The Wisconsin Badgers (9-6 overall, 2-2 B1G) are coming off of a disheartening home loss to the Illinois Fighting Illini earlier this week. Losing home games is a big “no-no” in the B1G if you want to make the NCAA Tournament so Wisconsin is going to have to figure out a way to get a road win against a quality opponent coming up here soon.
As luck would have it, next up on the schedule is the No. 20 Penn State Nittany Lions (12-3 overall, 2-2 B1G) and it is on the road! What fortuitous timing for the Badgers.
Chris Taylor of Black Shoe Diaries was nice enough to answer some of our questions so that you could be prepared for the game on Saturday afternoon.
1) Penn State is ranked for the first time in a long time. Can you give us a quick overview of how the season has been going so far? What is PSU’s best win?
It’s hard to say which is the best win. Maryland was No. 4 at the time Penn State beat them, Iowa was ranked as well. I would have to say that the comeback win against Alabama was probably the best win since, had the Lions lost that game, they probably would not have made it into the rankings two days later, for the first time since 1996.
2) The Nittany Lions like to play fast while Wisconsin, decidedly, doesn’t. What does Penn State need to do in order to have the tempo played at their preferred pace?
Penn State will press Wisconsin at times for that purpose. The ball handling is sufficient enough for Wisconsin that the goal will not be to steal the ball, even though that would be nice. The goal will be to make Wisconsin take extra time to cross half-court and then will have to speed up their approach. Also, the Badgers might run a little if they can break the press.
3) What sort of legacy do you seniors Mike Watkins and Lamar Stevens are leaving in State College?
Lamar Stevens might go down as the best player to ever play in Happy Valley. His scoring numbers won’t be atop the all-time greats, but he will be in the top-three. His leadership, on and off the court, is why the program is doing well.
Mike Watkins (pictured above) will be close to the top of the all-time blocks list at Penn State when he leaves. His open battle with anxiety and depression may prove his longest-lasting legacy, as his public disclosure of his challenges will make it easier for future athletes to work through it.
4) Who is an under-the-radar player that will make a Wisconsin fan sound smart to their friends at the bar when they say “watch out for this guy”?
Izaiah Brockington, Curtis Jones or Myreon Jones. Depending how well you know the Lions, you may have noticed starting guard and second-leading scorer Myreon Jones, but the sophomore played limited minutes last year and has taken off this year. Myreon Jones will play well early and often.
Curtis Jones, a transfer from Oklahoma State and also Indiana, will come into the game off the bench and make plays all over the court. Brockington (pictured below) is the fourth-leading scorer on the team and he does that coming off the bench. He is the spark the team looks for and his defense will some day get him on the all Big-Ten defensive team.
5) What is your score prediction and who leads the Nittany Lions in points?
I don’t normally make predictions but since you asked, I may as well share my gift for telling the future with anyone that likes to bet on the games. The score will be Penn State 72, Wisconsin 66. It will be a very close game but the Lions will pull away after Nate Reuvers fouls out with 2:47 to play in the game on a call that could have gone either way. Lamar Stevens will lead the Lions with 17 points on 5 of 12 from the floor and 6 of 8 from the line.