Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Game 13: Northwestern @ Wisconsin

The Matchup: Northwestern (8-4) @ Wisconsin (11-3)

Location: Kohl Center (Madison, Wis.)

TV: Big Ten Network (7:30 PM CT)
Radio: WGN 720 AM

Fun Fact: Northwestern’s Women’s basketball squad got their first conference win against Wisconsin on Sunday 49-46. Can the men follow suit?

About the Wisconsin Game

Wisconsin currently sits atop the Big Ten. Is any anybody surprised? I doubt it. The Badgers might not have been the most heralded team coming into this year, but Coach Bo Ryan always has his team competing for the league title. Right now, the Badgers 2-0 conference record stands as the result of wins over #23 Michigan (73-61) and Penn State (65-61). Both are solid teams and it says a lot positive things for the Badgers that they pulled off those victories.

The Badgers are led by 6-7 230 lbs. forward Marcus Landry who scores 13.1 ppg and is coming off a career-high 23 against Penn State. Landry has the ability to step out hit a three, but he can also score down low. He is a tough match up for Northwestern’s zone defense. If NU chooses to go man-to-man, as they did for a portion of the MSU game, I’d like to see Jeff Ryan guard Landry. Ryan has the widest variety of defensive skills of any Wildcat and I think he would give Landry trouble.

Another Badger who might give NU’s zone major problems is guard Jason Bohannon. Bohannon is a dead-eye three point shooter who scores 11.0 ppg. He has record double figures nine times this year. NU must closeout on him better than they did against MSU’s Chris Allen or he will light up the ‘Cats in a similar manner.

Bohannon is joined in the Badger backcourt by Trevon Hughes, an excellent point guard, Hughes has 27 assists and only 7 turnovers in his team’s last nine games. He also scores 12.6 ppg. Finally, forward Joe Krabbenhoft plays defense and rebounds (6.4 ppg) for the Badgers. Statistically he’s a so-so scorer (8.0 ppg), but if NU doesn’t improve its rebounding, I expect Krabbenhoft to get a lot of second chance points.

Prediction: NU matches up much better with Wisconsin this year than in many years past. Amazingly, even in some of those years when NU seemed seriously mismatched with the Badgers, the Wildcats pulled off victories. However, all those wins were in Evanston. Nobody, save two of the best Illinois teams ever and last year’s Purdue squad, have beaten Bo Ryan’s Badgers in Kohl Center during the Big Ten season. I think NU has a chance to beat Wisconsin this year, but that chance will have to come January 31st in Evanston—not tonight. Wisconsin, 55 Northwestern, 50

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