The Wisconsin Badgers (2-1 overall) resumes their yearly rivalry two hours with the Marquette Golden Eagles (2-0) at noon CT on Sunday at the Kohl Center. After starting the season with an OT loss to Saint Mary’s, the Badgers have rattled off two straight home wins over mid-major competition.
Marquette, on the other hand, was down big to Purdue at halftime and then held the Boilermakers to 17 points in the second half and won by 10. All-American Markus Howard is averaging 28 points per game and is 10-for-17 from beyond the arc this year. He’s going to be a problem.
Will the Badgers pull the upset? Will everyone wear white like they are supposed to? Was this game scheduled at this time on a Sunday because the Packers are on the bye? Find out all the answers later today!
1) What the hell is up with the Hausers? Man, those guys suck, right? Anyways...who is replacing their production so far for Marquette?
I did a Q&A for our friends at Streaking The Lawn relative to Sam Hauser heading to Virginia, and it wrapped up with a half-joking question if Sam was the MU fan’s favorite Hauser. It’s safe to say that UW fans would somewhat agree with the answer. Officially, it was “what kind of weirdo volunteers to play basketball in the Big Ten,” as there was some was leaning into talking to ACC fans going on there. If y’all want to re-write it in your heads as “Michigan State” as is the case with Joey Hauser, then please feel free. I think we all know that’s what I really meant anyway.
Relative to their departure from the state, I presume we’ll never know the full story as to what happened. I’ve heard at least four different variations on a theme relative to the timeline, so it’s hard to say what did or did not happen. What I know for sure is that, at least publicly, the remaining Marquette players closed ranks VERY QUICKLY to announce to the world that they were all the same page with each other. Read whatever you want into that.
As far as their production goes, it’s not the easiest thing in the world to replace a hyper-efficient sharpshooter who also managed to pull down between 5-10 rebounds a game. It’s even less easy to replace two of them, and that’s the case for head coach Steve Wojciechowski going from last year to this year.
Marquette’s offense has definitely changed because there aren’t two great stretch 4s to allow for spacing. Offensively, at least in terms of pure points right now, transfer guard Koby McEwen is the replacement. Hopes are high that the duo of Brendan Bailey and Jamal Cain can score with more consistency than last year to help on offense while also being better overall athletes and defenders than the Hausers to fill in the rotation minutes at the forward positions.
2) What, uh...what can anyone do to slow down Markus Howard? Anything? Does praying work? Ritual sacrifice of cheese curds and beer? Please help.
I don’t pretend to know what Greg Gard’s game plan is, but I will say that I’m going to be very suspicious if I turn on the TV on Sunday and I see a patch of the Kohl Center floor covered in palm fronds with a nearby sign saying “Three-Pointers This Way.” Marquette is not going to fall for your hastily put together Wile E. Coyote-style trap, sir.
The best way to slow Howard down (as a great man once said, you can’t stop him, you can only hope to contain him) is to cover him with a quick and lengthy guard/wing and to hedge hard on pick and rolls, almost to the point of a double team. You have to be careful with that, though, because if you let a low agility forward end up on him, you’re just going to spend the day watching cross-over stepbacks, or “crows” as Paint Touches calls them.
Praying seems like a good option until you realize Howard co-founded the Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter at Marquette so he has some solid credit with the big man upstairs. A sacrifice to the beer gods may be in order, especially since Howard won’t turn 21 til March and therefore cannot legally reply with a sacrifice of his own.
However, I still think your best bet is to sacrifice your pride and have anyone who gets near Howard flop like a fish. He has a tendency to let his elbow get a little far away from his body while moving with the ball and can be prone to drawing dumb offensive fouls. Howard picking up a couple early fouls is the only way I don’t see him getting his. That or you could stick a walk-on on him and go with the full Nancy Kerrigan treatment.
3) Who are you weary of on the Badgers?
Okay, so you sent this question over as “weary,” which means you’re asking about which UW player I’m most tired of, but I presume you meant “wary,” as in asking about apprehension. (Editor’s note: I, uh, meant to...::runs away::) I’m answering the question to give you BOTH answers, partially because I’m not 100% sure which word you actually meant and partially because I have an answer for both.
I’m weary of Brad Davison between his weird pride over being able to fall down very well and his devotion to nut punching. B5Q commentariat, holler at me in the comments: How do y’all honestly feel about Davison deep in your heart of hearts? Are you legitimately proud of him or is it a “I’m glad he’s our a******” kind of thing?
I’m most wary of Nate Reuvers, though. He seems to be the most consistent scorer and given his ability to stretch the floor out to the arc as UW’s only real available big man, I am very curious to see how Marquette ends up defending him. I’m not a fan of Theo John chasing him all over the floor for multiple reasons, but that’s the most likely outcome.
4) Who is an under the radar player for Marquette that Badger fans should look out for?
Well, I was all set to say Koby McEwen, but then he went and outscored Purdue’s entire roster by himself in the second half on Wednesday night, so that’s out the door. (Aside: I honestly hope y’all score more than 17 points in both halves just so y’all can go torture Purdue fans about it.) (Aside to the aside: Yes, that’s a low bar, but if you feel insulted by it, go take it up with Purdue fans, as it’s their team that set it, not me.)
Anyway, without McEwen on the table, I’m going to say Greg Elliott. He sat out last season after a hand injury sapped him of the ability to play before January, so he got an extra year of building his hoops IQ, which the coaching staff already really liked. He’s got a nice shooting stroke while not being as elite as Howard, but he’s a super lanky perimeter defender who is stronger than he looks (check out his put-back and-1 from the Purdue game) and can finish around the rim either off the dribble or off a cut and generally provides a change of pace from what the rest of MU’s guards and wings bring to the table. I think his contributions off the bench defending Kobe King and D’Mitrik Trice will be vital.
5) ESPN’s BPI has Wisconsin with a 71.9% chance to win the game which seems...high to me. KenPom has Marquette with a 54% chance to win which seems more in line with how this game will go. What are your final score predictions and MVPs from both teams?
Without trying to be a homer, one team has two straight wins in the series overall as well as two straight in the Kohl Center, returns a First Team All-American human flamethrower, and has a vastly improved defense, albeit at the expense of hyper-efficient offensive pieces. There is some good talent on Wisconsin, but without an offensive gravitational well like Ethan Happ to free everyone else up and questions about consistent guard offensive play and outside shooting in general, I just can’t see how Wisconsin will be able to find a way to win. I think Marquette wins 70-60 with Markus Howard being the standout for MU and Kobe King (if healthy) or Nate Reuvers leading Wisconsin.