Buzz Williams may only be in his first season as Marquette head coach, but he understands what this rivalry means to residents of the Badger State.
"I know enough to know that it is important to a lot of people," Williams. "It's important to our alumni, to their alumni, to their players, to our players."
But once again, the Golden Eagle who gets asked the most about this rivalry is Madison native Wesley Matthews.
"You know [this is a big game for me]," said Matthews. "It's a lot of fun. You start to get to the middle of the season, you get the kinks out and you're working to get better every day and then you got the Badgers coming to town."
Matthews did get to have fun at last season's contest, an 81-76 Marquette victory at the Kohl Center, and described it as one of the highlights of his career at Marquette.
"People don't win at the Kohl Center," Matthews said. "It's a tough place to play. That definitely is one of the highlights though, being able to go back home and get one [win]. Especially after starting out 0-2 against them."
This season's installment once again features two teams with contrasting styles and opposing strengths.
"I think it will be a battle of wills on every possession," said Williams. "Our team is built differently than theirs. Every possession will be a battle."
One of the keys that Marquette will be focused on is pressuring Wisconsin's guards to try and keep the ball out of the paint.
"We have to keep the ball out of the post whether we are playing Central Michigan or Wisconsin," said Williams. "When the ball gets into the paint, that's when we are most vulnerable. The best thing to do is to keep the ball as high on the floor as you can and make sure you have great ball pressure."
This game should be another classic in a lasting rivalry.
Marquette runs what most consider a motion or continuity offense. It is considered an equal opportunity offense because players react to the defense rather than following strict movements and actions. The Golden Eagles have excelled in this offense scoring 87.9 points-per-game – eighth in the nation. Another reason for this increase in scoring has been their ability to score points without taking time off the clock – they are 10th in the nation in free throws attempted.
Defensively, Marquette plays strictly man-to-man. Opponents have scored 71 points-per-game (ppg) against the Golden Eagles this season, partly due to the fast pace of their games. According to Ken Pomeroy, Marquette's adjusted defensive efficiency is 116th in the nation. Meanwhile their raw efficiency, which does not take into account quality opponents, is 85th in the nation. Marquette likes to force a lot of turnovers through intense ball pressure and have employed both a full court and three-quarter-court press. This season they have not been as efficient in turning teams over – they rank only 158th in defensive turnover percentage and 79th in steal percentage, down from 49th and 11th, respectively, a season ago. Marquette has also had trouble defending the post.
Last season, Wisconsin really made a name for themselves on the defensive end. They were first in the nation in raw defensive efficiency and second in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency. However, this season they have slipped to 130th and 107th, respectively. Like Marquette, they play strictly man-to-man. Unlike Marquette, they generally do a good job of playing defense without fouling. Since 2004, the Badgers have been ranked in the top 33 for defensive free throw rate all but one season. This season they have had trouble defending three-point shooters, allowing 39.8 percent from downtown, but they make up for it by not allowing many second-chance opportunities. Overall, they are not a team that is going to turn their opponents over but they will make them earn every point they get.
On offense, the Badgers run Bo Ryan's patented Swing offense – another read-and-react system. However, this offense throws convention for a loop, as guards are encouraged to post up and big men are given opportunities to score from the perimeter. Wisconsin has been very successful in this offense and Ryan has recruited players that fit to his style. The Badgers have taken advantage of their opportunities from the perimeter so far this season, hitting 42.9 percent of their three point shots. In addition, they do an excellent job of protecting the ball.
Trevon Hughes currently leads the Badgers in scoring at 13.9 ppg, and the matchup between this ultra-quick guard and Marquette's Dominic James should be an exciting one to watch. After shooting just 31 percent from three-point range last season, he has been dialing it in at an amazing 54 percent from beyond the arc this season. Last season's Marquette game was not one of Hughes' best. He seemed to be forcing his shots and converted only 4-of-15 from the field.
Jason Bohannon will not wow you with his athleticism, but he is a smart player and a good shooter, despite his early season numbers. It will be interesting to see what guard he matches up with defensively because he is not particularly fast. However, his stroke from deep is good enough to make up for it, and if he can hold his own defensively the Badgers will be in excellent shape.
Joe Krabbenhoft is your typical hard-nosed, physical, Big Ten player. He is a jack-of-all-trades yet master of none. Krabbenhoft leads Wisconsin in rebounding (5.9 per game) and assists (3.1 per game) and he can score from the block, in the midrange game and from the perimeter. He also has a reputation for being a pretty good defender. In the game against Marquette last season, he played nearly every minute (38) while scoring six points and grabbing five rebounds.
Marcus Landry, a Milwaukee native likely playing his last game in his hometown was named preseason all conference in the Big Ten this season. He is second in scoring for the Badgers, and he has been an enforcer around the rim, blocking just over two shots a game. Landry presents a matchup problem for just about every team he faces, as he can score both inside and out and provides athleticism that is hard to match. Yet last season Marquette was able to hold him to just seven points and five rebounds.
Keaton Nankivil is a former teammate of Marquette guard Wesley Matthews at Madison Memorial High School. Nankivil played only 46 minutes all of last season, and he plays just 18 minutes a game this season despite being a starter. He is a physical post presence that could cause problems for Marquette inside.
Wisconsin Bench: Sophomore Jon Leuer has proven himself to be quite the player so far this season after showing flashes as a freshman. He came off the bench to score 9 points and grab 5 rebounds in last year's matchup, and his combination of size, skill and quickness could be a problem for Marquette's frontcourt this year. Tim Jarmusz, another player that gets a lot of minutes off the bench, is a big guard who can stroke it from deep.
Alex Jesswein is a freshman majoring in finance.