Wisconsin vs. Michigan Preview

Wisconsin can take sole possession of first-place in the Big Ten with a victory over Michigan tonight at the Kohl Center (8 p.m., WISC-3). Arvind Gopalratnam previews the showdown

The UW men's basketball squad returns home tonight to host the Michigan Wolverines on ESPN- Plus (WISC-3 in Madison). The Badgers are coming off a 61-53 road victory against Iowa in which they wrapped up a season sweep of the Hawkeyes.

After falling out of first place in the Big Ten with a disheartening loss at Penn State, UW (19-6 Overall, 9-4 Big Ten) shot an atrocious 9-of-25 from the field in the first half against Iowa.

The second half was a different story, with the Badgers regaining their form to produce a 40-point half, while holding the Hawkeyes to just 24 points. Leading the way for the Badgers were sophomore forward Mike Wilkinson's career-high 20 points and junior guard Freddie Owens' 13 points.

Up next for Coach Bo Ryan's troops is a rematch with the conference-leading Michigan Wolverines. Michigan (16-9, 9-3) currently holds a half-game lead over the Badgers in the race for the Big Ten title and is coming off an impressive road victory last week over then No. 23 Purdue.

Leading the way for Coach Tommy Amaker's Wolverines was freshman guard Daniel Horton and his season-high 31 points.

Tonight's matchup marks the second meeting between the two teams this season. Michigan won the first meeting at Ann Arbor, 66-65, coming back from a 15-point second-half deficit and was led by senior guard LaVell Blanchard's double-double, 17 points and 11 rebounds.

The game is the 138th meeting all-time between the two schools as Michigan holds an 84-53 series advantage. But UW has won six of the last eight meetings at the Kohl Center.

THREE KEYS FOR WISCONSIN

1. Turnover Margin - The Badgers' + 3.00 turnover margin per game marks not only as the best in the Big Ten, but also one of the best in the nation. Creating turnovers leads to better and easier shots, evident in nearly all of UW's victories this season.

2) THREE'S - All of UW's starting five have the potential to knock down the three-ball from anywhere on the court, causing huge matchup problems for opponents. But the shots need to be going down in order to stretch the opposing ‘D' and really take advantage of this big strength.

3. FIRST HALF D - The Badgers can't take for granted their Big Ten's best defense. Seemingly, the ‘D' is only coming out during second halves when the Badgers are down and needing big stops. As much emphasis is put on needing to improve the offense, the defense must be obvious and stingy right off the bat in order to get the Grateful Red in the game right away and keep the opponents on their toes from the get-go.

THREE KEYS FOR MICHIGAN

1) FRESHMAN FIREPOWER - The Wolverines boast some of the best and most overlooked freshman in the Big Ten. In addition to Horton, Michigan showcases the likes of Lester Abram, Graham Brown, and Chris Hunter, all of who can and will be needed to make contributions for a Wolverine victory.

ROAD WARRIORS - Michigan seemingly doesn't have many problems playing on the road in the Big Ten, as they are the only squad to post a .500 record or better on the road.

3) RAINING 3'S - As important as the 3-point shot is to the Badgers, it could be even more important to the Wolverines. Michigan is nowhere near gun-shy when it comes to firing up long balls. The Wolverines threw up 19 against UW in the first meeting this season. They shoot close to 36 percent from beyond the arc, putting them in the top three in the Big Ten in that category.

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