After starting off the new year with a solid road victory at Temple, the UW men's basketball team (9-2 overall) returns home to play host to the Cougars of Chicago State (3-8 overall) Saturday afternoon. This early season game matches up two teams that are heading in different directions, and for both, this will be their final tune-up before heading into conference play.
The Cougars, representing the Mid Continent Conference, come into Madison very young and inexperienced. On their 14-man roster, Chicago State only boasts two seniors and two juniors, while the remaining 10 are underclassman. Not a single player on the roster has any NCAA tournament experience. In fact, the one person who has had postseason prominence has been their Head Coach Maurice Ellis.
Maurice "Bo" Ellis, in his fifth year at the helm in Chicago State, is better remembered for his basketball playing days at Marquette, helping lead Coach Al McGuire's Marquette University team to the NCAA championship in 1977. But unlike the success Ellis had, his Cougars are well below .500 thus far this season, and on top of that, have very slim hopes of producing a NCAA Tournament caliber team.
Chicago State is led in scoring and assists by sophomore guard Craig Franklin. He averages nearly 15 points and five dishes per game. But outside of Franklin, the team has very little productivity. The team's field goal percentage is a weak 43 percent and their free throw percentage is also a dismal 59 percent.
While the Cougars seem to be mediocre at best entering their final non-conference game, the Badgers are rolling nicely in preparation for their upcoming bruising Big Ten schedule. Coming off a tough road contest against the Temple Owls Thursday night, Coach Bo Ryan and his young squad will be looking to iron out small kinks in their armor while maintaining their high level of intensity and concentration on the court.
Led by senior guard Kirk Penney, the Badgers are clearly stressing and exercising the wealth of talent they have from top to bottom on the roster. Penney, the lone senior on the team, is leading the team in scoring (16.4 points per game) and assists (3.5) and is becoming surrounded by a few rising talents.
Sophomore guard Devin Harris is becoming one of the strongest defensive players in the Big Ten as he continues to lead the team in steals with an average of 2.4 per game. His confidence both offensively and defensively is incredible, with only one season under his belt. As the season progresses, he should only get better.
Another budding Badger is freshman guard Alando Tucker. Tucker continues to improve in all aspects of his game. He has shown the ability to adequately fill any position needed by Ryan. Tucker is youngest of four Badgers averaging in double figures this season, and more importantly has used his youth and energy to be an instant spark for the squad during significant stretches during a game.
As the Chicago State Cougars arrive in Madison, bringing a sort of David vs Goliath atmosphere into their matchup with UW, it is imperative that the Badgers hold their own, play their style of game, and not overlook their competition in order to secure the victory. Here are the three keys to success for both Chicago State and Wisconsin:
Three Keys for Chicago State:
1.) Coughing it Up -- In Chicago State's three victories this season, it's averaged 13 turnovers a game, whereas in its eight losses, the Cougars have averaged about 17 a game. It's simple -- don't turn the ball over.
2.) Three Ball- - In 11 games this season, the Cougars have only made 40-of-133 three-pointers. In 11 games this season, the Badgers have 69-of-186. You'll make them more often if you shoot more and that is what the Cougars will need to do -- live around the three-point line.
3.) Rebounding This! -- The Cougars are atop of the Mid-Continent Conference in rebounding margin. Limiting the Badgers' second-chance opportunities will be a necessity.
Three Keys for Wisconsin
1.) Freddie! -- Junior guard Freddie Owens is one of the more under-recognized players on the UW squad, but is without a doubt the best slasher the team has. Defensively, he is solid as well, and in general, if Freddie plays well, so do the Badgers. Therefore, get Freddie going early.
2.) Grand Theft BBall -- Leading the Big Ten in steals, the Badgers are redefining the art of pick-pocketing on the basketball court. Averaging 8.6 steals a game, UW is also allowing just 4.7 to opponents. As long as Wisconsin keeps the ball from its opponents, the Badgers will have a good shot at victory.
3.) Charity Stripe -- The Badgers lead the Big Ten Conference in free throw percentage (74.6%) and in their victory over Temple, UW outscored the Owls 23-6 at the charity stripe. Getting to the free throw line and actually making shots is not very common in college basketball, so as long as the Badgers continue to do so, they'll have success.
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