Things didn't go well for the Huskers in their Big Ten opener at Ohio State. Things almost didn't go well for the Badgers either. Both teams enter the game looking for answers as they head deeper into what is shaping up to be a murderous conference slate that might be deeper than most expected with Illinois and Minnesota playing so well. Both teams will approach this game with a sense of urgency. Following the Huskers lackluster performance in Columbus, Coach Miles called out his team for what he dubbed a lack of hustle. Wisconsin, a sweet 16 team a year ago, has struggled a bit on the perimeter replacing graduated point guard Jordan Taylor while also replacing his heir apparent, Josh Gasser who was lost for the year with an ACL tear. The Huskers are facing a bit of an injury situation as well as it appears as though Andre Almedia will miss the game after spraining an ankle vs. Ohio State.
Nebraska wins if:
Coach Miles called this game a winnable game. And he's right. This is not your vintage Wisconsin team. They'll still play physical basketball defend you well, but they're missing the playmakers they've had in the past that put them over the edge in games like this. So, how does Nebraska win this game? They need to make shots and rebound. Sounds basic, but it might just be that simple. The Huskers have been a bit Jekyle and Hyde this season when it comes to how well they shoot from game to game. They'll come out guns a blazing one game and cold as ice the next. If the Huskers are more of the latter, they'll find themselves in position to win the game. Wisconsin will play tough defense, that much hasn't changed, so this will be easier said and done for the Big Red.
As for rebounding, with the liklihood that Almedia will miss the game, this becomes more difficult. The Badgers likely had the post advantage before Andre went down, now they'll unquestionably have it with him on the shelf. If they can find a way to compensate for that (making shots would be a good place to start...) that will go a long way towards winning the game.
Wisconsin wins the game if:
The Badgers haven't been a great team away from the Kohl Center this year and while their opponent today isn't exactly a world beater, road struggles are road struggles regardless of the venue and Badger fans are nervous, as I found out in my Q & A over at Bucky's 5th Quarter. If Wisconsin wants to give themselves their best chance to win, they need to clamp down on Gallegos and Talley and force one of the young guys in David Rivers or Shavon Shields to beat them. The Huskers haven't proven they can win a game vs. a quality opponent, if Wisconsin forces them to do that tomorrow, they should head back to Madison 2-0.
How this one plays out:
Don't expect to see another sluggish from the Huskers. You'll see the most intense effort of the year from them after getting called out by their coach for a lack intensity. The question will be whether or not they'll be able to execute at the same time. Expect the Badgers to come out looking to atone for their uninspiring effort as well and take advantage of a perceived weaker opponent and one of the more winnable games a B1G team will face. Conversly, the Huskers are facing an opportunity to grab a win of their own in a season that features few opportunities as ripe as this one. If they want to sneak their way into some sort of post season play, this becomes nearly a must win. This should be a close, competitive games.
High volume of Tums sales in Madison.