Date/Time – Sunday, February 28, 5 p.m. central
Arena – Kohl Center (17,287)
Television – Big Ten Network ((Jeff Levering and Jon Crispin)
Radio – Badgers Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)
Series – Michigan leads 88-72 (Wisconsin leads 46-33 in Madison)
Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 71-60, on March 13, 2015, in Chicago
WISCONSIN PROBABLE STARTERS
3 Zak Showalter (6-2 Junior Guard, 7.7 ppg)
10 Nigel Hayes (6-8 Junior Forward, 16.4 ppg)
22 Ethan Happ (6-9 Freshman Forward, 11.9 ppg)
24 Bronson Koenig (6-4 Junior Guard, 13.5 ppg)
30 Vitto Brown (6-8 Junior Forward, 9.2 ppg)
OFF THE BENCH
11 Jordan Hill (6-3 Sophomore Guard, 3.2 ppg)
15 Charlie Thomas (6-8 Freshman Forward, 2.8 ppg)
21 Khalil Iverson (6-5 Freshman Forward, 2.8 ppg)
24 Alex Illikainen (6-9 Freshman Forward, 2.7 ppg)
PLAYER TO WATCH
After scoring only two total points in the last five games, Iverson scored nine points, including three dunks, and contributed a career-high 3 assists in 20 minutes off the bench in a road win at No. 8 Iowa.
MICHIGAN PROBABLE STARTERS
10 Derrick Walton Jr. (6-1 Junior Guard, 12.3 ppg)
12 Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (6-4 Sophomore Guard, 7.7 ppg)
21 Zak Irvin (6-6 Junior Guard, 11.3 ppg)
22 Duncan Robinson (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 11.2 ppg)
34 Mark Donnal (6-9 Junior Forward, 3.5 ppg) </p>
OFF THE BENCH
3 Kameron Chatman (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 2.8 ppg)
24 Aubrey Dawkins (6-6 Sophomore Forward, 7.6 ppg)
32 Ricky Doyle (6-9 Sophomore Forward, 4.0 ppg)
PLAYER TO WATCH
Ranking in the top 25 in the Big Ten in scoring and rebounding, Walton Jr. has 18 double-figure scoring games, leads the Wolverines with 5.7 rebounds per game and has a team-best 3.9 assists per game.
LAST TIME OUT
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Wisconsin’s embraced another road environment by being the stronger team down the stretch against the rested Hawkeyes, closing the game on an 8-1 run to deliver a 67-59 victory over No.8 Iowa at a stunned Carver-Hawkeye Arena Wednesday night.
Tying the Big Ten record with its 16th straight winning season, Wisconsin took down the Hawkeyes (23-6, 11-4) for the sixth straight time – and ended their 16 game winning streak - with a complete team effort.
Koenig was the leading scorer but the Badgers got at least seven points from five other players, making up for foul-plagued Ethan Happ (five points, 2-for-4) and another off-shooting night for Nigel Hayes (3-for-11). Hayes scraped together 10 points, including a 3-pointer with 1:42 remaining to start an 8-1 run to end the game.
But what will really excite the fan base was the brunt of the contributions came from the youth of the roster. Khalil Iverson, who had scored two points in the last five games combined, delivered with nine points in 20 minutes. He added three rebounds, three assists and a handful of thunderous dunks, including a windmill slam that punctuated an 8-0 run that put UW up 53-51 with 8:46 left.
With Zak Showalter in foul trouble, Jordan Hill delivered another fabulous outing with nine points, two rebounds, two steals, an assist and no turnovers.
Even freshman Charlie Thomas, who was on the scout team all week, responded when he was called in for duty to buy time for Happ with five points. Just 3-for-11 from 3-point range this season, Thomas’ 3-pointer with 6:15 left gave Wisconsin a 56-54 lead, and UW wouldn’t trail again.
The Badgers shot 51.9 percent in the first half, a result of going 10-for-18 on 2-point shots and scoring 18 points in the lane, but trailed by as many as six in the opening minutes of the second half as Iowa hit timely shots and took advantage of spotty possessions.
From that point forward, Wisconsin became the rugged team. The Badgers chipped away on offense, brought tough pressure on defense and continued to get big contributions from uncommon places.
After shooting 40 percent in the first half, Iowa shot just 26.7 percent in the second half, including scoring three points and making no field goals in the final 6:01.
CHICAGO - Junior Sam Dekker led Wisconsin with 17 points while senior Frank Kaminsky (16 points, 12 rebounds) and sophomores Bronson Koenig (12 points) and Nigel Hayes (11) all played critical roles and provided a nice lift in No.6 Wisconsin’s gritty 71-60 victory over Michigan.
The Badgers also got eight points off the bench from Duje Dukan in the second half, going 3-for-5 from the floor and hit a pair of timely 3-pointers – one coming after Michigan took a 3-point lead and another after the Wolverines tied the game for 44.
Wisconsin – the heavy tournament favorites – was stagnate on offense during stretches and inconsistent on defense, a reason Michigan shot 51.9 percent, saw Wisconsin miss eight straight 3-pointers at one point and led the Wolverines smelling upset after leading by as many as nine points in the first half.
It took time for the pro-Wisconsin crowd to finally get something to cheer about. Shooting in the mid-30s through long stretches of the first half, Wisconsin finally figured it out with an 18-4 run to close the half, going 7-for-9 from the floor while holding the Wolverines scoreless for the final 3:35.
Going against a four-guard starting lineup, Wisconsin’s three 6-9+ forwards – Dekker, Hayes and Kaminsky – pummeled the interior of the Wolverines’ defense to the tune of 36 points in the paint and a +15 edge on the glass.
The trio finished with 34 points on 17-for-33 (51.5 percent) and had 27 rebounds.
Even with the edge inside, it was a grind, a two possession game for a total of 16 minutes, 8 seconds of the second half that wasn’t decided until Michigan went cold for the final 4:05, making just two baskets down the stretch.
UW has won 15 of the last 17 meetings with Michigan overall, including a sweep of two meetings last season. The Badgers claimed a 69-64 overtime win in Ann Arbor before beating the Wolverines in the 2015 Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals.
Wisconsin has won 11 of the last 12 home games vs. Michigan, with the only loss coming in a 77-70 decision in 2014. Prior to 2014, Michigan’s last win in Madison was a 51-39 win in 1999 that was later vacated by the NCAA. UM’s last official win in Madison prior to 2014 was a 69-68 OT decision in 1991.
Michigan’s 2014 win at Madison was the only time the Wolverines scored 70+ points once in the last 17 meetings. Under Beilein, the Wolverines have averaged just 56.4 ppg against UW in 16 matchups.
Wisconsin has won 13 of its last 14 Senior Day games with the lone blemish coming in a, 69-56, 2013 loss to Purdue.
Over the last six games, the Badgers have gone 57-for-134 (.425) from long range (9.5 3FGs per game).
UW has faced the third-toughest schedule in the NCAA and have steadily climbed to 34th in the RPI. Of UW’s 15 Big Ten games, eight have come against teams currently in the RPI top 30.
Wisconsin and Providence are the nation’s only two teams that have tallied a pair of top-10 wins on the road. UW has multiple top-10 road wins for the first time since 1955 when the Badgers won at No. 6 Illinois and No. 6 Minnesota in the same season.
UW’s mark of 34-5 (.872) in Feb./March is the 2nd-best winning percentage in the nation. Stephen F. Austin is 29-3 (.906).
Michigan has a total of 39 games lost to injury this season - Spike Albrecht (21; hips), Caris LeVert (14; lower left leg), Derrick Walton Jr. (3; ankle) and D.J. Wilson (2; ankle). Over the last three seasons, U-M has lost 125 games to injuries.
Michigan is sixth nationally and a B1G best for personal fouls per game (15.6). U-M has been among the top 10 nationally for the last four years including a nation's best 14.2 per game average in 2013-14. U-M was second in 2012-13 (12.7) and seventh last season (14.2).
Michigan is shooting 47.6 percent from the floor, which ranks 29th nationally and fourth (4th) in the B1G. It is just below the highest average during Beilein's tenure after his 2012-13 Final Four squad shot 48.4 percent.
The Wolverines ranked seventh nationally and leading the B1G with a 9.8 turnovers per game.
Two of Michigan’s biggest pieces have been spectators for the majority of season.
While senior leader Spike Albrecht had to end his career in December with a hip injury, the Wolverines have sorely missed senior Caris LeVert, who has missed a total of 14 games with a lower left leg injury and is not expected to play this evening. LeVert has averaged double figures in each of the last three seasons, and Michigan could use him to get itself off the tournament bubble.
But in reality, Michigan has become used to playing without him. Over the last two seasons, LeVert has missed 28 games. After going 5-9 without him last season, which included four overtime losses, Michigan has managed to go 8-6 without him in the lineup this year, but that includes a 0-5 mark against ranked team.
“I think they have adjusted playing without (LeVert),” said Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard. “Sometimes when you lose someone like that, you skid. They did for a little bit, but I think now they have adjusted to life without him. Sometimes when you have someone like that go down, you rally and everybody steps up their game.”
And while the Wolverines are undersized, particularly in the low post, Michigan has been competitive because of its perimeter shooting. The Wolverines are shooting 39.8 percent from the perimeter, a mark that puts them 12th nationally, third in the Big Ten and just behind the 2012-13 Final Four squad that shot 40.4 percent.
“It’s a system we haven’t seen yet this year for the most part,” said Gard. “They put four 3-point shooters out there at once, sometimes five. That’s probably the biggest thing, the stress they put on you from a defensive standpoint.”
The stress comes from multiple outlets. Walton shoots 41.3 percent from 3-point range but also attacks the glass and hits the open man, traits that come from being tough-minded and experienced.
“He’s a really good player,” said Koenig. “I’ve been playing him since the AAU days. He’s a playmaker, he can get into the lane, he’s small, he’s short, low to the ground and can finish through contact.”
Robinson is seventh nationally shooting 46.6 percent from long range and needs 19 more three-pointers to become just the second Wolverine ever to reach 100 in a single season. He also is 27-for-28 (96.4 percent) from the free throw line this season, including 20-for-20 in conference play. The only negative with him is he’s 10 for his last 34 from 3-point range.
“He’s got both size, athleticism and shooting ability that you see at Division 3 level,” Gard said of Robinson, who sat out last season after transferring from Williams College.
In total Michigan has six rotation players that shoot at least 35 percent from 3-point range in conference play. As a result, the Wolverines are averaging 76 points per game this season, 0.8 points more than John Beilein's FInal Four squad three years ago. Problem is the Wolverines never have been able to score on Wisconsin (more than 70 points once in 17 games) and there’s not a legitimate post presence on the roster to balance out its offense. Sure, Michigan splashed 13 3-pointers on 27 attempts at Maryland, but the Wolverines lost by four last weekend because the Terps hit 24 shots inside the arc and went 17-for-19 from the free throw line (Michigan was only 6-for-8). UW should be able to take advantage with the combination of Brown, Happ and Hayes.
The Wolverines need to pad their resume — RPI of 50, three top-50 wins, four road wins, strength of schedule of 70 — and a road win against one of the hottest teams in the conference would go a long way to impressing the N.C.A.A. tournament selection committee. Unfortunately for them Wisconsin wants to make sure it hears its name called in two weeks. Too much low-post production and just enough shots for the perimeter should give UW a healthy 9-point win.
Worgull's Record: 20-8
Points off Prediction: 259 (9.3 per game)