Wisconsin has started off the season well with a pair of wins by an average margin of 37.5 points a game. Despite Wisconsin having control of both of its games from the opening tip, Green Bay will be a bigger challenge for the Badgers. The Phoenix played Wisconsin tough last year, falling by three points at home, and finished last season 24-7 after losing its opening game in the NIT.
The Phoenix will come to Madison undefeated after beating Illinois-Springfield in their opening game. Picked to win the Horizon League this season, Green Bay is still seeking its first win in Madison as Wisconsin leads the all-time series 16-0 in home and leads the all-time series 19-1.
In this Badger Nation feature, we will look at the three keys or questions for Wisconsin to have success as Wisconsin looks for their third win in a row against in state opponent Green Bay.
Lay up: How will Vitto Brown’s role change?
With redshirt senior Duje Dukan set to return to Wisconsin tonight, it will effect Brown’s minutes as the season progresses. Brown has played well over the first two games, averaging 6.5 points and 6.5 rebounds, in 17 minutes of work, allowing Brown to gain great experience and giving him more confidence in his game.
Dukan could be first off the bench before Brown against Green Bay. Even if Dukan isn’t, it is likely that Brown and Dukan will split time. Dukan looked good throughout practices leading up to the season and it will be interesting to see how he can mesh with the other players when he gets on the court, how he plays and how it will effect substitution patterns.
Brown and Dukan have the ability to play together on the floor, with Dukan playing the three in place of Sam Dekker and Brown in for Nigel Hayes. If Wisconsin has Brown, Dukan and Frank Kaminsky all out on the floor, it provides some great length for the Badgers on defense. Through their first two games, the Badgers have used their length to their advantage, averaging 3.5 blocks a game and have been plus-21 in the rebounding battle.
Brown has been able to do his damage through two games off of offensive rebounds, and he should have success against the Phoenix in his time on the floor.
Mid-range jumper: Can Josh Gasser slow down Keifer Sykes?
Sykes was one of the key reasons why Green Bay almost beat Wisconsin last season, scoring 32 points in the loss. Gasser drew the assignment of Sykes last year and will likely defend him again tonight. Coming off his knee injury, Gasser had trouble keeping Sykes in front of him and preventing Sykes from consistently driving to the hoop.
Sykes was able to get off to a strong start in the season opener, scoring 22 points on 8-for-11 shooting. Gasser has done well defensively this year through two games, despite the level of competition, and will need to force Sykes to settle for perimeter shots. Three-point shooting has been the area where Sykes has traditionally struggled, as he is a career 34 percent 3-point shooter.
Sykes averages 4.9 assists to 2.1 turnovers last year, meaning Gasser can use his length to provide enough pressure to force a poor decision with a pass or cut off his vision to force a turnover for his teammates. If the Badgers can get some easy points in transition it should take some wind out of Green Bay.
3-pointer: What can Kaminsky do against Green Bay?
Kaminsky is off to a solid start with consecutive double-doubles and that run could continue going up against 6-9 center Greg Mays. When Mays isn’t in the game, Kaminsky will likely be going against 6-11 Henry Uwadiae. Although Uwadiae can match up with Kaminsky’s height, he can’t match up with Kaminsky’s appearance with only one college game under his belt.
With Kaminsky having the height and experience advantage, the offense should run through him, and Kaminsky should be able to help set up his teammates for good looks. It is not surprising that Kaminsky has had success scoring and rebounding (he’s shooting 52 percent from the floor this season), but probably the most surprising stat is that he leads the team with eight assists.
Kaminsky has been able to accumulate some of his assists off a defensive rebound and getting the offense going in transition. When Kaminsky gets the ball and starts to move up the court, it will be a difficult match up for the Phoenix to slow down. The Badgers’ spacing on offense has also been good through two games, as good ball movement has led to open shots and Wisconsin shooting 51 percent from the floor this season.
With Sykes’ ability to score, Kaminsky will be counted on to defend the rim and cut off any dribble penetration to force difficult shots. While Kaminsky has the height on Mays, the Phoenix senior scored six of his 14 points in the opener from the free throw line. If Kaminsky gets in foul trouble and has to sit, it could limit what Wisconsin’s offense and defense can do.