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Wisconsin at Penn State Preview: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire

Nittany Lions. Bucky. This time...well this is the first time they've played this year.

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
Who: #14 Wisconsin Badgers (23-5, 10-5)
When: Sunday, Noon
Where: Bryce Jordan Center
TV: Big Ten Network
KenPom Rank: 11
Vegas Line: Wisconsin -6 via KenPom
Enemy Blog: Bucky's 5th Quarter

Penn State basketball is coming off of maybe the highest high it felt this year: topping Ohio State at the BJC on Tim Frazier's senior night to sweep the season series with the Buckeyes. Now, it hosts a more formidable foe to end its Big Ten home campaign in Wisconsin.

You may remember the last time these two teams played, on March 10 of last year. Penn State had just won its first Big Ten road game since 2011, and its last home game was when it upset Michigan at the BJC. Penn State brought Bucky down to the wire, but Wisconsin's Traevon Jackson canned a three as time expired to give Wisconsin a 63-60 win. It was my birthday. It sucked.

As for this year, other than a stretch where Wisconsin lost five of six games for reasons nobody quite understands, the Badgers have looked fantastic. It'd take a major upset for Penn State to win, although to be fair, nobody could have expected that PSU would sweep Ohio State, amirite?

Scouting the Opposition

Per usual, the Buzzcuts are a hyper-efficient bunch who will almost never beat themselves. The team is led by two HOSS-es in sophomore forward Sam Dekker -- who will leave for the NBA Draft after this season and looks like a choir boy -- and junior seven-footer Frank Kaminsky, who has a legendary derp face. The duo lead Wisconsin in scoring (Dekker at 13.6 a game, Kaminsky at 13.2) and rebounding (6.4 for Kaminsky, 6.3 for Dekker).

From there, Wisconsin has three guards who are all good but not spectacular: Ben Brust, who has quietly been in school since 1977, Jackson, and Josh Gasser. All three average at least 9 points per game, and all three shoot at least 37 percent from deep, with Gasser shooting an absolutely absurd 46.3 percent from downtown. All three also average about 4 -- or in the case of Brust, 5 -- rebounds per game, while Jackson leads the team with 3.9 assists per game.

After that, Wisconsin has Nigel Hayes putting up 7.8 points per game and...well that's basically it. Nobody else on the Badgers averages more than 3.2 points per game. This isn't a particularly deep Wisconsin squad, but the six guys that do most of the lifting are all really, really good. Of course, this means that you should anticipate that one of the guys that averages less than 3 points a night to torch us, because Penn State. YOUR TIME TO SHINE, DUJE DUKAN.

As a team, Wisconsin is 6th in adjusted offense and 44th in adjusted defense in Ken Pomeroy's rankings. It's not going to blow you away, but it's going to take care of business, like Bo Ryan teams usually do. Wisconsin doesn't score especially well (73.4 points a night, which is 111th in America), but it clamps down on defense to the tune of 63.5 ppg for its opponents, which is 33rd nationally. It's not a good rebounding squad, coming in 263rd nationally with 33.2 boards per game, and it doesn't share the ball very well, averaging 11.8 assists a night, which is 254th nationally.

Look for D.J. Newbill to have a big game for Penn State. Wisconsin's backcourt of Brust-Jackson-Gasser is 6'1", 6'2", and 6'3", while none of the guys are strong enough to match up with him.

Key Matchup

Donodon Dickerjack vs. Frank Kaminsky. Wisconsin's big man is a terrible matchup for Jack and Dickerson. If Dickerson guards Kaminsky, he'll head out on the perimeter and knock down shots, as he is a 39.1 percent three point shooter. If Jack guards him, Kaminsky will throw him around down low, as he has nearly 25 lbs. on Jack. Perhaps Brandon Taylor gets matched up on Kaminsky, despite being four inches shorter? I dunno. I'm terrified of this matchup, and wholly expect Kaminsky to go for 43 again.

Also, Ross Travis hounding Sam Dekker is going to be awesome. Dekker may come out on top, but he's gonna have to earn it.


I can't see Penn State pulling this one out. Wisconsin can play any style -- big, small, fast, slow, anything -- and like every Bo Ryan team, will never beat itself. I wouldn't be surprised if Wisconsin jumps out to like a 25-12 lead and keeps the Nittany Lions at arms length for the rest of the game. Give me the Buzzcuts to spoil Tim Frazier and Zach Cooper's final home game, 71-58.