The No. 5 Wisconsin Badgers men's basketball team (23-2, 11-1 Big Ten) is one of the hottest squads in the nation as they head to State College, Pennsylvania to challenge a Penn State team that lost in heartbreaking fashion when it last played, losing 76-73 to No. 19 Maryland in front of their home crowd.
The Nittany Lions (15-11, 3-10) depend on the superstar play of guard D. J. Newbill, who is averaging 20.8 points per game and 37 percent from behind the arc. He scored 29 points in the December 31 loss at the Kohl Center in Madison and the Badgers will have trouble once again stopping the deadly scoring wing.
Likewise, Penn State also checks in at 13th in the Big Ten in points allowed per game, with an average of 65.9 points surrendered per night. The Nittany Lions will have difficulty containing Wisconsin as well.
Frank Kaminsky has become an incredible leader for this strong and experienced Wisconsin group, scoring a game-high 23 points and adding 11 rebounds in Saturday's victory at home over Illinois. The Badgers are getting support from all over the floor, however, as Bronson Koenig and Sam Dekker have been lighting it up recently, supplying Bo Ryan with multiple double-digit scoring games. Nigel Hayes hasn't been too shabby, knocking in countless jumpers from behind the arc, and being a beast while rebounding the basketball.
Key Matchups to Watch
D.J. Newbill vs. Josh Gasser
It is hard for even the best defenders in the country, which includes Josh Gasser, to shut down Newbill. So the goal for Gasser and the Badgers will be to merely slow down the versatile combo wing. Newbill doesn't receive a whole ton of help offensively from his Penn State teammates. It will be interesting to see where Penn State coach Patrick Chambers decides to situate Newbill on the defensive end, as Gasser hasn't been a huge scoring option for Ryan (and he doesn't have to be).
Brandon Taylor vs. Sam Dekker
Brandon Taylor hasn't been that effective offensively in recent games, however his defense has become a valuable asset for Chambers. Taylor stands at 6'6" and will be guarding the 6'8" Sam Dekker most likely. It will be interesting to see how Dekker uses that height advantage, as he has taken advantage of these kinds of matchups in recent games this season. It seems as if Dekker is finally healthy, and I am so excited to see his prime athleticism go to good use. Expect him to be slashing hard in the paint in transition and knocking down open threes when those opportunities present themselves.
Keep an Eye On:
Badgers' bench production
A View from the Other Side
A View from the Other Side
With Traevon Jackson still recovering from a broken foot, Zak Showalter has received a lot of minutes as the primary reserve guard for the Badgers. Although he hasn't been a force offensively, he has been a good defensive player, making difficult shifts and taking advantage of his signature charge calls to create turnovers on defense. Duje Dukan has been in quite a shooting slump recently, as he has struggled to knock down shots from behind the arc that he usually hits with ease.
Vitto Brown has been learning a lot since receiving more minutes. I love that Bo Ryan is already gearing up for next season, as Brown's play has not warranted the amount of playing time he deserves at this point in his college career. Brown is gaining valuable in-game knowledge he will be able to use later.
Continued success on the road
The Badgers only have one loss on the road this season, at Rutgers, in a game where Kaminsky had to sit out due to concussion symptoms and UW's starting point guard left with a major injury. Their success on the road is a testament to the quality instruction that Ryan instills into each of his players and to the incredible experience this veteran squad has amassed. This confidence as road warriors will really help the Badgers in the postseason as they get ready for a deep NCAA tournament run.
Final Thoughts and Prediction
The Badgers have outscored their opponents by an average of 15.1 points during their eight-game win streak. Expect Wednesday's battle on the road with Penn State to be no different. The Nittany Lions do not have enough fire power on offense or the shut down defense required to keep up with the most efficient offense in the nation. Combine that with an undersized starting lineup, and the Badgers should stroll out of the Bryce Jordan Center with an easy victory.
The only thing essential for the Badgers is not to over think this game, as Penn State has the ability to keep things close, evidence by Maryland's close call with PSU on Valentine's Day. Expect Wisconsin's dynamic front court trio to all score in double digits, and for Frank the Tank to continue his streak of double doubles. The Badgers bench will be called on to play during the middle of the second half, rewarding the Badgers front five with some much needed rest to get through the latter half of the Big Ten season.