#23 Wisconsin (21-10, 12-6) starts its post season action Friday afternoon where they'll face the #6 Michigan Wolverines (26-6, 12-6) on the second day of the Big Ten Tournament from the United Center in Chicago. ESPN has the television coverage with the game tipping off at approximately 1:00 PM CT.
I don't think any Badger fans have forgotten about the last time these two met at the Kohl Center on February 9th. Neither have Michigan fans. Wisconsin trailed by three with as many seconds remaining after Michigan's Tim Hardaway Jr. hit a ridiculous shot to give the Wolverines the lead. The Badgers needed a miracle to take it to overtime. Ben Brust caught a pass near midcourt, took one dribble, and hoisted a contested bomb from the right side of half court. Nothing but net.
Wisconsin pulled off one of the most improbable victories in school history as Brust hit yet another clutch three in overtime to give the Badgers a 65-62 win over then third ranked Michigan. That game is certainly fresh in the minds of Michigan's players: "It was a tough loss," Tim Hardaway Jr. said. "We just have to make sure that we watch the film, see the things that we did wrong during the game, and just try not to make the same mistakes again. So we just got to go out there and just play ball and just stick to the game plan."
The Badgers' last game was Sunday's 63-60 thrilling road win over Penn State, where a UW collapse in the final minutes gave Penn State momentum to come back and tie the game. With four seconds left in the game, Traevon Jackson went the length of the floor and threw up a step back three from NBA range. Splash, and the Badgers escaped Happy Valley with a win.
Wisconsin had Thursday- the first round of the Big Ten tournament- off, while the #5 seeded Wolverines were in action against #12 seeded Penn State. The game remained close for 30 minutes until Michigan exploded for a 42 point second half. Led by Big Ten Player of the Year Trey Burke, who had 21 points along with 3 assists and 3 blocks, Michigan took down the Nittany Lions 83-66.
The #4 seeded Badgers gained their first round bye because of Michigan's 72-71 heartbreaking loss at the hands of Indiana Sunday. Wisconsin and Michigan tied for a 4th place finish in the Big Ten, but UW received the tournament bye thanks to their head-to-head win over the Wolverines in their only meeting of the season.
The last time these two met in the Big Ten tournament was in the 2008 quarterfinals, where #1 seeded Wisconsin knocked off #9 Michigan 51-34 in route to Bo Ryan's second Big Ten Tournament Championship.
The key to Wisconsin's last victory against Michigan was their ball movement and hot shooting. The Badgers dished out 14 assists that led to 43.9% shooting from the field and 41.7% from three. Wisconsin also did a great job of keeping Michigan's big men off the boards, winning the rebounding battle 39-37. UW could have had a much more comfortable win if they had taken care of the ball, as they accumulated 14 turnovers compared to Michigan's 6.
If Wisconsin can play smart, get good shots, and keep Trey Burke in check, there's no reason they can't take down the firepower-filled Wolverines once again. However, the Badgers have been playing very sloppy basketball the past two weeks and I'm not sold on them coming out strong this afternoon. That's why I'll give Michigan the upper hand in this game.
Prediction: Michigan 68, Wisconsin 61