The Matchup: No. 6 Wisconsin (20-11, 12-6 B1G) vs. No. 12 Nebraska (15-17, 6-12 B1G)
When: Thurs. March 10; approx. 8p.m. CT (25 min following last game)
Where: Indianapolis, Ind.; Bankers Life Fieldhouse (18,345)
Radio: Badgers Sports Network
Last Meeting: UW won, 72-61 (2/10/16)
All-Time Series: Wisconsin leads, 12-11
G Benny Parker — Sr. 5-9, 175 (4.7 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.2 apg)
G Andrew White III — Jr. 6-7. 216 (16.5 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 0.6 apg)
G Tai Webster — Jr. 6-4, 196 (9.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.0 apg)
F Shavon Shields — Sr. 6-7, 225 (16.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.8 apg)
F Michael Jacobson — Fr. 6-8, 222 (5.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 0.6 apg)
G Bronson Koenig — Jr. 6-4, 193 (13.5 pgg, 2.5 rpg, 2.5 apg)
G Zak Showalter — Jr. 6-2, 180 (7.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.3 apg)
F Vitto Brown — Jr. 6-8, 230 (9.5 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 0.8 apg)
F Nigel Hayes — Jr. 6-8, 240 (16.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 3.1 apg)
F Ethan Happ — Fr. 6-9, 235 (11.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 1.2 apg)
Biggest Matchup: Shavon Shields vs. Vitto Brown
Nebraska comes in with just two big scoring options, and both happen to be 6 feet, 7 inches tall. So, which matchup is going to be most difficult? Look for Nigel Hayes to draw the matchup with Andrew White III, who can stretch a team bad. That leaves an intriguing matchup for Vitto Brown in 2nd team All-Big ten selection, Shavon Shields.
Shields was injured in the lone meeting between these two schools in regular season play, and his impact was felt as much defensively as offensively. Without Shields, Wisconsin went to work inside on Nebraska and it led to 20 points from Hayes and 18 points from Brown. This time around, Brown is going to have to be able to guard a much more athletic player and it should be a worrisome situation heading in to this game.
Luckily, Wisconsin has played well overall during Big Ten play on the defensive end of the court. Will Wisconsin use the same gameplan and look to get Shields and White III in to some early foul trouble? A lot of that will be up to Vitto Brown’s ability to play with his back to the basket more than he has in the past few weeks.
Either way this matchup goes, look for Brown to have a major impact on why whatever happened, happened.
3 Numbers to Know:
— 48.6: The Badgers have lost just twice in the last 13 games, and in losses to Michigan State and Purdue the two teams combined to shoot an impressive 48.6 percent to beat UW. On the flip side, Nebraska is middle of the pack in three-point shooting — hitting on just 34.5% of their attempts this season.
— 2000: That was the last year that UW had to play a game on Thursday of the Big Ten tournament…it just so happens that the Badgers advanced to the tournament final that season and went on to a Final Four appearance as well. Oh, and they did it from the No. 6 seed that season as well. Omen?
— 6: Not only is Wisconsin the No. 6 seed in this tournament, it’s also the number of Big Ten tournament championship game appearances UW has had. That’s the second-most of any conference team, trailing only Ohio State (8).
Prediction: Wisconsin 74, Nebraska 60
Tournament time can mean funny things happen, and the 2016 Big Ten tournament has already shown that. Whether it was two big-time blow outs in the opening round or Michigan getting free throws when it should’ve been called for traveling and winning in OT, something is in the air in Indianapolis.
However, the Badgers and the Big Ten tournament have a pretty loving relationship. Look for that to continue, as UW matches up so well with the Huskers. The two teams aren’t exactly the tallest in the league, but Nebraska simply doesn’t have the physicality or the presence inside to compete with Ethan Happ.
Should Happ get going early, Wisconsin is going to cruise. I look for that to happen, and I also look for Hayes and Koenig to get it going in a great inside-out setup offensively.