Breakdown: West Virginia vs No.10 Wisconsin

Looking to continue its early-season hot streak by adding a tournament championship to its resume, No.10 Wisconsin faces West Virginia in the finals of the Cancun Challenge tonight in Mexico. Badger Nation breaks down the matchup.

West Virginia (5-1, 0-0 Big 12) at No.10 Wisconsin (7-0, 0-0 Big Ten)

Date/Time -Tuesday, November 26, 8:30 p.m. Central

Arena –Hard Rock Riviera Maya

Television -CBS Sports Network (Thad Anderson and Steve Wolf)

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

Series – Wisconsin leads 2-1 (West Virginia leads 1-0 in neutral sites)

Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 69-62, on December 6, 1973 in Morgantown, W.V.

Wisconsin Probable Starters

1 Ben Brust (6-1 Senior Guard, 11.0 ppg)

12 Traevon Jackson (6-2 Junior Guard, 12.3 ppg)

15 Sam Dekker (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 13.7 ppg)

21 Josh Gasser (6-3 Junior Guard, 10.3 ppg)

44 Frank Kaminsky (7-0 Junior Forward, 16.6 ppg)

Off the Bench

3 George Marshall (5-11 Sophomore Guard, 2.0 ppg)

10 Nigel Hayes (6-7 Freshman Forward, 4.9 ppg)

13 Duje Dukan (6-9 Junior Forward, 4.9 ppg)

24 Bronson Koenig (6-3 Freshman Guard, 4.2 ppg)

West Virginia Probable Starters

3 Juwan Staten (6-1 Senior Guard, 18.2 ppg)

5 Devin Williams (6-9 Freshman Forward, 11.7 ppg)

10 Eron Harris (6-3 Sophomore Guard, 20.2 ppg)

11 Nathan Adrian (6-9 Freshman Forward, 6.5 ppg)

34 Kevin Noreen (6-10 Junior Center, 2.8 ppg)

Off the Bench

0 Remi Dibo (5-9 Sophomore Guard, 8.8 ppg)

14 Gary Browne (6-1 Junior Guard, 7.8 ppg)

15 Terry Henderson (6-4 Sophomore Guard, 9.4 ppg)

Last Time Out

PUERTO AVENTURAS, Mexico – The missed free throws were becoming contagious, and junior guard Traevon Jackson was frustrated that he was becoming the latest victim. Seeing a one-time 15-point lead be whittled down to five, Jackson didn't do him any favors by missing two attempts with 1:10 remaining.

It turns out that Jackson was just setting himself up for another big-time play in crunch time to allow No.10 Wisconsin to keep on rolling in the nonconference season.

"Just to be able to get in those moments, you've got to step up," said Jackson. "That's my role on this team. They trust me with the ball, and I have to pull through."

Jackson lived up to the billing by stealing a pass from Rob Loe on the ensuing series and drawing a foul with 51.4 seconds left. His two ensuing free throws contributed to his game-high 16 points, and allowed Wisconsin to survive a late Saint Louis run to upend the Billikens, 61-57, in the semifinals of the Cancun Challenge at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya.

The Badgers (7-0) – off to their best start since the 1993-94 season – will face West Virginia at 8:30 p.m. central Wednesday night for the tournament championship.

No matter the state or the country, Wisconsin keeps stacking up more impressive wins on its resume. Of its seven wins, six have come against teams picked to finish first, second or received first-place votes in their preseason conference polls.

Junior Frank Kaminsky scored 12 with eight rebounds and four of UW's seven blocks while four other players contributed at least seven points.

"Some guys are going to be able to hit some nights and some guys aren't, so to be able to pick each other up is huge for us," said Jackson. "It's a great balance."

One of those contributors was junior Duje Dukan, who went 3-for-3 for seven points and added three rebounds in his 10 minutes. His biggest play was an offensive rebound and putback at the first-half buzzer, giving Wisconsin a 31-23 halftime lead.

Wisconsin drew 13 more foul shouts than Saint Louis, but the Badgers went just 17-for-30 (56.7 percent) from the line. The Badgers entered the week leading the conference in free throw shooting.

Series Notes

Bo Ryan and West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins have combined for 1,409 collegiate wins. Huggins ranks 18th in NCAA history with a record of 728-287 in 32 seasons and Ryan ranks 34th with a mark of 681-216 in 30 seasons.

Wisconsin is 20-17 all-time against the schools currently in the Big 12. Wisconsin's last game against a Big 12 school was a 70-65 victory over Kansas State in the 2011 NCAA tournament.

Wisconsin Notes

With the win, Wisconsin is off to its best start of the Bo Ryan era. The Badgers have not opened the season with seven consecutive wins since starting 11-0 in 1993-94.

Kaminsky ranks among the Big Ten Conference's top 10 in scoring, averaging 16.6 points per game.

With Jackson leading the team with 16 points against St. Louis, all five starters have led UW in scoring at least once this season.

Wisconsin's seven opponent on the season have a combined record 23-4 record in their other games.

West Virginia Notes

West Virginia has a 231-153 record in tournament games, including a 108-68 mark during in-season tournaments.

The Mountaineers last in-season tournament championship took place at the 2009 76 Classic in Anaheim, Calif.

West Virginia leads the Big 12 this season in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.85). The Mountaineers rank second in points (88.8), 3-point field goal percentage (43.6), steals (8.00), turnover margin (+6.20) and third in 3-point field goals made (9.60)

Prediction

If there was ever a time for Eron Harris to show Wisconsin what the Badgers are missing out on, tonight would be the night. Harris was offered a scholarship by Wisconsin, only to have that scholarship be pulled when the Badgers decided to go a different direction.

Wisconsin had two scholarships that year – one went to Dekker and the other went to walk-on Zak Showalter after the Badgers missed out on J.P. Tokoto. UW could have made a move for Harris, but decided to hold the scholarship for the following season. Harris once listed UW as his favorite school and was planning to take a visit to UW when he heard from the coaching staff.

He's used it as motivation, and rightfully so.

Committing to West Virginia not long after, Harris has been outstanding for the Mountaineers through the early parts of his sophomore season. He ranks first in the Big 12 in scoring, is shooting 50 percent from the field and 50 percent from 3-point range. In West Virginia's 78-60 semifinal victory over Old Dominion, Harris – from Lawrence North High in Indianapolis - had 19 points on 7 of 10 shooting, including 3 of 5 from 3-point range.

A year ago, Harris led West Virginia with 9.8 points per game and scored in double figures 17 times.

But West Virginia, which was picked to finish seventh in the 10 team league, has seen more players develop around Harris, which has been crucial for a program that stumbled to a 13-19 record last season.

Juwan Staten has played 210 of a possible 240 minutes for the Mountaineers this year, scoring in double figures in each contest, is third in the conference in scoring and is shooting 59.0 percent from the floor with 47 assists and five turnovers.

Staten has had one or fewer turnovers in 12 of the last 13 games dating back to last year and leads the Big 12 in assists per game (7.6), assist-to-turnover ratio (9.50) and is second in steals (2.00).

Williams, West Virginia's big man, was also recruited by Wisconsin, is averaging a team-best 8.3 boards per game, including 9.9 rebounds in the last five games. He has posted three double-doubles this season.

"(West Virginia is) an under-rated outfit," said associate head coach Greg Gard. "A team that will draw some similarities to what we saw (against Saint Louis). We'll see some attacking perimeter players, as well, and a pretty good backcourt with Staten and Harris."

West Virginia plays with the same kind of physicality as a Michigan State or a Purdue, which means it'll be another perfect early-season test for the Badgers. The Mountaineers shot 56 percent from the floor, including 15 of 24 in the second half that included 5 of 9 from 3-point range, but finished minus-7 in the rebounding battle against an Old Dominion team that played with a three-guard lineup.

I thought Wisconsin was going to hit a wall against a good Saint Louis team last night for a variety of reasons (fourth game in a week, travel, playing a top-end team), but the Badgers responded with their best defensive effort of the season.

Wisconsin held Saint Louis to a season-low 57 points and their lowest shooting percentage of the season (32.8 percent). The Billikens also shot just 26.7 percent from 3-point range, improving the Badgers' 3-point defense to 30.5 percent (29-for-95) on the year and an average of just 4.1 makes per game.

According to STATS, Inc. UW held Saint Louis to just 0.86 points per possession, while averaging 1.03 on offense. For the season, the Badgers rank third in the Big Ten averaging 1.20 PPP and are 9th allowing 1.01.

Wisconsin is also showing it has balance scoring – 13 double-digit scores the last three games – and can win in a variety of ways (the Badgers attempted a season-low 12 3-pointers).

Dive into the numbers and West Virginia's record is slightly skewed. The Mountaineers are ranked No.126 in the RPI, have a strength of schedule at 286 and they have no top 150 RPI wins. On the other hand, Wisconsin has five wins over the RPI top 65.

If Wisconsin can limit its turnovers and play the same kind of defense it played last night, the Badgers will be able to frustrate a team not used to this kind of aggressive defense. After picking a close loss last night, I am picking a close 7-point win tonight.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Worgull's Record: 5-2

Points off Prediction: 68 (9.7 per game)


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