Date/Time - Tuesday, December 27, 8 p.m. Central
Arena – Bob Devaney Sports Center (13,595)
Television - ESPN2 (Dave Armstrong & Dan Dakich)
Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)
Series – Nebraska leads 10-6 (NU leads 6-1 in Lincoln)
Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 78-41, on November 22, 1998 in Fairbanks, Alaska
Wisconsin Probable Starters
5 Ryan Evans (Junior Forward, 9.9 ppg)
11 Jordan Taylor (Senior Guard, 12.2 ppg)
21 Josh Gasser (Sophomore Guard, 7.8 ppg)
31 Mike Bruesewitz (Junior Forward, 6.1 ppg)
40 Jared Berggren (Junior Forward, 12.5 ppg)
Off the Bench
1 Ben Brust (Sophomore Guard, 10.8 ppg)
12 Traevon Jackson (Freshman Guard, 1.6 ppg)
33 Rob Wilson (Senior Guard, 2.8 ppg)
44 Frank Kaminsky (Freshman Forward, 3.2 ppg)
Nebraska Probable Starters
0 Toney McCray (Senior Forward, 9.3 ppg)
3 Brandon Richardson (Senior Guard, 6.7 ppg)
13 Brandon Ubel (Junior Forward, 7.1 ppg)
23 Bo Spencer (Senior Guard, 16.0 ppg)
25 Caleb Walker (Senior Guard, 7.5 ppg)
Off the Bench
2 David Rivers (Freshman Guard, 2.2 ppg)
12 Corey Hilliard (Freshman Guard, 3.0 ppg)
21 Jorge Brian Diaz (Junior Center, 10.9 ppg)
24 Dylan Talley (Junior Guard, 9.1 ppg)
Last Time Out
In Wisconsin's 79-45 victory over Mississippi Valley State in front of 17,230 at the Kohl Center, the Badgers went 31 of 44 from the line (70.5 percent), season highs in both categories. It was the most makes since UW converted 34-of-40 last season against Illinois, while it was the most attempts since the Badgers recorded 31-of-44 against Pittsburgh in December 2006.
"The way to counter their pressure is to push back at them and get to the free throw line," said Berggren, who made 7 of his 8 free throw attempts and scored 15 points. "We didn't get into our sets a lot. When we are getting to the line, that's always a good thing."
The Badgers (11-2) finished last season ranked No. 1 in the nation by shooting 81.8 percent (435-533) from the free throw line, a mark that was the second-best single season mark in NCAA history. That percentage became a memory early, especially after Wisconsin went just 4-for-13 (28.6 percent) against Colgate in the second game of the season.
That was only half the problem, as Wisconsin wasn't using its muscle inside to get to the line. After averaging 15.8 attempts last season, the Badgers averaging just 9.1 attempts through their first eight games and were outshot from the line in four of those games.
The last seven games have been a different story with Wisconsin averaging 23.5 attempts and 17.0 makes. Not surprisingly, the Badgers have won six of their last seven nonconference games to go into conference play with a head of steam.
"(MVSU were) just real physical. They were going to get you to turn it over or they were going to foul you," UW coach Bo Ryan said. "We try to get to the line as many times as we can or take advantage of overplays or things like that. I thought we did a pretty good job of that considering it was a game played a little bit differently than what we will see in the league."
Everyone got into the action in addition to Berggren. The Badgers got a game-high 17 points from Taylor (6-for-7 from the line), 11 from Gasser (seven on free throws) and Evans made 3 of 6 free throws and netted a career-high 11 rebounds.
Against the Delta Devils (1-10), it wasn't going to take much. Wisconsin opened the game with a 20-4 lead and never let the lead close closer than 19 in the second half after forcing 17 Mississippi Valley State turnovers, which led to a 19-4 advantage in points off turnovers.
Wisconsin also held the Delta Devils to 29.2 percent shooting, without a field goal for 11 minutes, 7 seconds and drew 29 foul calls compared to only 15 fouls on Wisconsin.
Wisconsin won the most recent meeting with Nebraska, to win the 5th-place game of the Top of the World Classic in Fairbanks, Alaska on Nov. 22, 1998.
Sean Mason led the Badgers with 20 points, while Nebraska did not have a single player score in double figures.
UW raced out to a 42-15 halftime lead and shot 60.4 percent in the contest, including 64.3 percent (9-for- 14) from behind the arc.
The series dates back to the 1903-04 season, as Nebraska won the first meeting, 25-22 over the Badgers in Lincoln before Wisconsin took five of the next six meetings from 1907 to 1955.
Nebraska then won eight straight matchups before Wisconsin snapped the streak with a 78-41 win at the Top of the World Classic in Fairbanks, Alaska.
The Huskers have won both meetings which have taken place at the Devaney Center, a 53-51 win on Dec. 12, 1984 and an 86-67 triumph on Dec. 12, 1991.
Since 1950, UW opponents have scored 33 or fewer points in a game 10 times, four of which have happened this season. 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.
Taylor, who led the nation with a 3.83 assist-to-turnover ratio a year ago, is on pace to set the all-time NCAA career record. Taylor currently owns a 3.24 career assist-to-turnover ratio with 382 assists and 118 turnovers. The NCAA record for career assist-to-turnover ratio (min. 400 assists) is 2.70, by UTEP's Julyan Stone (714 assists, 264 turnovers in 2008-11).
Wisconsin will be the Cornhuskers' first Big Ten opponent as a member of the conference. The Badgers also welcomed Nebraska to the Big Ten in football, recording a 48-17 win on Oct. 1 at Camp Randall Stadium.
The Huskers come off a holiday break with an 8-3 record following a 72-69 win over Central Michigan on Dec. 20, to extend their win streak to a season-long four games. In that game, the Huskers shot 50 percent from the floor and put five players in double figures despite missing two of the team's top three scorers (Jorge Brian Diaz and Dylan Talley) because of injuries.
Nebraska's game against Wisconsin will be the Huskers' first against a ranked team in the AP poll this season. The Huskers went 3-3 against ranked teams last year, including a win over No. 3 Texas and have eight wins over ranked AP teams in Doc Sadler's tenure at Nebraska. The Huskers will have plenty of opportunities to take on ranked teams over the next month, as six of Nebraska's first eight Big Ten games are against teams ranked in this week's poll (No. 2 Ohio State, No. 11 Wisconsin, No. 13 Indiana and No. 16 Michigan State).
During the Big 12 era, Nebraska opened at home only five times in 15 seasons. Nebraska is 2-3 in conference openers under Doc Sadler, including two wins in the last three games. Last year, Nebraska downed Iowa State, 63-62, with Lance Jeter hitting a game-winning free throw with 0.7 seconds remaining. Nebraska's back-to-back home games against
One area where the Huskers have been proficient is at the free throw line, where Nebraska's 76.3 percent rate leads the Big Ten and is 12th nationally in the latest NCAA stats.
Points will be at a premium in the Big Ten opener with both teams being known for its defense. Nebraska led the Big 12 in scoring defense in three of its final four years in the league, while Wisconsin has led the Big Ten in scoring defense three times in the past four year and leads again in 2011-12.
Wisconsin's defense this year has been scary good – leading the nation with a .74 points per possession – but its offense has been under criticism for being too slow, too boring and uninteresting. Regardless of your opinion, the stats show that Wisconsin is averaging 1.13 points per possession on offense, which is 24th best in the country, and is an offense that is constantly evolving.
Through the first seven games of the season, UW was shooting a lot of 3-pointers (24.6 per game) and not getting to the line at its customary frequency (9.1 attempts per game). Over the last six contests, the Badgers have dramatically decreased the number of shots from beyond the arc (15.7 per game) and got to the charity stripe over 14 more times per game. It shows that Wisconsin can beat teams in more ways than one.
One of those ways is Evans, as the junior is averaging 11 points in his four games away from the Kohl Center this season.
"To win on the road, you definitely are going to have to make plays because you don't have the benefit of the home court behind you," said Taylor. "You have to make maybe a few more plays on the road than you do at home, so it helps having a guy out there doing what Ryan is doing out there so far."
This season marks Nebraska's first in the Big Ten after moving from the Big 12, so Wisconsin has no familiarity with the Cornhuskers' style of play. Considering that fact, plus the quick turnaround after the Christmas break and no common opponents between the two schools, most in the Badgers' camp think of the game as a nonconference tilt.
In those cases, Wisconsin will have to do the little things like, as in rebounding. UW is 9-0 this season when outrebounding their opponent, showing what happens when Wisconsin outworks its opponent.
"Those 50-50 plays, we got them in the games we won and didn't quite get them in the games we lost," said Gasser. "That's how basketball goes. We definitely look at the little things going into Big Ten season and how to win those situations."
Nebraska's three losses this season have come against Oregon, Creighton and Wake Forest — teams that have a combined record of 27-8. No bad losses, but games good teams find ways to win, especially when they are at home. I have a feeling a banged-up Nebraska is about to get a rude introduction to Big Ten play once again.
Wisconsin has posted an 8-2 record in Big Ten openers during the Bo Ryan era, including wins in eight straight conference lid lifters. Make it nine, as the Badgers survive a gritty, physical contest to win by 10.
Worgull's Record: 12-1
Points off Prediction: 118 (9.08 per game)