Men's hoops: Post shift

With their backups out of the lineup, Brian Butch and Jason Chappell need to take on larger roles

Two weeks ago, the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team boasted four relatively interchangeable parts at the ‘4' and ‘5' positions. The news this week that forward Marcus Landry and center Greg Stiemsma are academically ineligible, however, has cut that depth in half.

The starters remain the same: 6-11 forward Brian Butch and 6-10 center Jason Chappell. But there is less room for error now. Butch and Chappell have to take on more minutes and the Badgers no longer have the luxury of finding the right mix of minutes among the quartet in any given game. With Landry and Stiemsma coming in off the bench, UW was insulated against a sub-par game from one of its starters or against foul trouble.

"It just means more minutes for us and we've got to step up and be able to fill that role and be able to give energy for that extended time that we're out there," Chappell said.

"We're playing a little bit more minutes and whatnot but we've just got to try to go out there and play tough defense and try not to get into foul trouble and just go out there and play hard," Butch said.

Saturday's game against Michigan will be UW's fourth without Landry and Krabbenhoft and thus far Butch and Chappell have adapted well.

Said Chappell: "I've definitely been getting more tired the past couple of games than I have earlier in the season but it's just something you've got to work through and I'm not going to complain about getting more minutes."

The post players' stamina could be challenged as the season progresses, but thus far it has not been a significant issue. In the past three games Butch, who is nursing an ankle injury, has averaged 19.3 minutes, while Chappell has averaged 25.7. Meanwhile, freshman forward Joe Krabbenhoft has switched from playing primarily the ‘3' or ‘2' to serving as the primary backup at the ‘4'. Krabbenhoft has averaged 27.3 minutes the past three games.

"We've got guys to pick us up," Butch said. "We've got Joe (Krabbenhoft) and Kevin (Gullikson) coming in now, so nothing really changes the way we go about it. We're going to go out there and play hard all the time."

Unmasked man

After playing 13 games with a face shield to protect a nasal injury, junior forward Alando Tucker was mask-free in the Badgers' 72-43 win over Penn State Wednesday. Tucker, who was 6-for-12 for 17 points, said it was a relief to ditch the mask.

"I can breathe actually," he said. "… I didn't need any windshield wipers this game. It feels good. I feel back to normal. I don't have any pain… At no point during the game did I actually worry about getting hit in the face. You just have to look past it. I was ready for this point a couple games ago, to get the mask off."

On the board

Also in Wednesday's game, freshman walk-on Devin Barry scored his first career point, making 1 of 2 free throws. Sophomore Tanner Bronson scored his first point of the season, also making 1 of 2 free throws. Bronson also had two steals in the game, in just four minutes of mop-up duty.

Badger Nation prognostication, Wisconsin at Michigan

Michigan is coming off one of its biggest wins in recent memory, a 72-67 victory over No. 11 Michigan State Wednesday night. The Wolverines run 10 deep when wing Lester Abram—who is questionable with an ankle injury—is healthy.

Michigan is certainly among the most talented teams in the Big Ten and this season the Wolverines have benefited from having a relatively healthy group. Guard Dan Horton (16.6 points and 5.5 assists per game) is the catalyst and three other players average double figures: center Courtney Sims (12.6 points per game), guard Dion Harris (10.7) and Abram (12.1).

This will be the first team UW has faced in the Big Ten that can truly match up well with the Badgers' length. That is especially true now that reserve forward Brent Petway is back in the mix after being academically ineligible in the first semester. Sims and senior forward Graham Brown have done a solid job on the glass this year, and Petway and Chris Hunter give the team formidable post players off the bench.

Wisconsin cannot match Michigan's depth but the Badgers do stack up fine talent-wise. And the team rebuilt some confidence with a decisive victory over PSU Wednesday.

The key for UW is point guard Kammron Taylor, who must play tough defense on Horton or Harris. On the offensive end, the Badgers need Taylor to be a catalyst, and that means getting a few more shots to fall than in the previous two games. The feeling here is that Taylor has some momentum after hitting a pair of 3-pointers midway through the second half Wednesday while contributing six assists with zero turnovers in the game.

Our pick: Wisconsin 75, Michigan 73.

What: No. 23 Wisconsin (15-4 overall, 5-1 Big Ten) at Michigan (14-3, 4-2)
When: Saturday, Jan. 26 at 1:35 p.m.
Site: Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Broadcasts: Televised live on ESPN Plus (WISC in Madison; WMLW in Milwaukee; WFRV in Green Bay; WLAX in La Crosse; WFXS in Wausau). Broadcast live on the Wisconsin Radio Network.
Series notes: Michigan leads the all-time series 85-57, including a 52-16 mark in games played in Ann Arbor… UW has won seven of the last 10 in the series… The Badgers are 2-3 in their last five games at Crisler Arena after previously losing 16 straight in Ann Arbor.

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