What a wild ride the Wisconsin Badgers (4-1 overall, 0-0 Big Ten) have taken us on this week in Las Vegas. First they go down huge to Texas A&M before battling back to win and then in the next game they open up a massive lead against No. 12 Houston before showing some real grit in hanging on to win.
On to the championship game!— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) November 24, 2021
Wisconsin vs. Saint Mary’s
Tomorrow 4pm/ct on ESPN pic.twitter.com/Hz7eQARc1F
Now, just as we all predicted, the Badgers are playing the Saint Mary’s Gaels (6-0 overall, 0-0 WCC) in the Maui Invitational finals! The Gaels upset (???) Notre Dame in the quarterfinals and then ground Oregon into dust in the semifinals, only giving up 15 points in the first half. While watching a little bit of the SMC/Oregon game, I was struck by how similar the Gaels overall aesthetic was to Wisconsin’s.
Looking at the KenPom efficiency numbers...these two teams are almost identical.
AdjO: Wisconsin 105.5 (No. 79 in the nation); Saint Mary’s 105.6 (No. 78)
AdjD: Wisconsin 88.7 (No. 13); Saint Mary’s 88.8 (No. 15)
Both teams play deliberately (Saint Mary’s plays at a slower pace than Wisconsin), both teams don’t give up too many offensive rebounds, both teams are taller than the average college basketball team...like I said, nearly identical. However, there are a few key differences. The Badgers are a much better free throw shooting team, while the Gaels are better from long distance.
As far as players to be on the lookout for: 6-foot-7 wing Dan Fotu leads the team in scoring with 15.0 ppg and is second in rebounding with 5.2 per game. From what I can tell, he doesn’t start and only plays 20.6 minutes per game. He’s a three level scorer who rebounds the ball particularly well and I would imagine that Tyler Wahl will be tasked with keeping an eye on him.
This is another great, early season test for the Badgers. The Gaels are a tough, veteran team that will likely be in the NCAA Tournament conversation all season long. After the first two games of the Maui Invitational, this championship game is appointment television. Cut out of work early, it’s a freaking holiday weekend after all, and watch this game from start to finish.
How to watch/listen
TV: ESPN, 4 p.m. CT, Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas
Streaming: ESPN App; WatchESPN
Radio/Satellite: WIBA 1310 AM, Sirius/XM 195; Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas
Live stats: Here!
Arena: Michelob Ultra Arena, Las Vegas
DraftKings Line: Wisconsin -1.5
(Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.)
KenPom Wisconsin win percentage: 50%
Torvik Wisconsin win percentage: 51%
Fun facts (according to the media guides)
- Wisconsin is now 7-4 in the Maui Invitational all-time.
- The Badgers are making their second appearance in the Maui Invitational title game, looking for their first championship. UW lost to North Carolina in the 2016 finals.
- UW is looking to become the first Big Ten team to win the Maui Invite since Illinois in 2012.
- In beating the No. 12 Houston Cougars on Tuesday, Wisconsin tallied their 22nd win over a ranked opponent under Greg Gard and the first since a 71-59 victory over No. 21 Minnesota on Dec. 31, 2020.
- The Badgers’ last neutral site win over a ranked opponent came in 65-62 victory against No. 1 Villanova in the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
- Wisconsin is 1-2 all-time against Saint Mary’s.
- The Badgers split a pair of contests at the UW Field House, falling 62-60 in 1974 before claiming an 82-76 win in 1976. The teams also met in the 2019-20 season-opener, as SMC pulled out a 65-63 OT win at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D.
- Brad Davison had 16 points and four rebounds, while Tyler Wahl scored two points in that season opener.
We make our own luck in Vegas pic.twitter.com/3dW1n2NGgl— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) November 24, 2021
- Johnny Davis has two of the top three scoring performances in Wisconsin Maui Invitational history after his 30-point outburst against Houston.
- Davis has now scored 51 points in two Maui Invitational games, already breaking the Wisconsin tournament record of 48 set by Trevon Hughes (2009) and Ethan Happ (2016) in three games.
- Davis is the first Badger to score 30 points in a game since Davison had 30 at Nebraska Feb. 15, 2020.
- Davis has scored at least 15 points in all four games he has played this season, averaging a team-best 20.3 ppg on the season. His 5.3 rpg rank second on the team and he leads the Badgers with 10 assists and nine steals.
- Davison passed D’Mitrik Trice for 14th on UW’s all-time scoring ledger with 1,439 career points. He needs 16 to pass Kirk Penney (1,454) for 13th place.
- Junior Tyler Wahl scored nine points against Houston, all in the second half and led Wisconsin with seven rebounds.
- UW turned the ball over just nine times. Houston entered the game averaging 17 forced turnovers per game.
- Johnny Davis, 6-foot-5, sophomore, guard, No. 1
- Tyler Wahl, 6-foot-9, junior, forward, No. 5
- Steven Crowl, 7-foot, sophomore, forward, No. 22
- Chucky Hepburn, 6-foot-2, freshman, guard, No. 23
- Brad Davison, 6-foot-4, super senior, guard, No. 34
- Logan Johnson, 6-foot-2, senior, guard, No. 0
- Matthias Tass, 6-foot-10, senior, forward, No. 11
- Tommy Kuhse, 6-foot-2, senior, guard, No. 12
- Kyle Bowen, 6-foot-8, junior, forward, No. 14
- Alex Ducas, 6-foot-7, junior, forward, No. 44