Tonight, the Nebraska Men's Basketball team head's to Madison to take on the Wisconsin Badgers. The last time these teams met on the hardwood, Husker fans were treated to one of the best moments in program history and sealed their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1998. Now, the Huskers are trying to get back to that level while the Badgers are widely considered the best team in the Big Ten and one of the best teams in the country. To get an idea of what this game looks like from the Wisconsin point of view, we turn to our friend Phil Mitten from Bucky's 5th Quarter to get their thoughts on the matchup. (I answered some questions for him as well, you can read that here.)
David: The last time these two teams met, it was something of a seminal moment for Nebraska. From the Wisconsin perspective, talk about what that game was like. I know I came away thoroughly impressed with how the Badgers handled the circus atmosphere.
Phil: What I remember most is that awful feeling that Nebraska was simply destined to win. Your guys were playing for an NCAA bid, while Wisconsin's Big Ten slotting was secure. I don't remember too many details other than Shavon Shields was spinning and slashing his way to the hoop at will. Then toward the end, the Huskers had the raucous crowd behind them, a couple big threes went their way and they went for the kill, Terran Petteway putting it away from the free throw line. I had this same feeling at about the three-minute mark Sunday during the Rutgers loss, actually. Destiny sucks sometimes.
David: The loss to Rutgers is one of those head-scratching losses you see every year. I realize Wisconsin was short handed, but that's not a game they should be losing under any circumstances. How do you expect the Badgers to respond?
Phil: Well, all of Badger Nation is hoping this doesn't turn into another swoon like Wisconsin experienced last year when the Badgers lost five of six (including at home to Northwestern) after starting conference play 3-0. The hardest part of moving on from that game, from a fan's perspective, is the haunting fear that dropping a very winnable game to Rutgers combined with losing Traevon Jackson to a broken foot could be the difference between an outright Big Ten title and possibly no title at all by the end of the year.
As for how the players respond, hopefully that experience from last season gives them some added resolve if this one comes down to the wire. Obviously getting Kaminsky back is a huge relief for the team, just from a confidence standpoint. It will be tough for Nebraska to stop both Kaminsky and Nigel Hayes, but really the defensive end if where Wisconsin has come up short lately. If the guards can limit penetration somewhat, the Badgers should be in good shape.
David: How do you expect to see the team react and adjust to filling the production void that Jackson leaves?
Phil: Sophomore Bronson Koenig has played well enough for a year and a half now that the drop off might only be situational. Jackson has that nebulous "clutch" gene that in theory is hard to duplicate. But Koenig has made some big shots of his own. Where he will need to grow is in his timing, knowing when to takeover or push the ball and when to facilitate. Jackson has really gotten good at that. Koenig, depsite shooting really well on Sunday, has been pretty passive this year in my opinion.
Beyond that, everyone is anxious to what direction Bo Ryan chooses to go for guard minutes off the bench, because there is quite a drop-off now after Koenig and Josh Gasser. That is more of an issue than Koenig filling in for Jackson. Redshirt sophomore Zak Showalter has dibs for now, but he's still raw.
David: In that vein, any concerns about Kaminsky coming off a concussion?
Phil: Not really. Kaminsky's was relatively lucky as his symptoms were limited to a headache and fatigue, not the sensitivity to light or vomiting that other concussion victims may experience. In fact, he tried his hardest to get the medical staff to clear him for the Rutgers game. Oh, if only ... at least he and the rest of the team will come out very motivated.
David: Last question, you know the drill.
Phil: Like you, I think this one will be much tighter than Vegas expects. With Wisconsin down a key man at the same time Nebraska is getting back to full strength, I think the battles at the forward spots could be epic. However, I don't think the Cornhuskers are a team that can really burn the Badgers from the perimeter as much, which is important as I mentioned due to the suspect depth at guard off the bench. If the Badgers can get to the line and actually make free throws, I'd feel safe calling a 64-57 Wisconsin win.
Thanks, Phil for your insight. You can catch the action tonight at 8:00 p.m. central time. Join the conversation here at Corn Nation while you watch along on ESPN2.