Date/Time – Thursday, February 16, 6 p.m. central
Arena – Crisler Arena (13,751)
Television – ESPN (Rece Davis and Jim Calhoun)
Radio –Badgers Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)
Series – Michigan leads 88-74 (Michigan leads 54-22 in Ann Arbor)
Last Meeting – Wisconsin won, 68-64, on January 17, 2017, in Madison
WISCONSIN PROBABLE STARTERS
0 D'Mitrik Trice (6-0 Freshman Guard, 5.5 ppg)
3 Zak Showalter (6-3 Senior Guard, 8.0 ppg)
10 Nigel Hayes (6-8 Senior Forward, 13.6 ppg)
22 Ethan Happ (6-10 Sophomore Forward, 14.2 ppg)
30 Vitto Brown (6-8 Senior Forward, 7.6 ppg)
OFF THE BENCH
11 Jordan Hill (6-4 Junior Guard, 1.8 ppg)
15 Charles Thomas (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 2.7 ppg)
21 Khalil Iverson (6-5 Sophomore Forward, 3.9 ppg)
PLAYER TO WATCH
Hayes has averaged 12.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game over his last four games against Michigan.
MICHIGAN PROBABLE STARTERS
5 D.J. Wilson (6-10 Junior Forward, 10.5 ppg)
10 Derrick Walton (6-1 Senior Guard, 14.7 ppg)
12 Muhammad Abdur-Rahkman (6-4 Junior Guard, 8.3 ppg)
13 Moritz Wagner (6-11 Sophomore Forward, 11.9 ppg)
21 Zak Irvin (6-6 Senior Guard, 12.6 ppg)
OFF THE BENCH
3 Xavier Simpson (6-0 Freshman Guard, 1.6 ppg)
22 Duncan Robinson (6-8 Senior Forward, 8.5 ppg)
34 Mark Donnal (6-9 Senior Forward, 4.8 ppg)
PLAYER TO WATCH
Walton Jr. was named the Big Ten Co-Player of the Week last week after helping Michigan to wins over Michigan State and at Indiana. He averaged 22.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists while shooting 60.9 percent (14-for-23) from the field, 83.3 percent (5-for-6) from three-point range and a perfect 12-for-12 from the free-throw line.
LAST TIME OUT
MADISON – Save for a brief run to start the second half, No.7 Wisconsin was stuck in the same shooting rut, only this time couldn’t make enough defensive plays to save itself in a 66-59 loss to Northwestern Sunday.
Junior Bryant McIntosh scored 25 points on 23 shots to give Northwestern (19-6, 8-4 Big Ten) a signature win to its resume, ending the Badgers’ 19-game home winning streak and tightening up the conference race in the process.
A day after fans created an uproar that the N.C.A.A. tournament selection committee didn’t view the Badgers as one of the top 16 teams in the country, Wisconsin responded by shooting 38 percent (19-for-50) and – in a change from recent weeks - sloppy play that prevented things from balancing out.
Not only did the Badgers finish with as many turnovers as points in the paint (12), they allowed the Wildcats - playing without leading scorer Scottie Lindsey for the third straight game – to shoot 48.3 percent from the floor in the second half, drop seven 3-pointers and deliver a defensive effort the likes the Badgers hadn’t seen since early January.
Ethan Happ scored seven points on Wisconsin’s first eight possessions, but the Wildcats took a page out of Nebraska’s playbook and threw double teams at him whenever he entered the low post. The result was the sophomore missing the four shots he took over the final 34:15 of the game, managing only a pair of free throws.
Because of Northwestern being undermanned, head coach Chris Collins said he was planning on double teaming Happ, and even Hayes to a degree, and live with the other players on the floor attempting jump shots.
Vitto Brown and Zak Showalter combined for 21 points on only six missed shots, but Bronson Koenig continues to struggle. Finishing 1-for-8, Koenig has missed at least seven shots in three of last four games and is 14-for-55 (25.5 percent) over that stretch, including 7-for-31 from 3-point range. The shooting slump coincides with a leg injury suffered in late January.
Wisconsin sprinted out of the gates on an 11-4 run, going 5-for-8 from the floor and holding the Wildcats to only 2-for-9. But like they have many times over the last month, the Badgers’ offense crashed down to earth. Only this time it took its defense and ball security with it.
For as quick as Northwestern dug itself a hole, the Wildcats delivered a 22-5 run over an 8:38 stretch, including a 16-0 run in six possessions that concluded with 3-pointers on three straight trips down the floor.
It didn’t help that the Badgers committed five turnovers in a 3:56 span, enabling the Wildcats to start sprinting ahead and lead 31-22 at the break.
There was a glimmer of hope to begin the second half, as Wisconsin ripped off a 10-0 by holding Northwestern scoreless on its first five possessions (including three airballs) and dropping a couple early perimeter shots, but a 14-5 counter run built the Cats’ lead to 47-38 with 9:31 left.
The Badgers couldn’t cut the lead closer than four. After D’Mitrik Trice’s layup cut the lead to 51-47 with 5:36 remaining, the Badgers finished the game 2-for-11 that included a meaningless 3-pointer at the buzzer.
UW has won 17 of the last 19 meetings with Michigan overall, including a string of five straight.
The Badgers have not played in Ann Arbor since 2015 when they claimed a 69-64 OT win. UW has won six of its last seven games in Ann Arbor.
Michigan has only scored 70+ points once in the last 19 meetings with Wisconsin, a 77-70 Wolverines win in Madison in 2014.
Under head coach John Beilein, the Wolverines are 2-16 against Wisconsin, averaging just 56.8 ppg against UW in 18 matchups.
MADISON – Staying confident and staying on the attack after being bottled up for the first 35 minutes, Koenig delivered in the clutch, scoring 10 straight points to erase a two-point deficit and spark No.17 Wisconsin to a 68-64 victory over the Wolverines at the Kohl Center.
Trailing by as many as eight points in the second half and six points with 6:29 to go, Koenig had only been able to get free for five looks at the rim, so Wisconsin called up the “elevator play.”
A play UW hadn’t run since last year and wasn’t in the playbook until Sunday, Koenig cut between a double screen delivered by Ethan Happ and Vitto Brown underneath the 3-point line, creating an open look he buried to give UW a 52-49.
One possession later, Koenig – calling for the ball open along the baseline – hit another in front of the Badgers’ bench off a feed from Nigel Hayes – who drew Koenig’s defender - with 4:30 remaining. It was UW’s first lead in 12 minutes and one it wouldn’t relinquish thanks to Koenig scoring 10 points in two minutes, five seconds.
The points in the paint were critical early. Wisconsin scored 32 points inside and that relentlessness attacking the post helped Wisconsin salvage a 26-21 halftime lead, as the Badgers scored 16 points in the paint with Happ (eight), Brown (six) and Hayes (two) doing the damage.
Those three - Brown (13), Hayes (13) and Happ (11) – all finished in double figures.
Michigan (12-7, 2-4) has built its roster to play like Wisconsin – two forwards who can stretch the floor, limit fouls and don’t turn the ball over. While they may look the part, Michigan wasn’t ready for the real deal.
While the Badgers forced the nation’s stingiest team (9.1 turnovers per game) into 10 miscues, they drew 21 fouls against the country’s most disciplined teams (14.2 fouls per game). UW was in the bonus for the final 14:25 of the game.
After scoring 28 points in their first 40 possessions, the Badgers had 38 over their final 24 possessions, helped by making 12 of their final 16 shots over the final 11:55
The Badgers had a pair of long win streaks snapped Sunday. UW had won 19 consecutive home games and 19 straight games vs. unranked opponents before falling to Northwestern.
The Badgers are a perfect 4-0 this season in games decided by six or fewer points.
Wisconsin is 3-0 in overtime this season and has now won each of its last eight overtime games and 11 of its last 12. Of those last eight wins, only one has come at home.
UW has had a commanding advantage on the offensive glass, grabbing 315 offensive boards compared to just 213 for its opponents. UW's 12.6 offensive rebounds per game ranks third in the Big Ten.
Michigan continues to lead the country with the fewest turnovers per game (9.4). U-M has had 10 or fewer turnovers in 18 games. The Wolverines are fifth in the nation in fewest fouls per game at 15.2.
Michigan is shooting a record pace 79.2 percent on free throws - three percentage points better than the 2013-14 squad's record of 76.2 percent. That percentage puts the Wolverines fourth in the nation and tops in the Big Ten.
Michigan has 234 three-pointers this season with six Wolverines already posting 20-plus. Derrick Walton Jr. leads U-M with 61, while Duncan Robinson has 46. The list rounds out with Zak Irvin (32), Moritz Wagner (29), Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (28) and D.J. Wilson (25).
D.J. Wilson has 37 blocks this season. That already is the most by a Wolverine in nine seasons.
Wisconsin opens the final third of conference play with one certainty – things are going to get ugly quickly if the Badgers don’t start finding their offense.
After skating by for two weeks by playing four of the worst teams in the Big Ten, the Badgers got a rude awakening when their offense continued to be absent, its defense was inconsistent and its turnovers were untimely. UW could afford to do that against the bottom of the barrel but not an 18-win team. Unfortunately for the Badgers, there are no “bad teams” left.
The combined conference record of the six teams remaining for Wisconsin is 42-36 (.538). While that mark is comparable to Maryland (41-36), making Sunday’s game between the two in Madison huge, Purdue’s final five games - Michigan State (8-5), at Penn State (6-8), at Michigan (6-6), Indiana (5-9) and at Northwestern (8-5) don’t appear nearly as challenging for a team that has won seven of eight and has the best player in the league in Caleb Swanigan. Not only is Wisconsin margin for error already small, it grew smaller with the announcement that Bronson Koenig won't play tonight.
Held out of practice the last two days, Koenig will miss his first game since the second game of his true freshman season in 2013-14, as the senior continues to struggle with a left calf injury suffered against Penn State Jan.24. Koenig's left calf injury has coincided with UW’s failing offense. The numbers speak for itself. In UW’s first seven Big Ten games, Koenig shot 51.5 percent overall (35 of 68) and 57.5 percent (23 of 40) from 3-point range. Since the injury, Koenig is shooting 25.5 percent overall (14 of 55) and 22.6 percent (7 of 31) from the perimeter.
UW has had the same starting lineup for virtually two full seasons, so it'll be interesting to see how Trice will impact the game in his first career start.
While Koenig is bruised, Walton is on fire for Michigan. He’s averaging 23 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.0 assists over his past five games. Those numbers come with him shooting 55.9 percent (33 of 59) from the floor, 53.8 percent from the perimeter (14 of 26) and 92.1 percent (35 of 38) from the free throw line. He drives, he dishes and he facilitates at a high level for the Wolverines, who are now firmly in the N.C.A.A. tournament discussion because of him.
Even before Sunday, I had a gut feeling UW would lose at Michigan, which should have beaten the Badgers in Madison. Maybe the loss was the shock to the system UW needed to get its offense moving again. Then again, does UW how to be an efficient offense for 40 minutes? If they do, they certainly haven’t showed it to this points against a top100 team.
Maybe Wisconsin will surprise us, but I’m going to go with the team playing better offensively – Michigan – to win by six.
Worgull's Record: 22-3
Points off Prediction: 218 (8.7 per game)