Breakdown: Minnesota vs No.12 Wisconsin

Looking for its first tournament title since 2008, No.12 Wisconsin starts its postseason against a familiar foe, as seventh-seed Minnesota is looking for a win to get itself off the tournament bubble. BadgerNation breaks down the matchup.

Minnesota (20-12, 8-10 Big Ten) at No.9 Wisconsin (25-6, 12-6 Big Ten)

Date/Time -Friday, March 14, 5:30 p.m. Central

Arena –Bankers Life Fieldhouse (18,345)

Television -Big Ten Network (Eric Collins, Shon Morris and Stephanie White)

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

Series – Minnesota leads 102-93 (Wisconsin leads 1-0 in neutral sites)

Last Meeting -Wisconsin won, 78-70, on February 13, 2014 in Madison

Wisconsin Probable Starters

1 Ben Brust (6-1 Senior Guard, 12.5 ppg)

12 Traevon Jackson (6-2 Junior Guard, 10.9 ppg)

15 Sam Dekker (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 13.1 ppg)

21 Josh Gasser (6-3 Junior Guard, 9.4 ppg)

44 Frank Kaminsky (7-0 Junior Forward, 13.3 ppg)

Off the Bench

10 Nigel Hayes (6-7 Freshman Forward, 7.8 ppg)

13 Duje Dukan (6-9 Junior Forward, 2.5 ppg)

24 Bronson Koenig (6-3 Freshman Guard, 3.0 ppg)

Minnesota Probable Starters

1 Andre Hollins (6-2 Junior Guard, 14.4 ppg)

4 Deandre Mathieu (5-9 Junior Guard, 11.9 ppg)

20 Austin Hollins (6-4 Senior Guard, 11.8 ppg)

24 Joey King (6-9 Sophomore Forward, 6.2 ppg)

55 Elliott Eliason (6-11 Junior Center, 5.5 ppg)

Off the Bench

5 Daquein McNeil (6-3 Freshman Guard, 1.5 ppg)

15 Mo Walker (6-10 Junior Guard, 7.8 ppg)

30 Malik Smith (6-2 Senior Guard, 8.2 ppg)

Last Time Out

Allowing No.9 Wisconsin to hover around 50 percent heading into the second half, Nebraska turned up the defensive intensity to see UW miss 14 of its final 19 shots, a big key in helping Nebraska end the Badgers' eight-game winning streak with a 77-68 victory at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Shavon Shields and Terran Petteway each scored 26 points for Nebraska (19-11, 11-7), which won for the 10th time in 12 games to clinch fourth place in the Big Ten for their highest conference finish since 1997-98. Nebraska also registered its first win over Wisconsin (25-6, 12-6 Big Ten) since joining the Big Ten before the 2011-12 season.

UW put four players in double figures, led by Frank Kaminsky's 14 points, eight rebounds, four blocks and three assists, but the Badgers shot 34.4 percent in the second half after shooting 54.2 percent in the first half, putting a major dent in UW's hope for a No.1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Josh Gasser had 11 points and nine rebounds while Nigel Hayes scored 12, but went 2-for-7 from the line.

The Badgers led by as many as seven points in the second half and retook the lead with 12:33 remaining following a Kaminsky's 3-pointer. From that point the three themes of the night all reared their head.

For starters the offense vanished, as Wisconsin went 0-for-6 from the field on a 13-4 Nebraska run that UW never recovered from. Three of those misses on that stretch came from Sam Dekker, who finished 3-for-9 shooting, scored only six points (his third straight game in single digits after having only four such games previously) and spent half of the second half on the bench despite one personal foul.

"You know, I never pick apart a player in a press conference," said Ryan of Dekker. "He's got things to work on like a lot of our other guys."

The Badgers entered the regular season finale ranking second in the conference in free throw percentage, shooting 75.3 percent on the season, but shot 52.2 percent (11-for-21) Sunday, their lowest since going 1-for-4 against Jan.14. On the decisive run, UW finished 2-for-7, including missing the front end of a bonus situation.

"They regrouped and shut down some things and they hit some shots," said Ryan, as UW also committed 11 turnovers that turned into 17 Nebraska points. "Playing from behind we had a couple chances there, biting into their lead and missed a few free throws."

Shields scored all 20 of his points inside the perimeter and six from the free throw line while Pettway scored 12 from two-point range and 11 from the free throw line. Nebraska shot better than 50 percent in each half and 52.6 percent for the game.

- Benjamin Worgull, BadgerNation.com

Last Meeting

MADISON - Starting off both halves with thunderous dunks to ignite the 17,249 in attendance, Kaminsky's 17 points led No.21 Wisconsin to a 78-70 decision over Minnesota; the same Gophers team that throttled the Badgers in a wire-to-wire victory 22 days earlier.

"I think we were better prepared this time," said Kaminsky, who added six rebounds and a perfect 9-for-9 at the free throw line. "We didn't do much different. We just had to go out and execute on offense and defense. We had to do that from the opening tip, go out and make plays happen from the get go. Energy is contagious."

Senior Ben Brust scored a team-high 20 points, including making three 3-pointers, and freshman Nigel Hayes (15 points) scored in double figures for the fourth straight game for Wisconsin (20-5, 7-5 Big Ten).

Sam Dekker added 10 points, giving UW four players in double figures for the 17th time this season. It was also the 17th time Wisconsin cracked the 70-point barrier.

"I just thought we were better," said UW coach Bo Ryan. "Working hard (and) reading and reacting to one another."

After scoring a school-record 43 points in the fourth game of the season, Kaminsky's commitment to the post had tapered off as of late, being held under double digits in four of the last six games. That included nine points in only 15 minutes against the Gophers after sitting most of the first half because of foul trouble.

Getting a dose of confidence back from his 10-point performance Sunday against No.9 Michigan State, Kaminsky helped lead the charge to reclaim the low post. After giving up a staggering 48 points in the paint, Wisconsin held Minnesota to only 20 points in the paint and 45.1 percent for the game, a stark turn round from the 66.7 percent the Gophers put on the Badgers in the second half previously.

"They did a great job of not allowing us to throw the ball in the paint, into the post, where we really had out way with that at home," said Minnesota coach Richard Pitino, who used the term "polar opposites" to describe UW's defensive performances in the two games. "They did a great job adjusting, that is why coach Ryan has won as many games as he has won. He really prepared them in that regard."

Minnesota (16-9, 5-7) started 5 of 9 from the floor, building a 14-7 lead with 13:19 left, but it was at that point the Badgers bucked up defensively, something it didn't do often during that stretch of five losses in six games.

Engineering a 15-3 run, Wisconsin held Minnesota to one free throw over 10 possessions while forcing six turnovers. The Gophers finished with nine turnovers in the first half and 13 for the game, a big difference compared to the seven turnovers in 57 possessions in the first meeting.

Mo Walker, who scored a career-high 18 points in the team's first meeting, spend the last 12:42 of the first half on the bench with a pair of fouls, while forwards Joey King and Elliott Eliason followed shortly after with two fouls each. That allowed Wisconsin to attack the basket early and often, helping UW score 18 points in the paint and go 30-for-36 from the free throw line.

- Benjamin Worgull, BadgerNation.com

Big Ten Tournament Notes

The Badgers are the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten tournament for the 3rd time in school history - advancing to the championship in both prior instances. UW is 5-1 as a No.2 seed.

Wisconsin owns a 17-14 (.548) overall record in Big Ten Tournament, winning championships in 2004 and 2008 and advancing to the finals in 2005, 2007 and 2013.

UW will enjoy a first-round bye in the Big Ten tournament for the 14th consecutive season, including all 13 years of Bo Ryan's tenure.

The Badgers have not played on Thursday of the BTT since 2000 and have only been seeded lower than 4th three times in the history of the tournament.

Bo Ryan is now 13-10 in Big Ten tournament games. Ryan's 13 tournament wins ties Steve Alford (Iowa, 13-6) for the third-most in conference history.

Just 5 players on UW's active roster have played in a Big Ten Tournament game, combining for 19 total games of experience and 9 combined starts. Brust and Kaminsky are the only 2 players who have played in Banker's Life Fieldhouse.

Series Notes

Bo Ryan owns a 17-6 (.739) record against Minnesota overall.

The Badgers have won five of the last seven games against the Gophers, but split earlier this season with each team winning on its home floor.

UW and UM have only met once in the Big Ten Tournament, a 66-52 Badgers win in the 2003 quarterfinals.

Wisconsin Notes

UW has win streaks of 16 and 8 games and is now 25-6. The Badgers are No. 6 in the RPI, with the nation's 3rd-toughest schedule. UW is 6-1 over AP Top 25 teams and 9-3 against the projected NCAA tournament field.

UW boasts its most productive offense in 19 years, but is also 4th in the Big Ten in scoring D (64.2 ppg), 1st in the nation in fewest TOs (8.2 per game) and 2nd in the NCAA in fewest fouls (14.8 per game).

Wisconsin's entire starting 5 and top reserve were all recognized with 2014 All-Big Ten honors, highlighted by Frank Kaminsky's consensus first-team All-Big Ten selection. Sam Dekker was a second-team All-Big Ten pick. Wisconsin now has 11 first-team All-Big Ten accolades during Bo Ryan's 13 seasons - tied with Ohio State for most in the Big Ten over that span.

Dating back to Feb. of 2011, UW is 79-2 when leading or tied with 5:00 left, including a mark of 23-1 this season. The only losses over the last 4 years have been to Ohio State this season (led 54-50) and at Minnesota last season (led 49-43).

Minnesota Notes

With his 135th appearance Thursday night, Austin Hollins set a school record for career appearances. He finished with 18 points, his 22nd double-digit game of the season and the 22nd time he led the Gophers in scoring.

Minnesota is 14-6 when leading at halftime and 7-3 in games decided by 6-to-10 points this season.

This is the second time the Gophers compete in the tournament as the No.7 seed. The only other instance came in 2003, when Minnesota lost to Northwestern in Chicago. The Gophers are 11-8 in BTT games played in Indianapolis.

Prediction

Although falling short of the Big Ten regular season championship for the sixth straight year, the competitive fire hasn't dwindled inside the walls of the Kohl Center, at least that was the impression members of the University of Wisconsin gave off during its practices preparing for the Big Ten tournament here in Indianapolis.

"We're excited," said Gasser. "I love this time of year. March Madness is awesome as a fan. It's even more awesome as a player. This one-and-done format is fun knowing you have to go into every game and if you lose you're done. It's what you work for so hard in the offseason. It's what you play for."

While there may be some players who are down and out after finishing in a tie for second place in the Big Ten, head coach Bo Ryan certainly hasn't worried about thinking about what could have been had his team dropped five of six during an odd-January swoon.

Ryan has been always been about the process, or about ‘next' as he likes to say, which is wanting to win the programs' first Big Ten tournament championship since 2008.

"As my folks always said, ‘it's fun to want,'" said Ryan. "So I have fun wanting … and the players should have fun wanting. There will be 12 teams wanting … As adults say to young people, wanting is not a bad thing, but getting is something else. How are you going to get what you want?"

Wisconsin will likely get what it wants if it can return to playing its brand a basketball, which it struggled to maintain at times during Sunday's loss to Nebraska in Lincoln. The Badgers finished with 11 turnovers, missed 10 of their 21 free throws and missed 15 of their last 19 shots, but the biggest problem was their defense.

Nebraska shot 52.0 percent overall and 54.5 percent from 3-point range, as the Cornhuskers two main players – Shavon Shields and Terran Petteway – scored 26 points and did the majority of damage driving to the lane, a problem point that UW had during its January swoon when it let opposing players have their way.

"We were playing well in a hostile environment," said Treavon Jackson. "We just didn't close it out. We didn't convert on offense when we were getting scored on on defense. We didn't get stops from our defense to help us out on offense. We're a better offensive team when we get sops. We're a better offensive team when we score. The two work hand in hand together."

The run of Wisconsin under Ryan in the tournament has been remarkable, especially when it's known that Wisconsin hasn't played on Thursday of the conference tournament since 2000. During that run, the Badgers have made five appearances in the championship game, winning two titles.

"We've all been raised with the idea of don't be a flash in the pan as a person, and as a team, we don't want Wisconsin to be a flash in the pan," said Ryan. "We'd like them to be consistently competitive at a high level. Some years are going to be a little better than others.

"I think our players have responded to that. They've taken what abilities that they have. They've worked together. The synergy that they have produces a record … But the thing that our guys have always tried to do is tried to go into every game trying to make sure the other team, if they're going to be on the left-hand side, that they have to take it from you. You're not going to give it to them."

Ryan calls this year's tournament as unpredictable as any tournament he's been a part of in his 13 years at Wisconsin, but Gasser said the Badgers are as hungry as any because none of the players have a Big Ten championship ring, a chance they missed out in last year's championship final in Chicago, losing by seven to Ohio State, and one they missed out this season by finishing a distant second behind Michigan.

Still the Badgers have done enough to earn a high seed in both this tournament and the one next week. And while Gasser admits it's hard to ignore the projections of who Wisconsin is going to play, what seed they are going to play and if they are going to play in Milwaukee, he admits that unfinished business supersedes anything else that may be going on.

"It's not only one game at a time, it's one possession at a time," said Gasser. "If you get scored on a certain way, it's like, ‘they're not going to score that way again.' You've got to learn from the past and value each possession a little more come tournament time because teams are so good this time of year. One little mistake, one possession, usually determines games."

The last time UW suffered a loss following a long winning streak the Badgers struggled to regain their competitive edge. When asked what the difference is between now and then, Jackson points to the level of maturity he and his teammates have grasped over the last several weeks, and the start of tournament season brings a new slate for everyone involved, including UW.

"The past doesn't matter at all," said Jackson. "We just have to take it one game at a time."

Wisconsin is my pick to win the tournament, and I believe they start off its championship run with a 7-point victory.

Worgull's Record: 21-10

Points off Prediction: 272 (8.8 per game)


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