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Preview: Wisconsin men’s basketball vs Iowa Hawkeyes

Can the Wisconsin Badgers finish off their home stand with a win?

The Wisconsin Badgers had an up-and-down home stand during a crucial stretch of their season, defeating the Michigan Wolverines last Tuesday in a 64-59 win, but suffering another close loss to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in a 58-57 game on Sunday.

Somehow, the Badgers are still seen in a positive light by ESPN’s bracketology, as Joe Lunardi had Wisconsin as their final team in the Field of 68, although they’ll need a good finish to the season if they want to maintain that ranking.

Looking to edge their way into the tournament, the Badgers face off against the Iowa Hawkeyes on Wednesday night at the Kohl Center, wrapping up a three-game home stand before traveling to Michigan on Sunday.

DraftKings Sportsbook currently lists the Badgers as one-point underdogs against the Hawkeyes, with an over/under placed at 110 points. Will the Badgers cover the spread?

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.

Here’s what you need to know about the Badgers’ opponent on Wednesday.

Opponent Preview

The Iowa Hawkeyes come into the matchup with a 17-10 record, ranking sixth in the Big 10 with a 9-7 conference record.

The Hawkeyes are coming off an 80-60 loss to the surging Northwestern Wildcats, but have been fairly consistent all season, aside from a three-game stretch where they lost to Eastern Illinois, the Nebraska Cornhuskers, and the Penn State Nittany Lions.

They’re led by forward Kris Murray, who has enjoyed an efficient season, averaging 20.7 points per game on 50.3% shooting, including 34.7% from three, while grabbing 8.2 rebounds.

Murray, the brother of Sacramento Kings lottery Keegan Murray, has emerged into a starring role with the Hawkeyes, and will be the biggest difference between the last time the two teams played, as the forward was out due to injury.

Murray is complemented by forward Filip Rebraca, who has averaged 13.8 points per game, while securing 7.8 rebounds a game and shooting 57.3% from the field.

Offensively, while the Hawkeyes shoot 45.7% from the field and 34.2% from three, Iowa’s pace has them scoring over 80 points per game, good for first in the Big 10.

On the other hand, Iowa isn’t strong defensively, allowing 73.9 points per game, the worst in the Big 10, while allowing opponents to hit 46.6% of their shots and 35.5% of their threes.

Similarly to Wisconsin, Iowa also takes care of the ball well, turning the ball over just 10.1 times per game, while creating 13.3 turnovers per game, and their margin is the third-best in the Big 10, while the Badgers hold the second-best turnover margin per game.

Keys to the Game

Tyler Wahl: I said it after the Rutgers game: the Badgers aren’t going to get momentum offensively if they can’t get Tyler Wahl going.

The Badgers have significantly struggled at the rim, be it guards attacking or Steven Crowl failing to consistently hit close shots, making them one-dimensional with the three-ball, which is streaky.

After Wahl had just five shot attempts against Rutgers, I suggested there be more sets where the forward is able to create while working downhill, be it at the three-point line or the top of the key, rather than working with his back to the basket, where he hasn’t seemed as comfortable.

If the Badgers can get a spark out of Wahl, they’ll have an interior presence offensively, which opens up the entirety of their offense.

Three-pointers: The three-ball should be an integral part of Wednesday’s game, and an area that could favor the Badgers.

Both teams have seen success shooting from distance this season, with the Badgers hitting 35.9% of their threes and the Hawkeyes hitting 34.2%.

The Badgers are more reliant on the three-ball, which accounts for nearly 42% of their shots, as opposed to Iowa’s 36%, and both teams aren’t amazing at defending the three, with the Hawkeyes allowing a 35.5% from three and Wisconsin giving up a 33.5% rate from distance.

The Hawkeyes are clearly the superior team offensively, so the Badgers will need to keep up to have a chance, which means hitting three-pointers when they get the opportunities, but also defending the three-ball week.

The difference between the two teams? Iowa doesn't have a single shooter in their seven-man rotation that hits over 35.5% of their threes, while Wisconsin has two shooters over 40%, Connor Essegian and Chucky Hepburn, as well as one over 36% in Max Klesmit.

Free Throws: Iowa has shot the most free throws in the Big 10 this season, hitting shots at a 74% clip.

Meanwhile, the Badgers have hit only 65.9% of their free throws, which has been a glaring issue over the second half of the season, as Connor Essegian has really been the only consistent option on the team.

The Badgers have shown a tendency to foul early, leading certain players to be in foul trouble, which not only takes key players out of the game, but also provides opponents an opportunity to hit foul shots.

With the Hawkeyes’ tendency to draw fouls, there will be even more scrutiny on the Badgers not to foul in this game, especially given Iowa’s success at the free-throw line.