The Nebraska Cornhuskers season turns to conference play tomorrow night as the Huskers travel to Madison to take on the No. 9 Badgers. The game begins a 20-game Big Ten schedule that is set to conclude at Northwestern on Sunday, Mar. 7. This will be the 33rd-all-time meeting between the two programs, and the 17th since Nebraska joined the Big Ten. Wisconsin has an 18-14 record overall, is 12-4 in Big Ten play, is 5-1 in Madison since 2011, and has a four game win streak right now in the series.
6 p.m. CST/7 EST
Madison, WI - Kohl Center
Play-by-play: Chris Vosters
Analyst: Stephen Bardo
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The Wisconsin Badgers enter this matchup at No. 9 in both the AP and Coaches Poll following a dominating win over then No. 24 Louisville on Saturday. Looking at the quick numbers, the Badgers are 6-1 on the season with noteworthy wins over Rhode Island and Louisville, though the Cardinals were missing eight scholarship players including their leading scorer, and a close loss to in-state opponent Marquette.
Head coach Greg Gard currently is in his sixth season at the helm with a 107-58 record with the Badgers. Wisconsin is also riding an eight game Big Ten win streak and a 14 game home winning streak.
The Badgers have their typical stifling defense and slow but methodical offense this season. Wisconsin leads the Big Ten in allowing just 58.1 points per game by opponents, and ranks third in blocked shots, averaging 5.6 per game. As of now, they are also the only team in the country to feature both offense and defense in the top 10 nationally in adjusted Ken Pomeroy Rankings as their offense ranks No. 10 and defense ranks No. 3.
Much like last season’s co-Big Ten Champs (most of the roster returns from that team after all), this team is more a sum of all of its parts than any particular player. Three players are on national watch lists. Those include point guard D’Mitrik Trice (Bob Cousy Award), power forward Nate Reuvers (Karl Malone Award), and center Micah Potter (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award).
Potter leads the Badgers in scoring (13.9 points per game) and rebounding (6.7 per game). He is also a lethal shooter. After averaging 52.8 percent from the field, 45.1 percent from three, and 86 percent from the free throw line last season, he is currently averaging 54.2 percent from the field, 50 percent from three, and 82.8 from the free throw line despite much heavier use as a starter so far this season.
D’Mitrik Trice is second in scoring on the team with 11.6 points per game, but leads the Badgers in assists (3.7 per game) and is tied for second in steals (1.1 per game). Nate Reuvers is third in scoring (11.6 per game) and first in blocks (2 per game). Finally, ninth-year senior and perpetual “he wasn’t set for that charge ref!” darling of the Big Ten Brad Davison (actual fourth year senior for the record, but it feels like he’s been here forever) is fourth in scoring with 10.7 points per game, but has led Wisconsin in scoring two of their last three games. He is also the 12th player in Badger history to make 100 starts, a feat he achieved last Saturday.
If the Huskers can improve on their showings last season, it will be a huge improvement. The Badgers went 33-for-65 (50.8 percent) from three-point range in the two games. On top of that, they set a school record for made three-pointers in Madison last year as they sunk 18 of them. As for this season, the Badgers will be a tough challenge for the Huskers to try and pull an upset.
Wisconsin has struggled at times in rebounding this season, and if Nebraska can come up with a clutch performance on the glass not usually seen it may present the best chance at an upset. Given Wisconsin’s slow pace, it makes them beatable if the Huskers can contest shots while playing defense and keep the three-ball percentages low. Setting themselves up with second chance points on offense will be important to ensure an opportunity to keep within striking distance late.
Unfortunately, I don’t think we will see that in this one. Badgers will likely roll and get the win again.