The Badgers are coming off one of their worst losses in recent memory after being dropped 69-67 at home Friday night by the Western Illinois Leathernecks. However, the squad kept their heads up and pummeled Siena for a 92-65 win two days later. Bronson Koenig led with 23 points, five rebounds, and four assists. Vitto Brown had a career-high 16 points and also brought in seven rebounds. Star forward Nigel Hayes also continued to produce, adding 14 points and dishing out 4 assists.
North Dakota had a great game on Friday, crushing Minnesota-Morris, 99-69, on its home court. Freshman guard Cortez Seales contributed 27 points and four rebounds, while teammate Corey Baldwin put up 17 points and six rebounds. This team relies on strong guard play and showed serious offensive firepower in a dominant performance, even after shooting 4-for-17 from downtown in its first game.
Stepping up from a Division III foe to a date in the Kohl Center could be quite a shock though.
Most important matchup
Vitto Brown vs. Carson Shanks
Carson Shanks is 7-0, 230 pounds. Vitto Brown is 6-8, 237 pounds. Shanks has the height, Brown has the strength. Brown has shown an ability to hold his own on the defensive end -- six of his seven rebounds against Siena were on the defensive end. Shanks had 10 points and eight rebounds against Minnesota-Morris, and has provided North Dakota with an intimidating asset with length in the middle. It will be interesting to see if Brown can utilize his strength and get inside the paint offensively or if he continues to spend time away from the basket. This test will show if Brown has the rigor and potential to battle it out with the bigger centers. He will see some of the best in the country (Hammons, Stone, etc.) in Big Ten conference play.
Key to the game
Controlling guards on defense
Western Illinois' guards combined for 58 points on Friday, and most of their scoring came within the arc. If the Badger defense can keep the speedier, elusive back court members out of the paint against North Dakota, then there is a greater chance that Wisconsin can control this game handily from the first whistle to the final buzzer.
I see Wisconsin continuing on the right track here. North Dakota has some scorers among its guards and a massive man in the middle, but the Badgers will take advantage of their superior outside shooting and more disciplined defensive stoppers to pull out a rather comfortable win.