Preview & Prediction: By Blake Hofstad
These teams are no strangers to each other. Wisconsin (9-2) went down to Austin to take on the Longhorns, and Michael Flowers hit a buzzer beating three-pointer that turned around the Badger’s season. This season, #8 Texas (9-2) makes the trek north. Both of these teams prefer a slower tempo, so the first team to 65 may win. Wisconsin needs a marquee win to bolster their out of conference resume. For all their accomplishments, Texas needs to avoid a second straight loss to a Big Ten opponent, or all of a sudden they find themselves with 3 losses. Both teams really need this game, so it will be a hard-fought battle.
The Badgers have a tendency to win games they shouldn’t win, and this is one of those games. Marcus Landry leads the team in scoring, but there are about 6 guys who can lead the team in points on any given night. That can serve as a help or a hindrance, but I think in this case it may play to Wisconsin’s advantage. If this game is close, Longhorn defenders will be unable to key in on one guy. Trevon Hughes proved to be more than clutch this season when he went coast to coast and popped an off balance jumper to sink Virginia Tech, so if its close, that’s who Bo Ryan would turn to. The Badgers have a slew of players capable of drilling 3-pointers. Among them is Jon Leuer, who is one of the most versatile players in the nation. Not many know him, but he stands 6-10, can shoot the three (50%) and put the ball on the floor. Unfortunately Jason Bohannon has not been hitting his long shots. When on he can be the best shooter in the Big Ten, but he isn’t on. However, he has expanded his game to include more than the three point shot, which he had relied on too often in previous seasons.
The key for the Badgers will be to hold their own in the post against the ‘Horns. Wisconsin has a lot of undersized big men, and it should be interesting to see how they match up with the Texas trio of Dexter Pittman, Damion James and Connor Atchley. If the Badgers can limit the amount of second chance opportunities Texas gets, they will have a much better chance at swinging the upset.
Contrary to the Badgers, Texas has a go to scorer on offense. He isn’t relied on completely, but there are no doubts that AJ Abrams is the man. Abrams dumps in 19.7 points a game, and he is a knockdown shooter, connecting on over 45% of his three pointers. Damion James brings an interesting facet of the game to Texas. James is capable of playing any position, as is evident by his team leading 8 rebounds per contest and that he is second on the team to Abrams in 3PT%, hitting over 41%. Makeshift point guard Justin Mason dishes out 5.4 assists per game, more than double any other Longhorn. He is the catalyst, the guy that quietly goes about his business. As mentioned above, the key to this game will be the glass. And for Texas, that means the key is James, and Dexter “Sexy Dex” Pittman. Both men dominate the glass, and Pittman is a force on the offensive boards especially. Gary Johnson and Connor Atchley will also be crucial to Texas’ rebounding success.
The Badgers were able to steal one from under Texas’ nose last year. That kind of loss isn’t forgotten easily, and the Longhorns are coming into the Kohl Center with a vendetta on their minds. The rebounding margin will go to Texas, and with it, the game.
Winner: Texas Margin: 6-10 points
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About Blake Hofstad
An avid sports fan, you can nearly always find Blake Hofstad playing, watching, writing or just talking sports. His favorite team is the Wisconsin Badgers, and he is a huge Big Ten and Missouri Valley fan. The two things he hates about college basketball are Duke and the love Duke gets from most media members. You can find more of Blake's work on Onlinesportsfanatic.com.