Wisconsin Badgers v. Minnesota Gophers
March 2, 2016, 8:00 PM
Big Ten Network
The Border Battle takes place this week between the University of Wisconsin Badgers and the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers. Wisconsin is sitting at second of the Big Ten (a place that most people did not anticipate) after it’s win on Sunday evening against the University of Michigan. Wisconsin beat Minnesota on-the-road, 76-63, last season in early March as well; a win that sealed them the Big Ten Championship.
Match-Up to Watch
Joey King and Nigel Hayes are likely to be matched up against one another. As a senior and junior respectively, both players have become comfortable and confident in their playing styles. Both men are good around the basket. As it will be King’s senior night, it is likely he will be coming prepared to play. Hayes’s points per game average is higher than King’s, a difference of Hayes’s 16.4 PPG to King’s 11.8 PPG. Hayes is a lot stronger around the rim as well. However, King is a stronger three-point shooter, with his average being 41.5% for the season. King also leads the Big Ten in free throw percentage, making 89.2% of his shots from the line. The two forwards are going to have to battle each other for rebounds. Hayes will have to keep up the hard playing and cutting to the basket. King will need to sink some from beyond the arch to win the game. It is also likely that King will be sent to the free throw line, where he should maintain the streak he’s had all season.
X-Factor for Wisconsin
Wisconsin is a younger team. They have gained a lot of confidence, especially within Big Ten play thus far. While Bo Ryan’s early departure shook the team, it seems as if the players have moved on from that and are living up to their potential. However, coming in to the Barn will not be an easy feat for the young team. Minnesota and Wisconsin have a long history of hating on each other. The Barn is notorious for being loud and upsetting opposing teams. Wisconsin will really need to focus and tune out the jeering it will likely face with the rivalry between Wisconsin and Minnesota.
X-Factor for Minnesota
On Tuesday, Minnesota’s Head Coach, Richard Pitino, announced three players had been suspended for the duration of the season, including Nate Mason, Minnesota’s leading scorer. The suspended players did not play on Sunday’s game with Illinois as well. It was clear that Minnesota struggled without Mason. The other players on Minnesota’s roster will have to step up if they want a chance at beating Wisconsin. Minnesota has not had a great Big Ten run. They are 2-14 in conference play, but they have proved that they can upset top teams at home, with their victory over Maryland a few weeks ago. Without Nate Mason, it may be hard to upset a team ranked higher, and it is imperative someone steps up to compete with the Badgers.
Wisconsin’s average scoring offense is 69.1 and it’s scoring defense is 64.0, making it’s scoring margin +5.1. Minnesota’s scoring offense is 69.8, with it’s scoring defense coming in at 74.0. The scoring margin for Minnesota is -4.2, the second worst in the Big Ten. These scoring margins are very similar, although, Minnesota’s is a deficit. The Badgers have lower scoring games than the Gophers, however, the numbers are close. This statistic is significant because it’s likely to predict the outcome of the game, with Minnesota ultimately losing.
Going off what I said above, I predict Wisconsin will win the game 71-67. The game will certainly be close, what with the rivalry and atmosphere of the Barn. However, Minnesota is just not a legitimate force in the Big Ten this year. They have lost some close games, but have also lost by huge scoring margins. Minnesota is basically what Wisconsin would have spiraled in to if the Badgers hadn’t turned their season around. I think the Gophers will pose a threat to Wisconsin and the Badgers will have to push it to win the game. However, the Gophers will ultimately go on a scoring drought and lose the game.
University of Wisconsin, Class of 2019