Foles will take care of that). That means it’s time to focus on basketball, baby!
The Milwaukee Bucks are awesome and Giannis Antetokounmpo (currently leading the Eastern Conference in All-Star votes) just, sadly, ended former Wisconsin Badger Jon Leuer’s career. The Badgers are coming off a rough road loss to Western Kentucky, but enter actual conference play with a 10-3 overall record (2-0 in Big Ten play) and ranked 22nd by the AP Poll.
It’s official, Wisconsin is a basketball state now. Deal with it. Let’s welcome our new basketball overlords by making fun of this week’s Wisconsin hoops opponents!
KenPom.com Rankings: 63rd overall, 75th offense, 63rd defense
Notable Wins: Nebraska (15th overall KenPom) and Washington (55th overall KenPom)
Hilarious Losses: Boston College (105th overall KenPom)
Record: 11-2 overall, 1-1 Big Ten
Biggest Strengths: Freshman Daniel Oturu is slowly turning into a monster down low. The 6’10 center from Woodbury, Minn., is the second best rebounder on the team, behind wonderful rebounding machine Jordan Murphy, and has scored in double figures his last five games.
Also four double-doubles, just in case you were curious. pic.twitter.com/6Ea4h7fDmM— Minnesota Men's Basketball (@GopherMBB) January 2, 2019
The last four games the Gophers have played have been against teams that a good pickup group from the SERF could beat, but that’s neither here nor there. Oturu is for real and will pose an issue for Badger bigs inside. Another thing to note: the Gophers don’t start anyone shorter than 6’4 and often have 6’8 Amir Coffey initiate the attack.
Biggest Weaknesses: Haven’t beaten Wisconsin in eight straight attempts and seven straight at the Kohl Center. I can’t think of any time recently that a Gopher team ended a long losing streak to a Badger team, in Madison, can you?
They, uh, do not shoot the basketball well. They barely make 30 percent of their threes and their eFG percentage is 243rd in the nation. They do, however, hit the offensive glass with vigor rebounding 38.2 percentage of their misses which is good for 10th best in the nation.
When do they play Wisconsin?: Tonight, 8 p.m. CT, Big Ten Network, Kohl Center
KenPom.com Rankings: 48th overall, 118th offense, 24th defense
Notable Wins: Virginia Tech (ninth overall KenPom) and UMBC (first 16-seed to beat a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament, in case you’d forgotten)
Hilarious Losses: Bradley (183rd overall KenPom) and DePaul (115th overall KenPom)
Record: 7-6 overall, 0-2 Big Ten
Biggest Strengths: The Nittany Lions are a classic “better than their record suggests” team. They havve had a pretty brutal non-conference schedule, playing N.C. State, Alabama and Virginia Tech along with already playing Indiana and Maryland in conference. Things do not get any easier for them as they play at Michigan (No. 2 in the AP Poll and 5th in KenPom) before welcoming the Badgers.
Lamar Stevens is averaging 18.8 points per game, which is fifth best in the conference, and a man with the last name of “Buttrick” got his first career start in their last game. Buttrick!
Their coach is a wizard, which seems notable!
Biggest Weaknesses: Remember how we were saying Minnesota’s eFG percentage was bad? Well ... PSU ranks five spots lower than the Gophers do and the Lions only score 70.1 points per game which is tied for 275th nationally. Stevens, who as we mentioned is very good, has only scored more than his average once in the past six games. If PSU is going to beat Wisconsin, let alone Michigan, he’s going to have to have a monster weekend.
That missed alley-oop to Lamar was the perfect metaphor for being a lifelong PSU hoops fan.— Black Shoe Diaries (@BSDtweet) November 22, 2018
When do they play Wisconsin?: Sunday, 6:30 pm CT, Big Ten Network, Bryce Jordan Center (State College, Penn.)
KenPom.com Rankings: 14th overall, 19th offense, 19th defense
Notable Wins: Oklahoma (22nd overall KenPom), N.C. State (21st overall KenPom), Iowa (39th in KenPom)
Hilarious Losses: Western Kentucky (110th overall KenPom)
Record: 10-3 overall, 2-0 Big Ten
Biggest Strengths: Ethan Happ has been a legitimate National Player of the Year candidate so far. He didn’t play like one against Western Kentucky and that is the main reason the Badgers lost. D’Mitrik Trice, who went 1-for-6 shooting from distance—which still left him at a bonkers 50.7 percent for the season (30th best in the nation, although only three players ahead of him have attempted more threes)—also had an off game and that was the death knell for the Badgers chances in Bowling Green. Brad Davison and Khalil Iverson both played better than normal, but without a standout performance by either Happ or Trice the Badgers were sunk. A consistent third scoring option is key to the Badgers hopes in the Big Ten this year.
::paging Brevin Pritzl and Kobe King to the basketball court::
Name a more iconic duo. I’ll wait.
Biggest Weaknesses: The race to fill the third scorer’s role will probably be won by Davison, but I would prefer it to be someone else. Why? Well, let me tell you! Davison does so many other things well (defense, ball handling, pissing off opposing team’s fan bases) that I want his scoring to be a wonderful bonus. Not something that the team counts on to win. Here’s a fun fact: in the four career games that Davison has scored 20-plus points, the Badgers are 1-3.
Anyways, the Badgers have been so much more fun to watch this year than last year and I, for one, am pumped as hell to see how conference play goes.
Who do they play this week?: Minnesota and Penn State, you idiot.
You guys, I was pretty hard on Vitto Brown while he played in Madison so I think it’s only fair to note when he does well.
That being said ... whoever was guarding him now has to ply his trade in the Z League. Which is the worst of the letters as well as minor league basketball leagues.