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Figthing Illini Basketball Scouting Report: Wisconsin Badgers

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It can’t possibly go as poorly as last time.

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Season Recap

The Badgers are 10-15 on the season and 3-9 in conference play. The Badgers are on a five-game losing streak.

Can you guess what their last win was?

That’s right, it was a 25-point blowout win against Illinois in Madison. In fact, that is Wisconsin’s only win in its last ten games. Illinois was also the only team to allow the Badgers to top 70 points in their last 10 games.

The Badgers are 1-8 on the road this year as they prepare for their trip to Champaign. This matchup features two teams who want to play completely differently. Illinois wants to get up and down the floor and play a game with as many possessions as possible, while Wisconsin wants to slow the game down, limit possessions, amd win the game by being more efficient than its opponent.

Wisconsin blocked 10 of Illinois’ shots in game one this year, a season high for the Badgers. The Illini also shot 1-for-14 from three and 3-for-7 from the free throw line. These stats provided the lowest marks for three pointers made, three point percentage, free throws made and free throws attempted on the year. That combination of season lows is going to lead to a loss every single time.

Key Additions and Losses

In case you missed the first meeting between these two teams, here’s a brief recap of the roster shakeup that took place in Madison this past offseason:

The Badgers lost four of five starters from last season’s Sweet 16 team. Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes were two Big Ten stars and Wisconsin greats the team lost to graduation. The Badgers also lost seniors Zak Showalter and Vitto Brown. Those four players each played over 20 minutes per game and combined for 43 points per game on the season. The Badgers lost a lot of experience and production, but expectations were still relatively high due to the success their system has had, regardless of who is on the roster.

As expected, the Wisconsin roster is riddled with freshmen to replace all of the seniors on last year’s team. The freshman leading the way is point guard Brad Davison. Davison is the prototypical, scrappy Wisconsin guard, all the way down to the buzzcut haircut. He is the team’s second leading scorer and distributor at 12 points per game and 2.3 assists per game, respectively. Every time Wisconsin is on my television set, for any length of time, I see Davison attempt to take at least three charges. Davison takes and makes the most three point shots on the roster and is the teams second best three point shooter by percentage, at 38%.

Star Watch

The player to watch in the first game was Ethan Happ, and it’s still Ethan Happ for game two.

Happ has been the one consistent thing on Wisconsin’s roster this year. You can go ahead and pencil him in for at least 18 points, nine boards and four assists against the Illini tomorrow. Illinois has no one who can guard him out of the post, so it will be important for the guards to deny entry passes into the post to limit the damage from Happ.

Don’t be surprised if Spicy G logs a season high in minutes to help Finke and Black stay out out of foul trouble while defending Happ.

Prediction

I have a feeling that the Illini are going to be playing angry tomorrow night after what happened in Madison (and in Columbus). Expect a fast start and a big first half from Frazier. Te’Jon Lucas was also missing from the lineup the last time these two teams met. He should provide much needed defensive support on the perimeter that was missing from the first matchup.

This a must-win game for Underwood, the players and fans who all want to see improvement as the Illini wrap up the season. Illinois played its worst game of the season against Wisconsin earlier this year, and I don’t expect that to happen again.

Illinois 74, Wisconsin 67.

Leave your prediction in the comments.