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Badgers Hoops Preview: Wisconsin travels east for the I-94 rivalry

The Wisconsin Badgers (6-3) are in Milwaukee Saturday night to take on the Marquette War… er.. Hillt… er… Golden Eagles (5-2) in the 119th edition of the nameless in-state rivalry that I like to call: "The Battle for I-94". The game tips off at 5:00 PM CT and can be seen on ESPN 2.

In the past decade this rivalry has been a battle of conflicting styles: Wisconsin's slow down, melt the shot clock mentality vs. Marquette's high flying, flashy play. However, this year the teams are not too far apart in regards to the pace they play at, both Wisconsin and Marquette have had flashes of struggle offensively early in the year that look strikingly similar to each others. The Golden Eagles are 101st in the country in points per game, even against a pretty weak nonconference schedule thus far, while the Badgers are 64th in the nation, playing a pretty solid slate of non conference games.

Marquette will certainly be the more well rested team, as they haven't seen action since November 29th when they got absolutely demolished in a 33 point loss at Florida. The Badgers also traveled to Gainesville this season, where they took a more respectable 18 point loss to the Gators. Wisconsin's last game was Wednesday in a 46 point blowout win against Nebraska Omaha at the Kohl Center.

The Opposition 

Marquette has been a fairly disappointing team early this year, despite their respectable 5-2 record. This year Marquette fans were looking for a big step up from their backcourt duo in Junior Cadougan and once Wisconsin commit Vander Blue. However, both have struggled to find consistency early on in the season and it has really hurt MU in their two losses. Cadougan is shooting an abysmal 35% from the field and just 21% from three, and while Blue is averaging 12.8 points a game and shooting 42.6%, Marquette fans were hoping for a dominant year for him, and that just hasn't been the case so far.

Up front the Golden Eagles feature big man Davante Gardner, who's averaging 12.9 points and 5.7 rebounds a game. He's had quite an efficient year scoring thus far, shooting 56%. In the three games Wisconsin has lost, Center Jared Berggren has struggled defensively and in the rebound game against a solid big man. Berggren should be able to handle Gardner just fine, but if he struggles, Wisconsin could find themselves in a hole.

Key to the Game

Two Words. Sam Dekker.

Dekker is exactly what Wisconsin was missing in last years' lost against Marquette and in many of the other losses in last years' campaign. He has proven to be an immediate impact off the bench, slashing and scoring, knocking down shots, and running the fast break off rebounds; this type of player is exactly the thing Bo Ryan and the Badgers have lacked since they lost Alando Tucker. 

"If you grew up in Wisconsin, you know about this rivalry," Dekker said. "That's something you look forward to coming here because no matter where it's played, it's gonna draw a big crowd."

If Sam Dekker can enter this game, slash in to Marquette's interior and make some easy buckets, the Badgers will likely find themselves a winner in tonight's game.

Prediction

These two teams have split the last 6 games played, winning three a piece. The road team has won 4 times in those games, including Marquette winning 61-54 at the Kohl Center last year. I think the Badgers take advantage of Marquette's early struggles and get revenge on last years game.

Oh and in case you thought this was just another game, check out this quote from a Badgers basketball player this week - "I hate Marquette with everything I am. Especially their fans." Pretty sure this one means a lot to the guys wearing the right colors of Red and White, huh?

Wisconsin 65, Marquette 57

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