Heading into Saturday's matchup between Michigan and Wisconsin, we took a few moments to chat with Evan Flood from Badger247. Topics included things such as Wisconsin's performance so far this season, potential in-game adjustments, what Saturday's game means for Wisconsin, and of course a game prediction:
Bo Ryan teams will slow it down.
Wolverine247: Saturday is the first meeting between Michigan and Wisconsin this season. For readers who haven’t followed the Badgers that closely this year, could you just briefly describe the Badgers’ season so far?
Evan Flood: Wisconsin has thrived as the underdog. The Badgers have picked up impressive wins in Big Ten play against Indiana, Illinois (twice), and Minnesota. The minute conference title expectations have been put on them, they’ve stalled. Still, Wisconsin has had a chance to win every loss they’ve suffered in the Big Ten. It’s your typical Badger team. They’re going to give everyone a game, grind it out, and just try to wear down the opposition.
Wolverine247: Wisconsin is a team that isn’t defined by just 1 or 2 players, but there have to be a few players Wolverine fans should keep their eyes on. Could you talk about which players are the “key” pieces for the Badgers?
Evan: The thing about Wisconsin this season is that you never know who is going to be that guy. It seems someone different steps up every night. Up front, Jared Berggren and Ryan Evans are both capable of being the guy and are really the key players the Badgers need to have play well. In the backcourt, Traevon Jackson has been Mr. Clutch lately for Wisconsin, but he’s still learning to play the point under Bo Ryan. A guy that’s been hot lately is Ben Brust, who’s averaged 18 points per game over the past two outings.
Wolverine247: The biggest win of Wisconsin’s season so far has to be their road win over Indiana. Could you talk just a little about about how you think the Badgers pulled off the win and whether Michigan should expect some of the same things in this one?
Evan: Well, Wisconsin has Indiana’s number. The Badgers have won 11-straight over the Hoosiers. Wisconsin really just overmatched Indiana with physicality and tough defense. Then, when the Hoosiers made their run at the end, Wisconsin hit some clutch shots to stay ahead and preserve the victory. The Badgers have been outstanding on the defensive end all season long, and with Michigan’s fire power offensively, you can bet Wisconsin will make the Wolverines grind everything out and slow things down.
Wolverine247: This game is big for Michigan and their chances for a Big Ten title, but it definitely isn’t the biggest game it has played this season. How big is this game for Wisconsin and what does it mean for their season?
Evan: With three losses, Wisconsin can maybe afford another loss, but they can’t afford it right now. With Indiana going down Thursday night, the Badgers have a big opportunity to get themselves right back to where they want to be. Trailing in the standings, every game is Wisconsin’s biggest game right now. The Badgers are entering a tough three-game stretch beginning Saturday and need to take care of business at home before going on the road to Minnesota.
Wolverine247: Now, moving on to specifics for the game. Wisconsin is coming off a double overtime win over Iowa at home. Is Wisconsin a team that can easily recover from that game or do you think it could play a factor in Saturday’s game?
Evan: Bo Ryan talked about this on Wednesday and he and I are both in agreement it’s not a big deal. The Badgers have plenty of time to recover. Iowa always plays Wisconsin tough as the Hawkeyes are just a very tough matchup for the Badgers. Iowa had won three-straight over Wisconsin before Wednesday. If you can’t get your adrenaline flowing when No. 3 Michigan comes to town, I don’t know what will.
Wolverine247: It’s almost impossible to talk about Michigan basketball without mentioning Trey Burke. Many teams have tried to slow down Burke and many have failed. What do you think the Badgers will do defensively to try and stop him?
Evan: Wisconsin’s never changes their philosophy defensively. What they will do, I can guarantee this, is they’ll make Trey Burke beat them, not Michigan. Bo Ryan and company have been notorious at playing other teams’ star players straight-up, not giving much help, if at all, and shutting down the four other guys on the floor. Wisconsin has fared better than expected against star guards throughout the season, but Trey Burke is at whole other level. So it should be interesting.
Wolverine247: Michigan shot very well outside the arch against Ohio State (14-24), but Wisconsin is a team that typically defends outside very well. Illinois averages 24 attempts outside the arch per game, but Wisconsin was able to hold them to 13 and 14 attempts in their two meetings. Should Michigan expect a similar drop-off in this game?
Evan: Anytime you play Wisconsin, possessions and points will be at a premium. I think any team should expect a drop off in all offensive coordinators when they face the Badgers.
Wolverine247: Wisconsin is also known to be a team that tries to slow down the pace of games. Michigan is not necessarily an uptempo team, but they do like to push the pace at times. Who do you think controls the pace in this game and will it be a factor in the outcome?
Evan: It’s a rare day when Wisconsin does not control the pace of the game. The pace may not necessarily be the biggest factor in this game, but Michigan has to be willing to match Wisconsin’s toughness and grind it out mentality. The biggest factor will likely be whichever team hits clutch shots in crunch time.
Wolverine247: There are certain things each team will have to do to win the game. What do you think Michigan needs to do to win the game and what do you think Wisconsin needs to do to win this game?
Evan: Michigan needs big games from their guards. Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. should be too much for Wisconsin out on the perimeter. If they struggle, I think the Wolverines will be in trouble. On the flipside, the Badgers need to dominate inside. Berggren and Evans have been unpredictable this season, but Wisconsin is a very good team when those two are active and producing offensively.
Wolverine247: Final question. Any early predictions for the game’s outcome?
Evan: This is a tough one. It’s tough to go against Bo Ryan and Wisconsin at home, but Michigan is the better, more talented team at this point in the season. I think Burke and Hardaway Jr. will be too much for Wisconsin and the Wolverines escape Madison with a win.