The No. 18 Wisconsin Badgers are looking for anything to help build the team’s confidence after back-to-back losses to the Iowa Hawkeyes and a heartbreaker to the Michigan State Spartans. The Badgers will now have to try to build that confidence on the road against the No. 16 Michigan Wolverines at Crisler Arena tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. The game will be televised on CBS with Verne Lundquist and Clark Kellogg on the call.
Wisconsin is trying to avoid its first three game losing streak since the six game losing streak back in the 2008-09 season. That season also marks the last time the Badgers lost two consecutive games at the Kohl Center. Enter Michigan, who the Badgers have won the last 10 against. The last meeting was the 53-52 thriller won by Wisconsin last year on a banked 3-pointer by Josh Gasser at the buzzer. Wisconsin holds an 86-57 edge over Michigan in the all-time series, including a 53-20 edge in games played in Ann Arbor.
While Wisconsin is recovering from a loss, the Wolverines are doing the same thing as it dropped a hard-fought 73-71 game to the Indiana Hoosiers at Assembly Hall Thursday night. Michigan comes in 12-3 and had won seven straight before losing in Bloomington.
The Wolverines are led by sophomore sensation Tim Hardaway Jr., whose father Tim Hardaway Sr. was a first round draft pick of the Golden State Warriors and played 15 NBA seasons, averaging over 17 points and eight assists a game. The younger Hardaway averages 15.8 points a game this year, while shooting it at 44 percent clip. He also averages nearly three assists per game.
Michigan has had a line of solid point guards, starting with Daniel Horton before passing to Manny Harris and most recently Darius Morris. This year is no different. Fabulous freshman Trey Burke is second on the team in scoring at nearly 14 points per game and leads the team in assists, averaging over five per game. His best performance came last Sunday in a win over Minnesota where Burke dropped in 27, while shooting 8-11 and going 9-11 from the free throw line. He didn’t shoot the ball well against Indiana, going just 4-15, but he did grab seven rebounds and dish out eight assists in a losing effort.
Jordan Taylor finally had a Taylor-like day, scoring a season-high 28 points on 7-11 shooting and grabbed five rebounds. But his four turnovers hurt Wisconsin, especially his turnover in overtime, which led to a Michigan State basket.
Wisconsin will need Taylor to step up once again if the Badgers want to come out with a win. Another Badger will have to help him in that department as well. Ryan Evans and Jared Berggren have showed flashes, but haven’t been consistent enough.
The two key matchups of the game are Burke against Taylor, as well as Berggren going up against Jordan Morgan. The big man for Michigan averages 7.6 points per game, but shoots a whopping 68 percent from the field.
The key will be stopping the 3-point shooting for Michigan. The Wolverines have taken 355 3-pointers this year and have connected on 37 percent of them. Evan Smotrycz is shooting an incredible 55 percent from behind the 3-point line and Zack Novak is shooting nearly 40 percent. Trey Burke and Stu Douglass can also fill it up from behind the arc, so the key will be getting a hand in their face, forcing the Wolverines to shoot contested 3-pointers.
As crazy as this sounds, it may be a good thing for the Badgers to go back on the road. Wisconsin is 2-1 on the road this season and they can go in with the mindset that everyone expects the Badgers to be out of it. Wisconsin plays much better as the underdog and I expect it to continue. I think Berggren will pull Morgan out on the perimeter on the offensive end, where he is not comfortable and I think Berggren shoots the ball well tomorrow afternoon.
PREDICTION: Wisconsin 61, Michigan 57