After a rough 8-24 season a year ago, the Panthers – coached by former Wisconsin assistant Rob Jeter - are off to a 9-2 start, and currently on a five game win streak with their last two wins coming over Northern Iowa and Bradley.
In this Badger Nation feature, we will look at the three keys or questions for Wisconsin to have success against its in-state opponent Milwaukee. Lay up: Can the Badgers win the rebounding battle?
Despite the early season success for Wisconsin, the Badgers still need to do a better job of rebounding. Wisconsin is averaging 34.3 rebounds a game to its opponents 31.9. The Panthers have been able to successfully attack the glass so far this year averaging 34 rebounds a game.
With the exception of Josh Gasser, all five of the Badger starters are averaging over five rebounds a game. Milwaukee thrives off of second-chance opportunities, averaging nine offensive rebounds a game. If the Badgers can't effectively box out, the Panthers they will be given extra chances to stay in the game.
Mid-range jumper: Can the Badgers force Matt Tiby into foul trouble?
Tiby is the leading scorer (14.7 points) and rebounder (6.8) for the Panthers, but he's averaging 3.3 fouls through UWM's first 11 games. Tiby has fouled out of three games this year, including two of the last three games.
Although it will be important for the Badgers to try and get Tiby into foul trouble Wisconsin's front court will have to be smart so they don't get in foul trouble themselves. Even though Evan Anderson and Zach Bohannon filled in nicely for Kaminsky and Hayes when they got into foul trouble against Marquette, both are still developing and aren't great long-term options at this point.
3-pointer: Can Traevon Jackson continue to protect the basketball?
One reason for the Panthers early success has been the ability of forcing their opponents into turnovers. Opponents are coughing up the basketball 12.7 times a game. Half of the turnovers by Panthers' opponents are coming off of steals where Milwaukee is averaging 5.72 steals a game.
Jackson is averaging a team-high 1.9 turnovers per game, but has started to take care of the basketball a lot better as of late and this season. The Panthers will try and play aggressive defense early to see if they can force Jackson into mistakes. If Jackson can take care of the basketball, the Panthers should let up and Jackson should be able to attack, get to the basket and possibly draw a foul against the Panthers.
If Jackson can't take care of the basketball it could lead to easy transition points for the Panthers.
Even if Gasser or Bronson Koenig are running the point guard spot both have done a good job so far this season with ball security. It's not a surprise that Gasser has taken care of the basketball due to his experience. But with Koenig being a true freshman it wouldn't be a surprise if early on in the season he had trouble taking care of the basketball. But Koenig has shown that even if he's pressured he has shown the ability he'll make good decisions with the basketball.