The No. 21 Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team (15-8 overall, 9-7 Big Ten) are back in action on Sunday night with a game against the Northwestern Wildcats (6-13 overall, 3-12 Big Ten) in Evanston, Ill. While you never really want to declare a game a “must win” this one, uh, reeeeeeeeally feels like a “must win” for the Badgers.
Wisconsin has lost three of their last four games and finish the season playing three teams, two of them on the road, ahead of them in the Big Ten standings. Northwestern, on the other hand, has lost 12 games in a row since inexplicably beating Ohio State by one, but three of their last four games have been close.
New game day. New opportunity. pic.twitter.com/yplg5rfRGr— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) February 21, 2021
The Badgers have beaten the Wildcats five straight times and NU hasn’t scored 65 points in any of those matchups. NU averages 67.3 this season in conference play and have only scored more than that once in the last 25 games between these two teams. I doubt they’ll reach their conference average tonight as their offense is highly average and Wisconsin’s defense, despite their offensive struggles, has remained pretty stout.
Even in their past 10 games (in which UW is 5-5) the defense has been well above average recording an 87.0 AdjD average according to BartTorvik.com. That’s good enough for them the be the No. 5 defense in the country during the past 10 games. It has been clear to anyone who has turned on a Badgers game over the past month and a half that it’s the offense that is the problem for UW.
While UW still barely turns the ball over, their shooting has fallen off a cliff. While the three point shooting has taken a brunt of the blame it’s actually Wisconsin’s two-point shooting that has been the real problem. In their past 10 games, seven of them have seen UW shoot 50% or worse on two-point shot attempts. The NCAA average over that time is 50.06%, so they have been a below average two-point shooting team 70% of the time.
On three pointers, they’ve been below the NCAA average (33.69%) six times. So, I mean, I guess it’s not THAT big of a difference but a team that regularly plays two 6-foot-11 guys should probably shoot higher than 50% from two more often than 30% of their games.
It will be interesting to see what starting lineup Greg Gard rolls with against the ‘Cats as Micah Potter played much better than Nate Reuvers against Iowa and both Tyler Wahl and Aleem Ford have been struggling recently so maybe he tries to switch some things up? Say what you will about Gard, but he isn’t afraid to switch up his starting lineup if he thinks someone isn’t playing up to their potential.
How to watch/listen
TV: BTN, 6:00 p.m., CT, Brandon Gaudin and Stephen Bardo
Streaming: FOX Sports
Radio/Satellite: 1310 AM, Sirius/XM 195; Matt Lepay, Mike Lucas
Live stats: Here!
Arena: Welsh-Ryan Arena, Evanston, Ill.
Line: Wisconsin -6
KenPom Wisconsin win percentage: 64%
Fun facts (according to the media guides)
- The Badgers won this season’s first meeting, 68-52, in Madison. Wisconsin has wins in 20 of the last 25 games against the Wildcats in the all-time series, including five straight wins.
- So, I don’t know what to believe anymore! The Wisconsin game notes claim that this is meeting No. 186 between the two schools (Wisconsin leads 120-65) while the Northwestern game notes claim that this is meeting No. 188 between the two schools (Wisconsin leads 118-69). Who is lying?!?! WE DEMAND ANSWERS!
- The Badgers haven’t played in Evanston, Ill. since Jan. 2016.
- Sunday’s game will mark UW’s No. 17 game against Quad 1 or Quad 2 competition, going 8-8 in such games so far. No team has played more Quad 1/2 games than Wisconsin.
- In the last three years, Wisconsin has only lost three games in a row once (New Mexico, Richmond, N.C. State in 2020 lmao).
- Senior Brad Davison has averaged 11.7 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game vs. NU, shooting 12-for-31 (.387) from three in six career games against the Wildcats.
- Senior D’Mitrik Trice has averaged 11.5 points per game vs. the Wildcats, shooting 46.9% from 3-point range (15-32 3FG) in six career games.
- UW held Northwestern to their second-lowest point total of the year with 52 points, including only 18 in the second half during their first meeting this season. NU shot just 27.3% (6-22) after intermission.
- Sophomore Tyler Wahl scored a career-high 14 points (2-3 3FGs) to go along with six rebounds and two assists in the game. Hopefully this game can get Wahl going offensively again as he has only scored 10 points combined in his last four games.
- The last time NU defeated the Badgers at home was a 70-65 win on Jan. 12, 2016. Since that game Wisconsin has traveled to Welsh-Ryan Arena just once due to some seasons only playing NU once and the one year where NU played in Rosemont.
- Northwestern currently ranks first in the nation in strength of schedule. Probably because they don’t have to play Northwestern, am I right y’all?
- Northwestern has won the turnover battle in 13 of its 18 games this year.
- D’Mitrik Trice, 6-foot, redshirt senior, guard, No. 0
- Aleem Ford, 6-foot-8, redshirt senior, forward, No. 2
- Tyler Wahl, 6-foot-9, sophomore, forward, No. 5
- Brad Davison, 6-foot-4, senior, guard, No. 34
- Nate Reuvers, 6-foot-11, senior, forward, No. 35
- Chase Audige, 6-foot-4, redshirt sophomore, guard, No. 1
- Miller Kopp, 6-foot-7, junior, forward, No. 10
- Anthony Gaines, 6-foot-4, redshirt junior, guard, No. 11
- Ryan Young, 6-foot-10, redshirt sophomore, center, No. 15
- Pete Nance, 6-foot-10, junior, forward, No. 22