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Wisconsin men’s basketball: Louisville preview

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The Badgers will finally get their chance to win the Big Ten/ACC Challenge when they faceoff with the Cardinals on Saturday.

NCAA Basketball: Wade Houston Tipoff Classic-Evansville at Louisville Louisville Courier-Journal-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 12 Wisconsin Badgers (5-1 overall, 0-0 Big Ten) and the No. 23 Louisville Cardinals (4-0 overall, 0-0 ACC) are finally going to get to play their Big Ten/ACC Challenge game this Saturday at 11 a.m. CST after Louisville had to postpone it due to a COVID-19 outbreak among their team.

The Cardinals have been missing three players, Malik Williams, Charles Minlend and Josh Nickelberry, all season due to injury and it sounds like head coach Chris Mack expects his squad to be short a couple more scholarship players when they travel to Madison on Saturday. It will certainly be a test for Louisville as they haven’t played a road game yet this season and also haven’t played a competitive game since Dec. 1 against Western Kentucky.

Despite all of that, this should still be Wisconsin’s toughest non-conference test and a great measuring stick to see what the team needs to improve upon before March rolls around. Here is a quick overview of the Cardinals this year:

Louisville Cardinals

  • Record: 4-0 overall, 0-0 ACC; last year 24-7 overall, 15-5 ACC
  • Ranked No. 22 by KenPom
  • Leading scorers this year: Carlik Jones, 17.3 ppg; Dre Davis 12.5 ppg; David Johnson 12.3 ppg
  • Leading rebounders this year: Jae’lyn Withers, 7.3 rpg; Jones, 7.0 rpg; Johnson, 5.0 rpg
NCAA Basketball: Wade Houston Tipoff Classic-Prairie View A&M at Louisville
Jaelyn Withers
Courier Journal-USA TODAY NETWORK
  • Leading assists this year: Jones, 5.3 apg
  • Leading steals this year: Johnson, 1.3 spg
  • Leading blocks this year: Davis, 1.0 bpg

With the Cardinal roster being so depleted all season, you’ll notice a lot of the same names popping up again and again in the statistical leaders. Jones is a 6-foot-1 grad transfer from Radford who was last year’s Big South Player of the Year where he averaged 20 ppg and 5.5 apg while shooting 40.4% from three. Clearly the step up in competition hasn’t bothered him yet as he’s shooting 60% from three (albeit on only 10 attempts) and is Louisville’s leading scorer and passer too.

6-foot-5 sophomore point guard Johnson is also stuffing the stat sheet this year after showing flashes of being an All-ACC caliber performer as a freshman. However, with the Cardinals having a depleted roster, keeping Johnson and Jones out of foul trouble will be paramount to Louisville’s success on Saturday. Jones, in particular, is tough to get fouls called on as he’s No. 64 in the country in fouls called per 40 minutes at 1.1.

NCAA Basketball: Wade Houston Tipoff Classic-Evansville at Louisville
Carlik Jones
The Courier-Journal-USA TODAY NETWORK

The Badgers are 10-11 all-time in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, including a mark of 6-3 at home. Wisconsin’s 10 wins trails only Minnesota (11), Penn State (11) and Purdue (11) for most wins in the event. We’ll have more coverage on the game on Saturday morning for you.