In their first matchup with Michigan, the Wolverines were able to control the game offensive against Wisconsin with a balance offense. The Badgers have started to do a better job of taking away the paint from their opponents, contest more shots and managed to make life a little more difficult for their opponents.
In this Badger Nation feature, we will look at the three keys or questions for Wisconsin to have success against Michigan.
Lay up: Can Traevon Jackson keep his play up?
Jackson particularly struggled in January but has become a lot more controlled as a player during their three game winning streak, keeping the offense in a rhythm.
In the past Jackson has tried to do too much on offense, usually resulting in turnovers. As of late Jackson has been doing a better job taking care of the basketball, taking what the defense gives him, finding ways to drive to the bucket or gaining separation from his defender to settle for a mid-range shot. Jackson over the last three games has shot better then 50 percent from the field.
Against the Wolverines, Jackson will have to try and help Josh Gasser out on the defensive side of the floor to slow down the Wolverines talented guard play. If Jackson can slow down Caris LeVert from attacking the rim or getting through screens, Wisconsin should give them a chance to win.
Mid-range jumper: Can Wisconsin play a complete game?
Wisconsin should be able to make this a competitive game if they can avoid what plagued them in the month of January: allowed teams to score at will or suffering through scoring droughts on offense.
In order for that to happen, Wisconsin can't afford wasted possessions and not generating offense in the low post. UW scored 32 points in the paint against Michigan in the first matchup, which means Nigel Hayes should have scoring opportunities. Hayes has slowly become a force down low, scoring in double digits the last four games. Michigan will try and limit Hayes around the rim but with how effective his mid-range game has been, the Wolverines won't be able to sag off him defensively.
Like Hayes, Frank Kaminsky showed against Minnesota that he can be aggressive around the rim. If both Hayes and Kaminsky can find success on the low block, it should open things up for Ben Brust or any guard trying to attack the rim for an easy lay up. It could also result in free throw attempts, but that may be difficult to come by considering the Wolverines average 14.5 fouls a game. If Wisconsin can get to the free throw line, they are going to have to be able to knock them down.
3-pointer: Which Josh Gasser is going to show up on defense?
Gasser has had an up-and-down season on the defensive end at times; either looking like the lockdown defender he can be or struggled to get through screens or stop dribble penetration against quicker guards.
Gasser will likely draw the defensive assignment of trying to slow down Nik Stauskas and may have to defend LeVert, two players who scored 23 and 20 points, respectively, in the first matchup. The Badgers will be in good shape if Gasser can replicate his performance where he was able to shut down Michigan State's Gary Harris to six points on 3-for-20 shooting.
Like Wisconsin, Michigan enjoys shooting, leading the Big Ten in league play at 40.2 percent. It's clear that Gasser is going to have to try and slow down Stauskas from three, who's a 44 percent career three-point shooter. Gasser can't allow Stauskas to create any sort of space because Stauskas usually doesn't need much to hit a big shot. Gasser will consistently have to try and have his hands up and move his feet well so he's not chasing Stauskas. If Gasser fails to defend him well, Stauskas won't be afraid to shoot the three.
The Wolverines will also try and get Stauskas and LeVert open using screens, Gasser will have to be able to fight through them or communicate well with his teammates on switches. If they don't, the Wolverines could carve up Wisconsin like they did in the first meeting.