The Matchup: Illinois (17-8, 7-5 B1G) at No. 4 Wisconsin (19-2, 7-1 B1G)
When: Sun. Feb. 15; 12pm CT
Where: Madison, WI; Kohl Center (17,279)
Radio: Badgers Sports Network
Last Meeting: UW won, 75-63, in Champaign (2/4/14)
All-Time Series: Illinois leads, 110-82
Projected Starting Lineups:
G Jaylon Tate So. 6-3, 170 (4.0 ppg, 3.4 apg)
G Kendrick Nunn So. 6-3, 190 (11.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg)
G Malcolm Hill So. 6-6, 230(14.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg)
F Leron Black Fr. 6-7, 220 (5.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg)
C Nnanna Egwu Sr. 6-11, 250 (7.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg)
G Bronson Koenig - So. 6-4, 190 (7.2 ppg, 2.1 apg)
G Josh Gasser - Sr. 6-4, 192 (7.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg)
F Sam Dekker - Jr. 6-9, 230 (13.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg)
F Nigel Hayes - So. 6-8, 235 (12.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg)
C Frank Kaminsky - Sr. 7-0, 242 (17.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg)
Key Matchup: Sam Dekker vs. Malcolm Hill
Dekker is coming off a game in which he tied a career high with 21 points, so naturally eyes will be on him. However, the Badgers wing will have a very intriguing two-way matchup with Illinois’ sophomore wing Malcolm Hill.
Like Dekker, Hill isn’t just a scorer but also a key asset on the defensive boards. With star senior guard RayVonte Rice likely to see an increased role, limiting the damage Hill can do on the offensive end has to be goal No. 1 for Dekker. If the Illini get it going from outside or Hill is creating opportunities at the rim this could be a nightmare for the Badgers at home.
On the other end, Dekker needs to take it to Hill and use the size advantage. Don’t be surprised to see more back to the basket play from Dekker in this game, at least early on. If Dekker can avoid foul trouble and create it at the other end, this could be a huge advantage for a Wisconsin team who are best at limiting opponents free throw shots and taking them on their side.
3 Important Numbers:
- 10: After guard Josh Gasser took over the No. 1 spot for most games played in a Wisconsin uniform, the next mark up is just 10 points away. If Gasser gets to that mark on Sunday he’ll become just the second UW player to have 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 250 assists in a career. The other was Michael Finely.
- 23: That’s the number of wins the Badgers would have by defeating Illinois. If the Badgers accomplish that, their 23-2 record would be the best start ever in program history, topping the 22-2 mark set this season and in 2006-07.
- 60: Usually scoring 60-plus points is a good indicator of winning a basketball game or not at the college level. However, in the Badgers - Illini matchup, the first time to 60 points is 25-1 over the last 12 seasons. Coincidentally the was a Badger comeback win in the 2006-07 season.
Prediction: Wisconsin 79, Illinois 62
While the Badgers are busy running roughshod over the Big Ten there is always this devil on my shoulder wondering when the good times are going to stop. After all, it’s kind of the most Badger-thing ever to collapse when everything is there for the taking.
However, after seeing the Badgers go in to Lincoln and dominate the Huskers, I’m fully convinced this isn’t going to be like any other season. Expect the Badgers to use the size advantage it has and the increasing confidence of Bronson Koenig at point guard to take an early lead that won’t be overtaken by the Illini.
RayVonte Rice being back or not, the Badgers will do a good job of perimeter defense and frustrate the visitors enough to win this one going away.