Michigan Wolverines v. Wisconsin Badgers
February 28, 2016, 5:00 PM
Big Ten Network
In their first and only regular season meet-up, Sunday’s game with the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin should be a big game for the overall Big Ten standings, as well as post-season tournament placements. Wisconsin will play in the Kohl Center for the final time this season. Wisconsin has won 20 of the last 25 games against Michigan, although the Wolverines lead the series 91-69. The last time Michigan traveled to Madison was in January 2014, where the Badgers lost to the Wolverines. Whomever comes out with the win will prove that they are a real threat come Big Ten Tournament time.
Match-Up to Watch
It is likely that Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Zak Showalter will be matched up against each other. In Abdur-Rahkman’s last five games, he has averaged 13.8 points per game with a 54.3 percent field goal accuracy. He has gained much more playing time since Caris LeVert’s injury. He is gaining much more confidence on the court. Zak Showalter is another player that has gained more playing time since his freshman year. Showalter averages 7.7 points per game for the season, which is the exact same average Abdur-Rahkman has on the season. The two players are becoming more comfortable with their playing styles and are willing to take risks. Showalter’s athleticism should pair up nicely with Abdur-Rahkman.
X-Factor for Michigan
Michigan is ranked third in the Big Ten for three-point field goal percentage, coming in with 39.8 percent. Wisconsin is ranked last in the Big Ten for three-point field goal defense, with their opponents making 38.2 percent of their three-pointers. Michigan will be facing a Wisconsin team that has a lot of confidence as of late. A good way to get in the Badgers’ heads is to make three-point shots. Wisconsin will have a hard time keeping up with the Wolverines, as Wisconsin is more of a defensive-minded team, and has been known to go on shooting droughts. If Michigan can make their three-pointers, the Badgers’ offense may have a tough time keeping up with the Wolverines.
X-Factor for Wisconsin
Wisconsin has been strong with rebounding this season, led by redshirt freshman Ethan Happ. Happ is tied for fifth in the Big Ten, averaging 7.9 rebounds per game. Nigel Hayes follows with 5.6 rebounds per game. Wisconsin is a solid offensive rebounding team, averaging 11.8 per game. Michigan, on the other hand, averages 7.9 offensive rebounds per game. It is imperative Wisconsin can get those second chances on offense, especially with the strong Michigan offense. The more Wisconsin spends on offense, the more time they have to make up for any scoring droughts they may have. If Happ and Hayes can get rebounds on both sides of the court, Wisconsin will have more opportunities to score, which can only help the team, who has one of the lower field goal percentages in the conference.
Michigan averages 76.0 points per game. Wisconsin has a scoring defense of 64.3 points per game. It might be tough for Wisconsin to face a team that is so strong on offense. Michigan, on the other hand, will find it hard to make baskets against the Badgers’ defense, not to mention facing the Kohl Center crowd, which is likely to be rowdy for the last game of the season. Both teams are going to have to battle on offense and defense if they want to win one of the final games of the regular season.
This game is definitely going to be one that Big Ten fans will want to tune in to. It’s likely to make a difference in the standings and positioning of teams for the Big Ten Tournament coming up in a few weeks. I predict Wisconsin will win the game, but the game is going to be a hard-fought battle for both teams. Wisconsin’s streak has given a lot of confidence to the younger team. Michigan has suffered since losing Caris Levert, and I predict this game will be no different. I predict Wisconsin wins the game 72-66.
University of Wisconsin, Class of 2019