The Badgers (4-2) return back home to the Kohl Center tonight to take on the Virginia Cavaliers (4-2) in the Big Ten - ACC Challenge. The game tips off at 6:00 PM CT and can be seen on ESPN 2.
Virginia has not had an completley ideal start to their season. Six games in to the season, they find themselves at 4-2. They lost their first game of the new year 63-59 at George Mason, a game where their defense was abysmal, allowing George Mason to shoot 54.5% from the field .
Since then they've been on a 5 game cupcake stretch at home in which they've gone 4-1, against all non-BCS schools. They lost a their second game of that home stretch 59-53 to Delaware, a game in which Virginia experienced offensive struggles, shooting just 35.1%. Their last game was over a week ago, a November 20th win over North Texas.
Virginia is coached by Tony Bennett, former Wisconsin assistant coach from 1999-2003. He is the son of former Badger head coach, Dick Bennett, and has strong Wisconsin ties, having been born and raised in Green Bay and playing at UW-Green Bay, where his number is retired. This is will be Bennett's first ever time coaching against the Badgers, so it will be interesting to see how a former assistant tries to exploit the Badgers.
Matchup of the Game
The Cavaliers have been carried by Junior Guard Joe Harris early this season. Harris is a do-it-all kind of a player, averaging 15 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists so far this season. Not to mention he's shooting an impressive 44.8% from the field and 51.9% ftom deep. This could be a matchup where the Badgers really miss Josh Gasser's perimeter defense, as Harris is a steady scorer and contributer on the offensive end. The Badgers' defense- especially Ben Brust - will have to limit easy opportunities for the sharp shooter.
Keys to the Game
Wisconsin and Virginia both have somewhat similar philospohies- play the slow down game, taking perimeter shots and putting an emphasis on defense although Tony Bennett's teams like to run a bit more than what Ryan's teams will. The key to this game is really just execution. Virginia is not as talented of a team as they have been in previous years. I don't see them coming in to the Kohl Center and locking down Wisconsin's offense, as they just aren't that great of a defensive team. Virginia doesn't have a whole lot of firepower offensively, so they're going to need a great night shooting the ball combined with decent defense and Wisconsin shooting struggles to win this game.
The Badgers can easily kill themselves if they shoot poorly from beyond the arc, especially considering the amount of threes they take. This game should be a win for Wisconsin if they shoot decent and play good defense. In the second half of the Arkansas game we saw them take it inside to Ryan Evans and Jared Berggren, resulting in some high quality shots. If they continue that trend, you can almost certainly mark this up as a Wisconsin W.