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Wisconsin at Illinois: how to watch, game preview and open thread

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A huge top of the Big Ten matchup in central Illinois on Wednesday night. Winner gets first place! LET’S GOOOO!

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 23 Wisconsin at Illinois Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s a battle for first place in the Big Ten on Wednesday night in Champaign, Ill. as the No. 11 Wisconsin Badgers (17-3 overall, 8-2 Big Ten) hit the road to take on the No. 18 Illinois Fighting Illini (15-5 overall, 8-2 Big Ten). The Badgers have won nine of their last 10 games while the Illini have won eight of their last 10, but only two of their last four.

This is the only regular season matchup between the Illini and the Badgers so it is even more important since the winner will have a tie-breaker over the loser in terms of conference tournament seeding come March.

Illinois is a veteran team and run their offense through massive 7-foot center, and All-America candidate, Kofi Cockburn. The junior big man is a rebounding and foul-drawing machine and he will prove to be a tough defensive assignment for Wisconsin bigs Steven Crowl and Chris Vogt. If Crowl and Vogt can limit Cockburn’s offensive rebounding (and Tyler Wahl can keep backup forward Coleman Hawkins off the offensive glass as well) the Badgers will benefit greatly. That, uh, is highly unlikely though based on Cockburn’s season so far as he grabs 14.1% of Illinois’ misses when he is on the floor, the No. 46 offensive rebounding rate in the country.

The Illini will also have the services of point guard Andre Curbelo available for this game. Curbelo has only played in six games this season due to injury and, most recently, because of COVID. The talented, yet mistake-prone, floor general should come off the bench for Brad Underwood’s crew and can definitely get hot against an opponent’s second unit. Worth noting, the Illini are 2-4 in games that Curbelo has played.

Wisconsin will look to get Johnny Davis going against Jacob Grandison or Trent Frazier, whichever player is unlucky enough to guard him. This is the start of a difficult close to the regular season for the Badgers, and Vegas thinks they’re significant underdogs in this one.

How to watch/listen

TV: BTN, 8:00 p.m. CT, Brandon Gaudin, Robbie Hummel, Andy Katz

Streaming: FOX Sports App; FOX Sports

Radio/Satellite: WIBA 1310 AM, Sirius/XM 195; Matt Lepay, Mike Lucas

Live stats: Here!

Arena: State Farm Center, Champaign, Ill.

DraftKings Line: Wisconsin +7
(Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.)

KenPom Wisconsin win percentage: 31%
Torvik Wisconsin win percentage: 26%

Fun facts (according to the media guides)

  • Wisconsin and Illinois will meet for the 204th time in a series dating back to 1906. The Illini lead the all-time series, 113-90, including 69-28 in Champaign.
  • Illinois has won the last three in the series, including a season sweep a year ago. The Ilini won, 75-60, in Champaign and 74-69 in Madison.
  • That marked Illinois’ first regular-season sweep of Wisconsin since 2005. In that same time span, the Badgers have posted seven season home-and-home sweeps over the Illini (2008, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2018, 2019).
  • Prior to Illinois three-game win streak, Wisconsin won 15 straight in the series from 2011 to 2019.
  • The Badgers’ 15 consecutive wins over Illinois marked the longest all-time win streak of any team vs. the Illini.
  • The Badgers have won in seven of their last eight trips to Champaign. UW’s only loss at Illinois since 2012 came last season.
  • UW’s seven-game win streak in Champaign (2012- 19) is the longest-ever win streak by any team at Illinois.
  • The Badgers are 10-1 in games decided by six or fewer points, most “close” wins in Division 1.
  • Wisconsin has won nine of their past 10 games.
  • UW is averaging 76.4 ppg over the last 10 games, topping 70 in nine of 10 games.
  • Johnny Davis is the only Big Ten player to lead his team in ppg (21.4), rpg (7.9) and apg (2.5).
  • Brad Davison is having the best year of his career, ranking No. 15 in the Big Ten scoring 15.7 ppg. He is second in the B1G shooting 45.6% on 3FGs during conference play.
  • Tyler Wahl is averaging 15.0 ppg and 7.5 rpg over UW’s last six games.
  • UW ranks second in the Big Ten shooting 75.7% at the FT line and has made 92 more FTs (293) than its foes (201).
  • Wisconsin leads the NCAA in fewest turnovers per game (8.4).
  • According to KenPom.com, the Badgers have an adjusted offensive tempo of 66.0 possessions per game, which would be the team’s fastest mark since he began tracking the stat in the 2001-02 season.
  • According to NET rankings, Wisconsin is 7-3 (tied for the most wins in the country with Baylor) in Quad 1 games, with ZERO losses outside the first quadrant.
  • Wisconsin is 8-1 away from home this season, including an impressive 5-1 mark in true road games.
  • UW owns the most true road wins among the Big Ten. In fact, among major conference teams, only Auburn, Baylor and USC (six) have more road wins than the Badgers.
  • Illinois has won nine of its last 10 Big Ten home games.
  • Illinois has had nine different starting lineups this season, the most among high-major conference teams.
  • Kofi Cockburn is the only NCAA player in the top-10 in both points and rebounds, ranking ninth in scoring at 21.1 ppg and fourth in rebounding at 11.6 rpg.
  • The Illini have one player from Wisconsin on their roster: freshman Brandin Podziemski from Muskego.
  • The Badgers have three players from Illinois on their roster: Carter Higginbottom (Chicago), Justin Taphorn (Pekin), Chris Hodges (Schaumburg).

Potential Starters

Wisconsin

  • 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

Illinois

  • Trent Frazier, 6-foot-2, senior, guard, No. 1
  • Jacob Grandison, 6-foot-6, super senior, forward, No. 3
  • Alfonso Plummer, 6-foot-1, super senior, guard, No. 11
  • Da’Monte Williams, 6-foot-3, senior, guard, No. 20
  • Kofi Cockburn, 7-foot, junior, center, No. 21