|Who:||Indiana Hoosiers vs. Wisconsin Badgers|
|When:||Tuesday Feb 3, 7:00 p.m. ET|
|Where:||Kohl Center, Madison, WI|
|KenPom Rank:||Indiana - 50; Wisconsin - 5|
|KenPom Line:||Wisconsin -15|
Only one Big Ten team this year has been able to tug at the Wisconsin cape long enough to pull out a win. That loss at Rutgers may be the reason the Badgers are left off the top seed line in the NCAA Tournament this year, but there's obviously a lot of basketball left to play. On their current four-game winning streak, the Badgers defeated three opponents by double digits and are starting to cement their place atop the Big Ten, even without guard Traevon Jackson. The senior went down in the Rutgers game back on Jan 11 with a fractured foot and is still hopeful to return this season.
On the other side, nothing has come easy for the Hoosiers in conference play outside of the rout against Maryland on Jan 22. Every win has been by single digits with two of those on the road. The victory at Illinois didn't look like it would go in favor of the Crimson & Cream the first 30 minutes, but a win is a win. This team could very easily be 4-5 in conference play, but credit is due to a team that goes through the grind night after night and doesn't seem to flinch very often.
This, much like every other team in the Big Ten, will be the most daunting task: hang with Bo Ryan's team for 40 minutes in as hostile of an environment as there is in the country.
I think I gave Maryland too much credit thinking they would make it interesting. If you have stock in Maryland basketball; get rid of it now. As fast as possible. I'm not saying the Terps aren't a formidable opponent, but we're starting to see the wear on a team that's essentially playing an entire non-conference schedule of unfamiliar opponents. Maybe this is a team that's better off in the tournament with fresh opponents that is in their same position, but it's tougher than anyone knows to prepare the way Mark Turgeon has to prepare his troops every single day for two months.
And by the way, D'Angelo Russell has my vote for national player of the year after the last couple of performances he's posted. On Thursday, the freshman had a stat line of: 18 points, 14 rebounds, 6 assists, 4-6 shooting from outside and ZERO turnovers. He's a big reason why I thought this team was the second best team in the Big Ten.
Tale Of The Tape
Indiana (16-6, 6-3 Big Ten)
Do you remember last year's Golden State Warriors? A team that absolutely loved to play up and down and chuck up shots left and right was fun to watch? Any team that could put up 100+ points any night was a beautiful sight to see. The only problem was when they didn't have the ball and the fact they could allow about 110+ any given night. That about sums up this Indiana team. Shooters and slashers are plastered all over the place and there are more guys given the green light than seemingly any other team in the nation. It takes a special team to go into Madison and not just beat Wisconsin, but compete for an entire game. For a team that shoots just above 40 percent from outside, I'm saying they need to make at least 12 to have a chance to win.
Player to watch: Freshman G James Blackmon Jr (16.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.3 apg)
I wanted to pick a post player because someone is going to have to contain Frank the Tank to the best of their abilities, but that's what happens when there isn't a legitimate interior guy on your roster. I'm picking Blackmon Jr because he has to be special against a tough defensive team inside on Tuesday. If you're going to live by the 3, then you most certainly have to be willing to die by it as well. Wisconsin is 258th in the country giving up an average of 26 points per game from outside to opponents, so get planted and be ready to shoot and take chances if you're Blackmon.
#5 Wisconsin (19-2, 7-1 Big Ten)
This is simple. Wisconsin hits a stride in February. This is how the Badgers have fared in the month of February recently:
- 6-1 in 2014
- 6-1 in 2013
- 4-3 in 2012
- 7-1 in 2011
- 5-2 in 2010
28-8 down the home stretch is nothing to ignore. Outside of the minor hiccup that occurred in 2012, it's rare to win a game against one of the most consistent teams in the country and with a weaker Big Ten, I wouldn't be surprised if Wiscy runs the table this month.
Player to watch: Senior C Frank Kaminsky (17.6 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 2.3 apg)
I know it seems like the safe pick, but I could see Kaminsky going for 25 & 15 tonight. There's no one on Indiana that can handle him down inside, where I expect him to do most of his work early in the game. Then once you think you have him figured out, he steps outside and knocks down a 22 footer. Frank Kaminsky is like the water cycle: It rains, it evaporates and then does the same thing no matter what you do.
PREDICTION: Wisconsin 87, Indiana 66
I think I know how this story goes. Indiana will probably come out shooting 50-60 percent on their first 10-15 shots. When the second media timeout hits, we'll sit around and think. "I thought Ryan said Wisconsin was going to crush Indiana? He sucks." Wisconsin will go up by a respectable margin by halftime. Bo Ryan does whatever he does in the locker room. Badgers go on a 7-0 or 10-1 to start the half and Crean burns a timeout before the first media timeout in the second half. Indiana can't recover and Wisconsin steps on their throats like they were children in the Nationwide commercials this weekend.
Other Big Ten games to watch this week:
Wednesday, Feb. 4
- 20) Ohio State at Purdue
Thursday, Feb. 5
- Iowa at Michigan
- Illinois at Michigan State
- Purdue at Minnesota
- Nebraska at Penn State
Sunday, Feb. 8
- Michigan at Indiana
- 17) Maryland at Iowa