We have crossed all of our fingers and toes and are hoping that by the time this post publishes the game between the No. 24 Wisconsin Badgers (9-2 overall, 1-1 Big Ten) and the Illinois State Redbirds (8-5 overall, 0-0 Missouri Valley) is still scheduled to be played. Wisconsin hasn’t played a game since Dec. 15 and, in the interim, has had two games (vs. Morgan State and George Mason) canceled due to COVID-19 issues.
Illinois State has had an up and down season so far, but come into Madison riding a four-game winning streak. While that may sound mildly impressive, the best team they’ve beaten during their streak is a bad Ball State team, so I wouldn’t read to much into it. In terms of KenPom rating, the Redbirds are at almost the exact same level as Nicholls, Wisconsin’s last opponent.
You may not remember this, since it happened so long ago, but the Badgers actually struggled mightily with Nicholls. However, Johnny Davis, who missed the last game, is back in the lineup and that will help UW’s offense (and defense) mightily.
A major thing to watch out for when the Redbirds have the ball: three point shooting. ISU has four guys that shot 40% or better from deep and their top two guys, in terms of volume, are also their two best marksmen (Antonio Reeves, 46.8% and Josiah Strong, 47.9%). The Redbirds also get to the free throw at an impressive clip and are an above average shooting team once they get there.
When the Badgers have the ball, look for them to dominate on the offensive glass. ISU isn’t a particularly tall team, when you look at the main players in their rotation, but they do block a lot of shots with 6-foot-8 Sy Chatman being the top interior defender.
Back in action on Big Ten Network— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) December 29, 2021
Get up, Badger fans! GAME DAY‼️ pic.twitter.com/VWMt09GuBe
This is Wisconsin’s last game before Big Ten play starts up again, and with their next game being against No. 3 Purdue the Badgers will need to shake off the rust of not playing in two weeks quickly.
How to watch/listen
TV: BTN, 7:00 p.m. CT, Matt Schumacker, Trent Meacham
Streaming: FOX SPORTS App; Fox Sports
Radio/Satellite: WIBA 1310 AM, Sirius/XM 195; Lane Grindle, Andy North
Live stats: Here!
Arena: Kohl Center, Madison, Wis.
DraftKings Line: Wisconsin -16
(Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.)
KenPom Wisconsin win percentage: 94%
Torvik Wisconsin win percentage: 93%
Fun facts (according to the media guides)
- Wisconsin leads the all-time series against Illinois State, 2-1. The teams last met in Madison in 1998.
- Wisconsin has already tallied six wins over KenPom top-100 teams, tied with Alabama, Baylor and Providence for most in the nation.
- Wisconsin ranks second in the Big Ten allowing 61.2 ppg. UW is No. 25 in the NCAA in defensive efficiency according to KenPom. Only three opponents have averaged more than 1.0 PPP in a game against UW this season.
- UW ranks third in the Big Ten shooting 76.6% at the free throw line and has made more FTs (157) than its foes have attempted (151).
- UW leads the Big Ten averaging just 8.5 turnovers per game this season.
- Johnny Davis leads Wisconsin averaging 20.9 ppg and 6.1 rpg. He also leads UW in assists (21) and steals (14). He is shooting nearly 40% from 3-point range and 82.6% at the free throw line.
- Brad Davison needs four points to move into ninth on UW’s all-time scoring list - 1,530 career points. He also needs four more three point attempts to become the all-time leader in that category for Wisconsin. He needs 20 three point makes to set that record.
- Illinois State’s 6.2 blocked shot per game average puts them tenth in the country in the category, and on pace to shatter the school record (5.2 blocks per game).
- Since making the move to a reserve role, ISU guard Josiah Strong has scored 20 or more points three times. His three games of 20+ points are the fourth-most in the country this season.
- Antonio Reeves ranks No. 16 in NCAA Division I in scoring, averaging 20.8 points per game, and just behind Wednesday opponent Johnny Davis of Wisconsin who averages 20.9 for 15th place in the country.
- Wisconsin assistant coach Dean Oliver spent three seasons as an assistant coach at Illinois State, helping guide the Redbirds to a 68-34 overall record over the three seasons.
- Wisconsin sophomore guard Justin Taphorn, a native of Pekin, Illinois, is the nephew of former Redbird standout Matt Taphorn.
- Wisconsin center Chris Vogt faced off against Illinois State while he was in his first season at Cincinnati. The Redbirds and Vogt played in the first round of the 2019 Paradise Jam, a 66-65 Bearcat win which saw Vogt score 13 points with 13 rebounds.
- Illinois State guard Josiah Strong and Wisconsin guard Brad Davison are from neighboring cities in Minnesota, Strong from Brooklyn Park and Davison from Maple Grove.
- Of the 14 schools in the Big Ten, Illinois State has a 5-28 all-time record, highlighted by a 3-2 mark against Northwestern.
- I want to just shoutout the Illinois State SID for men’s basketball who put together an awesome game notes/media guide. For each player there are bonus facts about famous people from that player’s hometown, among other things, they have compiled an all-time list of their starting lineups with the lowest jersey number total and an analysis of schools in D-1 with “state” in their name. A truly entertaining and informative read.
- 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
- Mark Freeman, 5-foot-10, junior, guard, No. 0
- Sy Chatman, 6-foot-8, redshirt junior, forward, No. 1
- Howard Fleming, Jr., 6-foot-5, sophomore, guard, No. 3
- Antonio Reeves, 6-foot-5, junior, guard, No. 12
- Kendall Lewis, 6-foot-7, junior, forward, No. 22
UPDATE: five Badgers are out for the game: Lorne Bowman, Ben Carlson, Jahcobi Neath, Carter Higginbottom and Justin Taphorn are all out, for those of you who can’t see the tweet
The following players are not available tonight vs. Illinois State:— brandon harrison (@brandonharrison) December 29, 2021
• Lorne Bowman II
• Ben Carlson
• Carter Higginbottom
• Jahcobi Neath
• Justin Taphorn