PISCATAWAY, NJ - JANUARY 11: Nigel Hayes #10 of the Wisconsin Badgers looks to take a shot as Greg Lewis #35 of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights defends during the first half of a college basketball game at the Rutgers Athletic Center on January 11, 2015 in Piscataway, NJ. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)

Badgers Basketball Preview: Nebraska edition

The Match-up: Nebraska (10-6, 2-2 B1G) vs. No. 6 Wisconsin (15-2, 3-1 B1G)
When: Thurs., Jan. 15; 8pm ET
Where: Madison, WI; Kohl Center
TV: ESPN2
Radio: Badger Radio Network
Last Meeting: Nebraska W, 77-68 (3/9/2014)
All-Time Series: Nebraska leads 11-10

Projected Starting Lineups:

Wisconsin

G Bronson Koenig — So. 6-4, 190 (4.9 ppg, 2.1 apg)
Josh Gasser – Sr. 6-4, 192 (7.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg)
Sam Dekker – Jr. 6-9, 230 (12.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg)
Nigel Hayes – So. 6-8, 235 (12.2 ppg, 7.1 rpg)
Frank Kaminsky – Sr. 7-0, 242 (16.9 ppg, 8.2 rpg)

Rutgers

G Benny Parker — Jr. 5-9, 172 (6.1 ppg, 2.2 rpg)
G Terran Petteway — Jr. 6-6, 215 (18.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg)
G/F Shavon Shields — Jr. 6-7, 221 (17.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg)
David Rivers — Sr. 6-7, 200 (5.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg)
Walter Pitchford — Jr. 6-10, 237 (7.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg)

 

Key Match-up: Bronson Koenig vs. Benny Parker 

MADISON, WI - DECEMBER 13: Bronson Koenig #24 of the Wisconsin Badgers drives to the hoop during the first half against the Nicholls State Colonels at Kohl Center on December 13, 2014 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

MADISON, WI - DECEMBER 13: Bronson Koenig #24 of the Wisconsin Badgers drives to the hoop during the first half against the Nicholls State Colonels at Kohl Center on December 13, 2014 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

Badgers basketball loves inverting their guards and Josh Gasser is great at it. However, in this matchup it may be really advantageous to do that with Koenig, who has a massive size advantage against fellow point guard Benny Parker (6-4 to 5-9).

No matter the height advantage, there is a massive gulf in terms of starting experience. Koenig is making just his second career start and first as the official point guard for the Badgers. Parker has started 13 of the 16 games for the Huskers this season, and he ranks seventh in the conference in steals (1.9 per game). That will be something Koenig has to guard against, but Wisconsin also needs Koenig to be a force driving to the basket and shooting from outside.

Koenig has hit 4 of 8 three-point attempts in Big Ten play, but is shooting just .318 from deep on the season. If he can get going on the outside it will really open up the Badgers’ offensive game, and is a key to this matchup.

If Wisconsin is going to win this game, Koenig’s all-around game against Parker is going to be very important.

3 Important Numbers:

- 78: Frank Kaminsky missed the last game, breaking a streak of 78 games without a starter missing a start. There will be a new streak started tonight with Koenig making his first start in place of the injured Jackson.

- 7: Speaking of Kaminsky, his seven double double’s on the season leads all Big Ten players. He also happens to lead the Badgers in scoring, rebounding, blocks and steals on the year. If that isn’t enough for a 7-footer to win national player of the year awards I don’t know what will be.

- 118.8: Wisconsin comes in to this game as one of the most efficient and scary offenses in the nation. So much so that it’s 118.8 points per 100 possessions rank the Badgers 3rd in the NATION in scoring efficiency according to KenPom.com.

 

Prediction: Wisconsin 74, Nebraska 64

Getting Kaminsky back is a big deal, especially with the long-term loss of Traevon Jackson. Sure, the fact that he leads the team in scoring, rebounding, blocks and steals is important, but it will be his leadership that matters most right now.

That said, Wisconsin didn’t play that well on the defensive end against Rutgers and you can bet Kaminsky’s presence in the middle will matter in a big way.

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, 32flags.com as well as Publisher of Big Ten site talking10.com

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