I know a lot of attention is currently on the Wisconsin football program, understandably so, but it's nice to write something different every once in awhile. Thankfully for me, Wisconsin men’s basketball is back in action this evening to give us a little change of pace and I am excited to see what this group looks like tonight!
All in all, Wisconsin had a very successful trip to Atlantis going 2-1 and narrowly losing to the third-ranked Kansas Jayhawks (BS call hurt them, should have one, under protest). Anyway, Wisconsin is now back from Atlantis and now has another tough test as they take on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge which is soon to be going away because the ACC is scared! Sad! They’d rather play the weaka$$ SEC! Alright, onto tonight’s contest.
Who (are the Badgers playing): Wake Forest
What (are they): Demon Deacons
When: 8:00 PM CT
Where: Kohl Center Madison, WI
How (to watch): ESPNU
Current Record: 6-1
Line: UW -5.5 total of 1130
Series History: 0-3, Wisconsin has never beaten Wake, lost the last meeting in 2005 91-88
Wake Forest comes into this game 6-1 on the season, but that 6-1 mark is a little misleading based on the schedule they have played. Let’s just say Wake’s early season schedule is fluffier than an SEC football schedule before rivalry week. Anyway, yes, the Deacons have played no teams within KenPom’s top 100 and have played an average ranking of 212 according to KenPom metrics. It’s pretty pathetic and thankfully win-losses arent the only factor for the NCAA tournament anymore. Overall, Wake is projected to be a middle-of-the-pack ACC team as they were picked 9th in the coaches preseason poll.
Wake Forest fully overhauled their roster this off-season, bringing in a plethora of new faces to help upgrade its roster. Leading the way is guard Tyree Appleby who is averaging 17.9 points per game. Appleby also leads the team in assists (5.6 APG) and steals (2.0 SPG). Previously, Appleby played at Florida where he averaged 10.9 points per game a season ago.
Another new face is center Andrew Carr. Carr is a stretch-the-floor player who stands at 6’10” but also led Delaware in 3-point shooting and blocked shots a season ago. Carr is averaging 12 points per game and 5.5 rebounds per game this year.
The lone returning starter is Daivien Williamson. Williamson is back at Wake Forest for 5th season. Last year, Williamson hit 39.5% of his 3s to lead Wake Forest in perimeter shooting. This year, Williamson is averaging 12.2 points per game and is shooting 33% from beyond the arch.
Things to watch for Wisconsin
Is Chucky heating up? : Chucky Hepburn has struggled mightily early this year, but it appears Hepburn turned a corner in their final contest in Atlantis. Against USC, Hepburn led the team with 17 points. Six of those points game in the final stretch as Hepburn put it upon himself to close the game out for the Badgers. That was impressive to see and likely huge for his confidence. We’ll see how Hepburn comes out tonight while also likely drawing a tough defensive matchup in Tyree Appleby.
Connor Essegian’s minutes: Connor Essegian played just 8 minutes in Wisconsin’s win over UW-Green Bay, but that minute mark crept up considerably in the Bahamas. In the tournament, Essegian averaged 25 minutes played while also averaging 14 points per game. Against Kansas, Essegian played 31 minutes and scored 17 points which were both season highs. Essegian looks to be the Badgers 6th man sparkplug but if Jordan Davis continues to struggle (3.33 points per game in Atlantis) it will be interesting to watch how minutes get divided up. With a team struggling to score points Essegian’s presence is needed.
Rather than write a separate small game thread I have decided to put both in one. Check back here tonight to discuss Wisconsin’s contest with the Demon Deacons!