🏀 Wisconsin Badgers (22-12, 12-6 B1G) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (23-11, 11-7 ACC)
📺 TBS, 6:27 P.M. CT
📻 1310 AM in Madison
All-Time Series: Notre Dame leads 18-10
Last Meeting: ND won, 58-51 (11/28/10) at Old Spice Classic
Projected Starting Lineups:
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
G Demetrius Jackson — Jr., 6-1, 198 (15.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 4.7 apg)
G Steve Vasturia — Jr., 6-5, 211 (11.6 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 3.2 apg)
G/F V.J. Beachem — Jr., 6-8, 200 (11.6 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 0.8 apg)
F Bonzie Colson — So, 6-5, 226 (11.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.0 apg)
F Zach Auguste — Sr., 6-10, 240 (14.3 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 1.1 apg)
G Bronson Koenig — Jr. 6-4, 193 (13.3 pgg, 2.8 rpg, 2.4 apg)
G Zak Showalter — Jr. 6-2, 180 (7.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.1 apg)
F Vitto Brown — Jr. 6-8, 230 (9.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 0.8 apg)
F Nigel Hayes — Jr. 6-8, 240 (15.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 3.0 apg)
F Ethan Happ — Fr. 6-9, 235 (12.4 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 1.3 apg)
Biggest Matchup: Ethan Happ vs. Zach Auguste
There is no doubt about it, individual matchups are going to be huge in this matchup. With two teams that like to do a lot of similar things on defense and by playing physical, it means one or two players stepping up can make the biggest of differences.
For Wisconsin, that person has to be redshirt freshman Ethan Happ, who is going to be tested like he hasn’t been tested all NCAA tournament. Auguste is a great post defender, and much like Happ, also makes his opponents work hard when they are on defense. Both players have an array of moves in the post and aren’t afraid to work with the ball in their hands either.
The key in this one for Happ is to stay out of foul trouble early in the contest and to continue his good work in turning over opponents. He leads the Badgers with 61 steals, averaging 1.8 steals a game. A lot of that work comes as opponents try to get the ball in the post on him, and with Auguste likely to try his luck in the post early and often, Happ needs to take that advantage away.
If Happ can’t stay out of foul trouble or force turnovers early on, it could be a very long game for the Badgers on Friday night.
3 Numbers to Know:
— 5-1: Wisconsin vs. Notre Dame will be seen on TBS tonight, and the Badgers just so happen to be 5-1 in games broadcast on that network in the NCAA tournament.
— .955: Getting a lead early is great, having it late is apparently even better. That’s because the Badgers are 21-1 or .955 when tied or leading with five minutes left to play in regulation this year. It isn’t just a one-year trend either, as UW is 138-5 (.965) over the last five years in that same category.
— 54.8%: Speaking of the final five minutes of regulation, a big part of UW’s success has come from the three-point shooting of star guard Bronson Koenig. He’s shooting 54.8 percent (17-31) from beyond the arc in the final five minutes of regulation and overtime this season. More clutch play like that can seal the deal going forward.
Prediction: Wisconsin 66, Notre Dame 62
The Badgers certainly aren’t strangers to close games or having to fight, scratch and claw their way to victory in the NCAA tournament. Given the similarities of these two teams it is easy to see this one being a very close game.
The only way it isn’t a close one is if Nigel Hayes picks up his shooting prowess or falls flat once again. Wisconsin needs him to be on his game to help give a third big scoring option outside of Happ and Koenig. I see him coming out of his slump, and that can only mean a really good chance at another close victory and another step closer to a third-straight trip to the Final Four.