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What to expect from Wisconsin vs. Minnesota

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Border Battle on the hardwood, Part 2

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NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Minnesota Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

This week, the No. 19 Wisconsin Badgers will face two conference foes they have already battled earlier this season in Minnesota and No. 7 Michigan.

Both of the earlier contests took place inside the cozy confines of the Kohl Center for the Badgers (16-6, 8-3 Big Ten), but now they have a key stretch where they travel to the Gophers for a Wednesday-night tilt (8 p.m. CT, BTN) and to the Wolverines for a Saturday-morning brunch battle (11 a.m. CT, FOX). After the next two road games, they face No. 9 Michigan State at home next Tuesday.

Against Minnesota on Jan. 3, Wisconsin struggled in the first half of a 59-52 loss. The Badgers scored just 14 points in that contest and connected on just six of 26 shots in the first half (23.1 percent). Despite the poor shooting in the first 20 minutes, UW came back to pull the game within two points before three consecutive turnovers late doomed their chances of knocking off the Gophers at home to start the new year. Free throws also hurt Wisconsin’s chances, connecting on just seven of 17 from the line.

Amir Coffey scored 21 points on 7-of-14 shooting and grabbed six rebounds for Minnesota (16-6, 6-5), while Dupree McBrayer contributed 14 points in that victory.

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Since Wisconsin and Minnesota last played

Richard Pitino’s squad has gone 4-4 in its last eight games since the win in the Kohl Center over a month ago. Three of the Gophers’ four losses have come against KenPom top-20 teams (No. 20 Maryland, No. 6 Michigan, No. 10 Purdue). However, they did lose on the road to Illinois 95-68 on Jan. 16.

Minnesota’s four wins have come against Rutgers, Penn State, Iowa (No. 22 in KenPom), and in a return bout with Illinois. Outside of Iowa, the other three’s highest ranking in KenPom is No. 71 (hello, Nittany Lions).

This week, Wisconsin redshirt sophomore forward Aleem Ford pointed to transition defense as one of the keys to Wednesday’s game.

“Coach [Greg Gard] has been talking about how they’ve been pushing it a lot more recently in these last few games, so I know that’s one of their tendencies and something that they like to do,” Ford told B5Q on Monday night. “So just being able to crowd them in transition and load them on the defensive end and make them play from the outside. I know they’re not the best three-point shooting team. We’re not going to give them any easy looks but just make them take shots that they most likely wouldn’t like to take or are comfortable taking.”

Minnesota team stats

  • Points per game: 74.4
  • Opponent points per game: 70.3 (12th in conference)
  • Field goal percentage: 44.7
  • Opponent field goal percentage: 43.9 (12th in conference)
  • Three-point percentage: 31.1 (last in conference)
  • Opponent three-point percentage: 34.3
  • Free throw percentage: 68.2
  • Rebounds per game: 37.7
  • Rebound margin: +3.9
  • Turnovers per game: 12.5
  • NCAA NET ranking: 53

Key KenPom.com stats

  • Team rank: 54
  • Adjusted offensive efficiency: 110.7 (55th in nation)
  • Adjusted defensive efficiency: 98.2 (79th in nation)
  • Effective field goal percentage (offense): 53.6 (233rd in nation)
  • Effective field goal percentage (defense): 49.5 (126th in nation)
  • Turnover percentage (defense): 17.4 (260th in nation)
  • Offensive rebound percentage: 34.4 (33rd in nation)
  • Free throws attempted/Field goals attempted (offense): 45.3 (6th in nation)
  • Steal percentage (defense): 7.4 (290th in nation)

Potential starters

  • Senior guard Dupree McBrayer: 9.9 points per game; 2.1 rebounds per game; 2.9 assists per game
  • Junior guard Amir Coffey: 16.2 points per game (leads team and tied for eighth in conference); 3.1 rebounds per game; 3.0 assists per game; 3.4 offensive rebounds per game leads conference
  • Freshman guard Gabe Kalscheur: 10.1 points per game; 1.9 rebounds per game; 1.4 assists per game
  • Senior forward Jordan Murphy: 14.9 points per game; 11.8 rebounds per game (leads conference); 2.7 assists per game
  • Freshman center Daniel Oturu: 10.7 points per game; 7.3 rebounds per game; 1.6 blocks per game