The Matchup: Wisconsin (9-6, 1-1) vs. Indiana (12-3, 0-0)
When: Tues., Jan. 5; 6p.m. CT
Where: Bloomington, Ind.; Assembly Hall (17,472)
Radio: Badgers Sports Network
Last Meeting: Wisconsin won, 92-78 (Feb. 3, 2015)
All-Time Series: Indiana leads, 94-69
G Yogi Ferrell — Sr. 6-0, 180(16.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 6.1 apg)
G Robert Johnson — So. 6-3, 195 (7.1 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 3.1 apg)
F Troy Williams — Jr. 6-7, 215 (13.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 2.3 apg)
F Collin Hartman — Jr. 6-7, 215 (4.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.5 apg)
C Thomas Bryant — Fr. 6-10, 245 (12.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.1 apg)
G Bronson Koenig — Jr. 6-4, 193 (13.9 pgg, 2.7 rpg, 2.5 apg)
G Zak Showalter — Jr. 6-2, 180 (8.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.4 apg)
F Vitto Brown — Jr. 6-8, 230 (9.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 0.6 apg)
F Nigel Hayes — Jr. 6-8, 240 (15.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 4.0 apg)
F Ethan Happ — Fr. 6-9, 235 (11.2 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.1 apg)
Biggest Matchup: Robert Johnson vs. Nigel Hayes
Make no mistake about it, the point guard matchup is going to be fun to watch between Ferrell and Koenig. Both love to play the role of clutch for their respective teams, and the two will battle hard all game long. That said, the matchup that will tell us most will be the one between the two wing players.
Of course, that means we’re talking about Robert Johnson of Indiana and Nigel Hayes of Wisconsin. There’s little doubt the two will be focal points of scoring, but it will be the other parts of the game that will tell the ultimate story here. Can Johnson shut down Hayes’ ability to create foul trouble and his ability to drive and dish? Or will Hayes be forced in to battling way more on the defensive end than usual?
These two guys (along with Ethan Happ) are walking double double candidates every time they step on the court. If one gets there, look for that team to be the winner in Bloomington.
3 Numbers to Know:
— .883 & .353: Yes, we’ll give you two for one in this number to know. That’s because the first is Bo Ryan’s winning percentage against Indiana (20-4) and the second is UW’s all-time winning percentage before against the Hoosiers without Ryan at the helm. Can Gard continue to figure out the puzzle that seemed unsolvable just a few years before Ryan arrived or will history repeat itself?
—47.1: That is the shooting percentage the Badgers have had since Greg Gard took over as head coach. It is a significant jump for UW, who were shooting 41.2% and averaging 65.7 ppg in the 12 contests prior to Gard taking over. Wisconsin is now averaging 72.7 points per game as well.
—27: That is the number of wins Wisconsin has in Bloomington, a place that has been a house of horrors for Wisconsin since the series started in 1910. Of the 27 wins in Bloomington, seven came in the Bo Ryan era. UW owns a 16-4 all-time record against Tom Crean and have just one loss since he became Indiana head coach.
Prediction: Indiana 70, Wisconsin 68
This was a game I had marked as a loss for Wisconsin from the time the schedule came out and Sam Dekker was gone off to the NBA a year early. Indiana was brining in a talented class of freshmen, Yogi Ferrell was supposed to be a superstar and James Blackmon, Jr. was going to be a macthup nightmare for the Badgers.
Blackmon is going to sitting on the sideline for the foreseeable future thanks to foot surgery, Ferrell has played well and the freshmen class is ok. Combine that with Wisconsin’s increased play and depth under head coach Greg Gard and UW suddenly has a much bigger chance at winning.
Plus, Tom Crean and UW usually equal bad things happening for his team. However, Wisconsin is just too inconsistent and Assembly Hall is likely to be a very difficult environment for a Badgers team that has been turnover prone. If Wisconsin limits turnovers, can shoot like it has over the last two games — basically, play a perfect game — then it can win.
However, I’m going with the home team in a classic matchup between these two schools.