With all due respect to coach Sampson, coach Izzo and coach Carmody; this is the match up of the two best coaches in the Big Ten. While I don't care for the Badgers whatsoever, I have a lot of respect for coach Ryan. He is the most underrated coach in the country in my estimation and I fear his teams regardless of talent level on his team.
Stat Comparisons - HERE
Badger teams in the Bo Ryan era are incredibly disciplined on both ends of the floor. They execute their offense and consistently take advantage of your team's weakness with their versatility and patiences. Defensively they don't make mistakes keeping you out of the paint and are very good at not putting you on the foul line. Their offensive and defensive points per possession illustrate this point.
Off PPP - 1.127 (3rd in B10)
Def PPP - 0.818 (1st in B10)
Differential - 0.309 (1st in B10 but a large margin)
I should disclose that I am writing from deep in the heart of Badger country so maybe there is something in the air making me delusional.
They are not perfect and this particular team won't overwhelm you with talent but they are very versatile and can beat you in a number of ways.
Match Ups - On paper the Badgers get the edge on all match ups. I think we match up well with the Badgers but I would give a slight advantage everywhere except bench vs. bench.
Westbrook vs. Trevon Hughes - Westbrook has been playing well lately on both ends. Offensively he is asserting himself and really contributing and on the defensive end he has shown some very good on the ball defending. Hughes is a scoring guard capable of getting to the lane and drawing the foul. He is slightly turnover prone (2.6/gm) and lately has not shot particularly well from behind the arc (3/12 in the last three games). For the Gophers to contain the Badger's leading scorer they'll need to keep him out of the lane, keep him off of the free throw line and force him into 4+ turnovers.
McKenzie vs. Michael Flowers - sr guard who is athletic and very dependable. Flowers is the glue of the Badgers (my opinion). He is capable of having a monster night in the box score and if not he'll contribute in many other ways to help his team win. This will be an interesting match up, considering McKenzie has been scoring more lately and hopefully his shooting will remain hot.
Johnson vs. Joe Krabbenhoft - So this is actually a winable match up for the Gophers. Johnson has been the most improved Gopher from day 1 and continues to impress as the season wears on. Krabbenhoft isn't likely to blow up scoring but we can't allow him to have the same stat line as their Indiana win on Thur night. 6 pts, 12 reb and 5 assists with zero turnovers. If we hold him to 6 pt, 6 reb and a couple assists that will be a win for us.
Coleman vs. Marcus Landry - Landry has the most upside of any Badger. He is very athletic and capable of carrying the Badgers. He struggled early averaging 8.75 ppg through the Marquette game, but since then he is scoring 12.4 and been in double figures 9 of the las 12 games. This will be another very interesting match up. Coleman will need to use his 2" advantage and really try to out muscle Landry. Coleman is capable of winning this head to head but he'll need to stay focused at all times and hopefully he can draw a few fouls being aggressive on the offensive end.
Tollackson vs. Brian Butch - these guys can both put up legit arguments for being the most underrated big men in the conference. First of all don't let Butch's 6'11" size and 18.9% fool you, he is very capable of nailing the three. He shot 34% last year from behind the arc so we absolutely have to guard him out to the line. But most importantly Butch has to be contained in the paint. 12.9 ppg and 7.7 reb is significant and should be a solid challenge for Tollackson. Fortunately Tollackson has more trouble with athletic big men, not big white guys like himself. I don't expect he'll dominate Butch or even win this match up, but he is capable of keeping him contained.
BENCH - The Badgers really are not very deep. In their 13 point win over Indiana they used 2 players off the bench. The athletic and talented shooter, Jason Bohannon played 26 min. And in the frontcourt their 6'11" shot blocker, Greg Steimsma played 10. I would expect to see freshman Jon Leuer get some minutes but his playing time has decreased as the conference season wears on. The key for MN will be their bench players. At Michigan the bench was not utilized much. Particularly we need contributions from Nolen and Hoffarber. This is also a game where big John Williams can give some quality minutes.
1. Get to the free throw line - Getting any of their starters in foul trouble and getting some free points from the line will help tremendously.
2. TURNOVERS - this has been our bread and butter this year. We have to force the Badgers into some uncharacteristic turnovers. And we have to value our possessions and not give it up to them. This will not be easy but we absolutely have to turn them over.
3. Senior Trio needs to lead - It has been rare this year that all three have significantly contributed, but they all came through at Michigan on Thursday. We need them all to play well and then I'll get greedy and as for some additional help from the bench this time. Nothing too much just a couple threes from the Hoff and steals from Nolen that lead to layups. But ultimately the seniors need to play well.
We don't have to play perfect but we need to be close. Wisconsin scares me more than any other team in the league because they just don't make many mistakes.
As far as our post season hopes this game really won't hurt anything. Losing this game will not be a blemmish on the ol'resume. BUT winning this game will do a ton for us.
I want this win so badly and I think we can do it, but I wouldn't be able to look myself in the mirror if I actually picked the Gophers. I like our team and have been pleased with what Tubby has done, but not even I can argue that we have the talent to be a top 4 or 5 team in the league. If we play well and can dictate tempo we can win, but most teams don't dictate anything against the Badgers.
Wisconsin - 68
Minnesota - 57