Badger Basketball Preview: Penn State edition

The Matchup: Penn State (12-1) at No. 4 Wisconsin (12-1)
When: Wednesday, Dec. 31; Noon CT
Where: Madison, WI; Kohl Center
Radio: Badger Radio Network
Last Meeting: UW won, 71-66, at Univ. Park, Pa. (3/2/14)
All-Time Series: UW leads, 31-10

Projected Starting Lineups:

Penn State

G Shep Garner - Fr. 6-1, 185 (9.7 ppg, 2.3 apg)
G D.J. Newbill - Sr. 6-4, 205 (21.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg)
F Brandon Taylor - Jr. 6-6, 225 (10.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg)
F Ross Travis - Sr. 6-6, 225 (5.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg)
C Jordan Dickerson - Jr. 7-1, 245 (2.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg)


G Traevon Jackson - Sr.6-3, 207 (8.8 ppg, 3.1 apg)
G Josh Gasser - Sr. 6-4, 192 (7.0 ppg, 2.9 rpg)
F Sam Dekker - Jr. 6-9, 230 (12.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg)
F Nigel Hayes - So. 6-8, 235 (11.0 ppg, 7.8 rpg)
C Frank Kaminsky - Sr. 7-0, 242 (16.5 ppg, 7.9 rpg)

Key Matchup: Brandon Taylor vs. Sam Dekker

Dekker (1)Sam Dekker has been excellent all season long, ranking second on the team in scoring and becoming a threat from nearly anywhere on the court offensively. However, his biggest jump has come at the defensive end of the court where he’s become arguably the best all-around defender the Badgers have.

On Wednesday Dekker will get a big challenge in a player who can mirror most of his game. Penn State’s Brandon Taylor is second on the team in scoring and Dekker is going to draw the wing on the defensive end. Shutting him down and not allowing a secondary scorer to go off is going to be key to Wisconsin’s chances to win this game, especially given the historically close nature of this series as of late.

In order for Dekker to win this one-on-one matchup he needs to be aggressive on both ends of the court. Taylor was susceptible to foul trouble earlier this year, hitting four fouls in three and fouling out in another contest during the first five games of the season. Dekker needs to take Taylor to the rim on offense and not be afraid to body up on him on the other end of the court.

Look for this matchup to be a key to either team winning this game, as both are likely to focus on containing a secondary scorer from going off rather than completely shutting down the main source of scoring thanks to mismatches on those players.


3 Important Numbers:

- 13-0: The Badgers are 13-0 against the Nittany Lions in games played at the Kohl Center and are 17-2 overall in Madison against Penn State. That also means Bo Ryan has never lost at home to today’s foe.

- 6.6: It’s no secret that the last few contests between these two teams have been close, but just how close? The last 10 meetings have been decided by just 6.6 points per game. It means these two teams really like playing close games. Just ask Traevon Jackson and Josh Gasser how rugged and tight these matchups have been, they have been around for most of those last 10 meetings.

- 5: That’s the number of wins Wisconsin has over top 50 RPI teams, which ranks second in the country only to Kentucky. UW has beaten Buffalo (19), Green Bay (31), Georgetown (33), Oklahoma (36) and Boise State (45). PSU is ranked No. 41.


Prediction: Wisconsin 70, Penn State 60

It would be downright stupid to think this game wouldn’t be close. Recent history between the two would suggest that, however this game is at the Kohl Center and six of the last 10 matchups have come away from home for the Badgers. At some point they’ll break free of these close games and today could be that day.

With three big-time scorers and two veterans of games against Penn State, look for the Badgers to find a way to not grind this game out and actually control it from start to finish. Don’t be surprised to see this final score be not as indicative of Wisconsin’s dominance in the game.

Also, don’t let the 12-1 start for the Nittany Lions fool you, they had one of the worst schedules in the country during non-conference play and come in to this contest with the 318th ranked schedule according to That really isn’t testing a team heading in to a contest with a top 5 team, so don’t be surprised to see Wisconsin have this game a bit in hand down the stretch and Penn State maybe pull within 10 points in the final meaningless minute of the game.

Andrew Coppens

About Andrew Coppens

Andy is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He is the Managing Editor of MadTownBadger and associate editor of Bloguin's World Cup site, as well as Publisher of Big Ten site