Preview: Virginia vs. Wisconsin

After bouncing back with a win Saturday to earn third-place in the Las Vegas Invitational, Wisconsin heads into the annual ACC-Big Ten Challenge to take on a young Virginia team tonight at the Kohl Center.

Virginia (4-2, 0-0 ACC) at Wisconsin (4-2, 0-0 Big Ten)

Date/Time - Wednesday, November 28, 6 p.m. Central

Arena – Kohl Center (17,249)

Television - ESPN2 (Dave O'Brien and Doris Burke)

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

Series – Series tied 1-1 (First meeting in Madison)

First Meeting – Wisconsin won, 66-56, on November 21, 1998 in the Top of the World Classic (Fairbanks, Alaska)

Wisconsin Probable Starters

1 Ben Brust (6-1 Junior Guard, 11.8 ppg)

3 George Marshall (5-11 Freshman Guard, 7.3 ppg)

5 Ryan Evans (6-6 Senior Forward, 10.5 ppg)

31 Mike Bruesewitz (6-6 Senior Forward, 6.2 ppg)

40 Jared Berggren (6-10 Senior Forward, 15.2 ppg)

Off the Bench

12 Traevon Jackson (6-2 Sophomore Guard, 5.3 ppg)

15 Sam Dekker (6-7 Freshman Forward, 11.5 ppg)

32 Zak Showalter (6-2 Freshman Guard, 2.0 ppg)

34 Zach Bohannon (6-8 Junior Forward, 1.6 ppg)

44 Frank Kaminsky (6-11 Sophomore Forward, 3.7 ppg)

Virginia Probable Starters

2 Paul Jesperson (6-6 Sophomore Guard, 4.5 ppg)

5 Teven Jones (6-0 Freshman Guard, 7.7 ppg)

12 Joe Harris (6-6 Junior Guard, 15.0 ppg)

25 Akil Mitchell (6-8 Junior Forward, 11.7 ppg)

32 Darion Atkins (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 6.8 ppg)

Off the Bench

4 Taylor Barnette (6-3 Freshman Guard, 2.5 ppg)

10 Mike Tobey (6-11 Freshman Forward, 6.5 ppg)

11 Evan Nolte (6-8 Freshman Forward, 7.5 ppg)

13 Anthony Gill (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 7.6 ppg)

23 Justin Anderson (6-6 Freshman Guard, 6.8 ppg)

Last Time Out

Trailing 40-29 at the half, Wisconsin opened the second stanza on a 15-4 run and went on to pull out the 77-70 win in the third-place game of the 2012 Las Vegas Invitational.

UW had 8 turnovers, shot just 32.3 percent from the field and made only 7-of-15 free throws in the first half. After intermission, the Badgers turned it over just 3 times, shot 66.7 percent from the field and connected on 18-of-23 free throws.

Freshman Sam Dekker was one of five Badgers in double figures, leading Wisconsin with a career-best 19 points in a career-high 26 minutes.

Seniors Mike Bruesewitz (11 points) and Jared Berggren (10 points, four blocks) each led UW with nine rebounds while sophomore Traevon Jackson netted a career-high 11 points, going 9-for-11 at the free throw line.

The Badgers knocked down a season-high 25 free throws (on 38 attempts). UW is 87-11 all-time under Bo Ryan when attempting 25 or more free throws in a game.

Series Notes:

The last time Wisconsin and Virginia met, Dick Bennett was the head coach of the Badgers. This time around, Bennett's son, Tony, is presiding over the Cavaliers.

Dick Bennett was the head coach at Wisconsin for five-plus seasons from 1996 to 2000, while Tony served as an assistant coach on the Badgers' staff for three seasons (2001-03), including the final two under Bo Ryan.

Wisconsin and UW-Green Bay never played while Tony Bennett was a student athlete for the Phoenix, but the schools have met 16 times in the 20 years since his playing career.

The Badgers are 20-11 all-time vs. members of the ACC. Under Bo Ryan, Wisconsin is 9-7 vs. ACC foes, including wins in 6 of its last 7 meetings.

Virginia graduate manager Mark Vershaw played collegiately at Wisconsin from 1997-2001 for head coaches Dick Bennett and Brad Soderberg. Vershaw was the leading scorer on the Badgers' 2000 Final Four squad.

Wisconsin Notes

The Badgers are 6-7 all-time in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge (4-1 at the Kohl Center) and are tied for the most wins of any Big Ten team in the event. Wisconsin's .462 win percentage in the Challenge is the third-highest mark in the conference, trailing only Ohio State (6-5, .545) and Michigan State (6-6, .500).

Coming off a career-high 27 points against No. 14 Creighton, senior Jared Berggren is establishing himself as one of the nation's premier big men in 2012-13. Berggren is averaging a team-high 15.2 ppg to go along with 7.2 rpg. He also leads the Big Ten with 15 blocks in six games.

Wisconsin's non-conference schedule features five games against teams who qualified for the 2012 NCAA Tournament field (California, Creighton, Florida, Marquette and Virginia). Including the Big Ten schedule, Wisconsin will play 12 total games against teams from the 2012 NCAA Tournament field.

Despite his 6-foot-1 frame, junior Ben Brust leads the Big Ten in rebounding, averaging 8.5 per game. Among the conference's top-10 rebounders, Brust is the only player under 6-foot-6. Averaging 11.8 points per game, Brust has already posted three double-doubles this season.

Known for its defensive prowess, Wisconsin has also been remarkably efficient at the offensive end during the Bo Ryan era. According to the Badgers are averaging 1.17 points per possession this season, which ranks 14th in the nation.

The Badgers are scoring at a good clip this season, ranking 5th in the Big Ten at 75.8 points per game. Wisconsin has reached 70 points in all but one of its games (5 of 6). A year ago, UW averaged 64.0 ppg and topped 70 just 9 times total.

On the season, the Badgers rank 3rd in the Big Ten with a +3.3 average turnover margin per game. Wisconsin ranks 2nd in the Big Ten, giving the ball away just 9.8 times per game and is forcing 13.2 turnovers per game.

Virginia Notes:

Virginia has a two-game winning streak in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and is 7-5 in the event. Virginia is 2-4 on the road during the challenge.

UVa is shooting 52.3 percent from the floor, 48.8 percent from the three-point line and 84.7 percent from the free throw line during its three-game winning streak. UVa is averaging 73.3 points per game and allowing 50.3 points per game during the streak.

UVa is 0-1 on the road this season and 13-19 on the road in four years under head coach Tony Bennett. UVa went 7-4 on the road last season and the seven road wins were the most since 1986-87.

Five Virginia freshmen (Justin Anderson, Taylor Barnette, Teven Jones, Evan Nolte and Mike Tobey) have started at least one game this season.

Senior guard Jontel Evans, an ACC All-Defensive Team member last season, has missed five of Virginia's first six games due to a foot injury.

Virginia, who is averaging 32.8 rebounds per game, has outrebounded its opponents in five of six games. The Cavaliers have grabbed nine or more offensive rebounds in five of six games.


Wisconsin and Virginia are virtually cousin programs, which shouldn't be a surprise knowing the like history of both head coaches and their ties to the state. Both coaches are defensive minded in their principles; teaching fundamentals based on help and recovery, valuing the basketball by limiting turnovers and not giving up easy offensive opportunities.

"The way they play is the way I think everybody in the country is trying to play," said UW coach Bo Ryan of Virginia, who ranks 13th in the nation in scoring defense at 53 points per game. "It's just sometimes there are seasons where it's better. There are programs where it's better. There's people that buy in more on a consistent basis. Some years you might not be totally there, might be inexperienced, might be injuries, but you're always trying to do the same things defensively."

It also isn't a shock that Virginia has a Wisconsin native on its roster in Paul Jesperson, a 6-6, 197-pound sophomore guard from Merrill. Associate head coach Greg Gard and UW scouted Jesperson and liked his upside because he was still physically developing, but the Badgers already had two guards committed in the Class of 2011 and depth at the position with Ben Brust and Josh Gasser.

"Not everybody gets everybody that you want because you don't have enough scholarships," said Ryan. "Jesperson was a scholarship player without a doubt, and Tony's not wasting scholarships on guys he doesn't feel can play. So that was obviously a pretty good move because Jesperson was sought after by other schools. That's what's great about in Wisconsin to have guys come out, some come here, some don't, but they get opportunities. Nothing like an opportunity."

The key for Wisconsin tonight will be its offensive rebounding, which was sporadic over the weekend. The Badgers allowed Arkansas 12 offensive rebounds in the second half on Saturday, but still managed to pull away thanks to shooting 66.7 percent in the second half. UW wasn't as fortunate against Creighton and center Gregory Echenique, who had five of the Bluejays' 13 first-half offensive rebounds. Creighton likely would have had more rebounds in the second half, but shot 13-for-21 (61.9 percent) and didn't need any offensive rebounds.

"Echenique just put on a show," said Gard. "He was hungry. He plays hard. He doesn't jump real high, but look what he has done in that league and against everybody else. Some guys just understand positioning and how to use their body. You don't have to jump the highest to be the best rebounder. It's about taking up space, being physical and getting after it. In the first part of the game, we tried to out-jump him and we were out of position."

Virginia has some surprising losses on its resume already (losing the opener at George Mason and a home game to Delaware) because of the amount of injuries it has dealt with and shuffling of the lineup, but the Cavaliers have put forth a better performance in the past three games with 25-point average wins.

Just like Wisconsin, Virginia – which has used five different starting lineups this season - is playing younger guys that are only going to improve as the season progresses as they get more experience. True freshman guard Justin Anderson is one of those examples, as he has a number of highlight-reel dunks this season when given an opportunity to run in transition.

However, bringing a young team into the Kohl Center is rarely, is ever, a recipe for success. If these two teams matched up last year with their experience rosters, it would have been a heck of a game. I think Virginia will stick around because of the principles taught to them by Bennett, but I think Wisconsin pulls away to win by 14.

Worgull's Record: 5-1

Points off Prediction: 53 (8.8 per game)

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