Preview: Mississippi Valley State vs No.13 UW

Wrapping up the nonconference schedule at home, No.13 Wisconsin looks to shake off eight-day rust when it hosts Mississippi Valley State, a school playing on the road for the 11th time in 11 games, Friday afternoon.

Mississippi Valley State (1-9, 0-0 SWAC) vs. No.13 Wisconsin (10-2, 0-0 Big Ten)

Date/Time - Friday, December 23, 4:30 p.m. Central

Arena – Kohl Center (17,230)

Television - Big Ten Network (Brian Anderson & Shon Morris)

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)

Series – Wisconsin leads 1-0 (UW leads 1-0 in Madison)

Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 115-79, on December 23, 1993 in Madison

Wisconsin Probable Starters

5 Ryan Evans (Junior Forward, 10.3 ppg)

11 Jordan Taylor (Senior Guard, 11.8 ppg)

21 Josh Gasser (Sophomore Guard, 7.6 ppg)

31 Mike Bruesewitz (Junior Forward, 6.1 ppg)

40 Jared Berggren (Junior Forward, 12.3 ppg)

Off the Bench

1 Ben Brust (Sophomore Guard, 11.3 ppg)

12 Traevon Jackson (Freshman Guard, 1.3 ppg)

33 Rob Wilson (Senior Guard, 2.5 ppg)

44 Frank Kaminsky (Freshman Forward, 3.2 ppg)

Mississippi Valley State Probable Starters

3 Terrence Joyner (Senior Guard, 13.4 ppg)

12 Amos Studivant (Senior Forward, 4.3 ppg)

23 Falando Jones (Senior Forward, 8.3 ppg)

25 Kevin Burwell (Senior Guard, 8.0 ppg)

32 Paul Crosby (Junior Center, 13.7 ppg)

Off the Bench

5 Luka Pajkovic (Freshman Guard, 3.1 ppg)

11 Brent Arrington (Freshman Guard, 6.5 ppg)

21 Cor-J Cox (Senior Guard, 10.5 ppg)

22 Blake Ralling (Freshman Guard, 0.6 ppg)

Last Time Out

The Badgers jumped out to a torrid start, survived a sometimes sluggish second half with a late 17-0 run and got four players to contribute at least 10 points in a 66-33 victory over Savannah State Thursday in front of a season-low 16,954 fans at the Kohl Center.

And for the second straight game, junior Jared Berggren paced the Badgers (10-2) in points, finishing with a game-high 13 and continues to show that his surgically repaired shoulder is no longer an issue.

Two days after shooting an efficient 4 of 6 from the field, 3 of 4 from the three-point line and 6 of 8 from the free throw line, Berggren replicated that by going 5 of 8 from the floor, 2 of 2 from the three-point line and made his only free throw attempt.

"He's been solid," said UW coach Bo Ryan of Berggren. "He's out there for a reason. He's getting better. He's learning each and every game how to read defenses. … He's also finding people, too, at times. He's getting better as a player and that's what we like to see."

After scoring in double figures once during 48 games his first two seasons, Berggren, an everyday starter for the first time in his collegiate career, has scored in double digits eight times this season and leads the Badgers in scoring (12.3) and steals (19) and is second on the team in blocks (16) and tied for second on the team in rebounding (5.0).

"The last two games I have shot the ball pretty well," said Berggren. "There was some post moves today that were kind of questionable … but overall, I was hitting some shots and it's been pretty good the last two games."

It wasn't quite the 17-0 run Wisconsin used to open the game the last time these two teams played in 2007, but another hot start set the tempo, as UW hit six of their first seven shot and forced six turnovers in a 16-4 run in the game's first six minutes.

As was the case many times before, Jordan Taylor was the catalyst, scoring four points, dishing out three assists, registering one steal and committing no turnovers during the run. After falling to shoot 50 percent or better in the last eight games, Taylor finished with 12 points on 5 of 9 shooting.

The lead kept blossoming - ending up being 32-14 at halftime - because Wisconsin took advantage of a Tigers (4-8) squad with no player taller than 6-8 by getting a combined 18 points from post players Berggren and Evans, hitting 3 of 6 three-pointers and turning 11 turnovers into 15 points.

Wisconsin got 12 points from Ryan Evans and 10 from Josh Gasser, as UW only needed to attempt a season-low eight three-point field goals due to scoring 86.4 percent of its points inside the arc.

Last Meeting

Wisconsin equaled its 2nd-highest single-game scoring total with a 115-79 win over Mississippi Valley State on Dec. 23, 1993.

Michael Finley (21 points) was tops among six Badgers in double figures. Rashard Griffith added 18 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.

Series Notes:

Wisconsin and MVSU have one common opponent this season. The Delta Devils lost to Northwestern, 92-67, on Dec. 2. The Badgers face Northwestern just once, Jan. 18 at the Kohl Center.

The Badgers are a perfect 8-0 against teams from the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC).

Wisconsin Notes

Wisconsin features one of the most balanced offensive attacks in the Big Ten. The Badgers are one of three Big Ten teams (with IND & ILL) that features four players averaging double figures this season. Five different players have lead UW in scoring and no player has led in more than four games.

The Badgers have held 10 of their 12 opponents to that team's lowest scoring output of the season. The only exceptions were Marquette, which was 2 points off its season low and Milwaukee, which missed by 3 points.

UW also owns the nation's longest streak of holding its opponents to 65 or less - currently 16 straight games. The last Badger opponent to reach 66 points was last season - Ohio State on March 6, 2011.

In the entire nation, only six NCAA Div. 1 teams have been held to 33 or fewer points in a game this season, and UW is responsible for four of them.

The Badgers have tallied 45 consecutive home wins against unranked non-conference foes. UW hasn't lost at home to an unranked non-Big Ten team since a 62-55 decision to North Dakota State (1/21/06). In fact, under Bo Ryan, the Badgers have only lost 3 home games to unranked, non-conference opponents (NDSU, Wake Forest 12/4/02, Temple 12/3/01).

Mississippi Valley State Notes:

Mississippi Valley State has been outscored by an average of 20.0 points while shooting 37.0 percent in its losses.

MVSU has played 10 games away from home, including eight against teams from power conferences. The Delta Devils lost by double digits to Notre Dame, DePaul, North Carolina, Arkansas, Northwestern and Mississippi.

"All I ask my kids to do is fight and continue to get better because it's almost a no-win situation," MVSU coach Sean Woods said. "The No. 1 team in the country couldn't handle this schedule and go out unscathed. We know what we are in for and we just have to keep battling and stay together because our main focus is winning the conference championship."

Prediction

In all my years covering the sports, I can't remember a conference being so awful. Of the 10 teams in the SWAC, no team has more than four wins and seven of the teams have at least nine losses. Hello No.16 seed. Hello play-in game.

The Delta Devils have allowed 80 points or more in five of the last six games, and their only win came in a 92-89 double overtime decision against Tennessee State in Las Vegas. Anybody who thinks this game is going to be a contest is kidding themselves.

Mississippi Valley State has played the sixth toughest schedule in the country according to Jeff Sargarin, and it has not yielded any success. In its two matchups versus ranked foes this season, the Delta Devils fell 101-75 at then-No. 1 North Carolina on Nov. 20 and 82-54 at No. 11 Florida last Monday. Don't expect a miracle to happen.

Wisconsin may be rusty early but expect this game to be a lot like the Savannah State non-contest: a fast start for UW, building a sizeable lead by halftime and letting the reserves get some key minutes before conference play begins to get everybody's confidence up.

Complain what you want about UW's nonconference schedule but while the Badgers have played the 148th toughest schedule according to Sargarin, the Badgers are 15th in the RPI and tops in the country in the Pomeroy rankings, one of the best predictive ratings systems around. That more than enough for me to not only put my fears to ease about this team heading into Big Ten play, but that UW will beat MVSU by 31.

Worgull's Record: 11-1

Points off Prediction: 115 (9.58 per game)


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