The Wisconsin Badgers (6-3) are streaking after coming up with solid, resume-boosting wins versus Syracuse and Temple last week.
Also 6-3, the Milwaukee Panthers have only played one team worth mentioning, when they lost 78-68 at Notre Dame. The Badgers are a different animal than the likes of Duquesne and Murray State, who have also beaten Milwaukee. However, Bo Ryan's former team also presents some strengths to look out for in addition to a few weaknesses Wisconsin will want to exploit.
The Panthers have a large array of players who get quality minutes, and they can hurt teams with their ability to stay fresh late in games. Milwaukee fields 8 different players who play at least 14 minutes per game. They also sport much of their depth across all positions with a quality third guard and third forward coming in relief. Senior Matt Tiby brings loads of experience and elevated skill, and the Badgers will likely counter him with Nigel Hayes, unless they want to match Tiby's 6-8 height with Vitto Brown, which could be another likely scenario.
True to the form of his mentor, Milwaukee head coach Rob Jeter has instilled in him team a desire to keep opposing teams away from the offensive rebounds. The Panthers are among the best in the country at it, allowing the offense to get only 23.3 percent of their own rebounds. It will be up to Hayes and freshman Ethan Happ to do some damage to that statistic on Wednesday night, as the Badgers are among the best at getting offensive boards.
The Panthers do a very good job of spreading the basketball around. They average 18 assists per game, a full 6 more than the Badger's 12. Although they make mistakes, evidenced by the 13 turnovers they average a game, the team has a lot of chemistry and runs Jeter's offense nicely. Junior guard Jordan Johnson is the primary distributor for the Panthers, and has averaged 8.3 assists per game so far. The Badgers will have to exert a lot of defensive energy on the Panther's passing game.
The Badgers will likely have a field day offensively, given the Panther's lack an even average interior defense. Although they have players with great size, like 6-10 J.J. Panoske and 6-8 Matt Tiby, Milwaukee does not have any players capable of winning battles in the paint against a team like Wisconsin. Panoske is the only Panther with more than one block in total this season, yet he will be defending Vitto Brown, who is not the Badger's deadliest offensive player inside. That title belongs to Happ who has been absolutely deadly for the Cardinal and White and has picked up a lot of offensive rebounds as well. Look for Bo Ryan to take it inside a lot tonight.
Lack of success against major opponents
I would like to reiterate the fact that the Panthers have struggled to duke it out with top programs like Wisconsin. Unlike UW-Green Bay, who has knocked off Wisconsin and even ranked opponents in the past, Milwaukee has a lot of success against teams they are supposed to beat, yet usually fail to acquire major upsets. The Panthers' best win so far came against Central Michigan on a neutral court.
The Badgers should win this ball game, and their primary tactics will be to defend Milwaukee's deadly passing game and taking advantage inside on offense.