Notes: Northwestern-Wisconsin

Some pregame notes heading into the Northwestern-Wisconsin matchup.

— At the worst possible time, Northwestern prepares for undefeated and fourth-ranked Wisconsin at Welsh-Ryan Arena tonight. The Badgers sit at 13-0 with wins against Virginia, Marquette, West Virginia, Saint Louis and Florida. NU, meanwhile, slumped through its non-conference schedule — with no good wins and some rough losses to DePaul and Illinois State.

— I think NU's upset chances this year will be predicated on the style of team: a balanced Wisconsin squad should be a nightmare to defend. Led by Sam Dekker, four Badgers average double-digit scoring. They'll also provide an unprecedented challenge from the perimeter, with its five leading scorers shooting at least 36 percent from behind the arc. It'll certainly test the strength of Jershon Cobb's ankle.

— We'll see if Tre Demps' career performance will carry over to the Wisconsin game. Demps was arguably the best player on the floor against DePaul, scoring 23 points in a disappointing loss. He's now averaging 11 per game, with his upside looking higher and higher as the season progresses. Also notable: his low turnover rate (0.8) and three-point shooting surge (39 percent).

— We'll also observe any potential starting lineup changes. Cobb should be at full strength – or close – for the Wisconsin game, which leaves Chris Collins to decide whether he should start James Montgomery III or Dave Sobolewski. It should probably kill off any speck of Sobolewski's confidence should the ace perimeter defender Montgomery earn another start. Given the former starting point guard's recent play, though, hard to blame the sudden benching.

Alex Olah, throughout his young career, has disappeared in important games — especially when the opponent's center is any good. His last seven games' point totals: 3, 11, 2, 10, 18, 10, 0. It's the continually frustrating search for a good long-term big man. He was absolutely dominated by Sandi Marcius on Friday, which is never acceptable. For NU to be competitive, he'll need to be passable in a difficult matchup against Frank Kaminsky.

— Things to watch: Kale Abrahamson's minutes, Nate Taphorn's minutes, how Collins mixes man and zone, whether Northwestern can hang in there for at least one half, Drew Crawford's ability (or lack thereof) to be a truly dominant player for Northwestern. The game, which airs at 6pm CT on ESPN2, begins a brutal stretch for the Wildcats. Their Big Ten season opens with Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Illinois and Michigan State. Things could – and probably will – get even uglier in Collins' first season.


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