No. 18 Wisconsin (11-4) vs. Indiana (10-6)
Game: Saturday 14 January in the Assembly Hall
Time: 12:00 p.m PM CT
Listen: 1310 WIBA AM and 101.5 FM (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas on the call); stream online on iHeartRadio
Forecast: Indiana 75, Wisconsin 69
Follow online: The badger cave
Betting line: Indiana – 4th
Wisconsin is coming off a heartbreaking home loss at the hands of Michigan State. Although they are their top scorer and talented big man Tyler Wahl, the Badgers were well positioned to win the stretch. Then the Spartans hit their last eight shots and Chucky Hepburn tried to be the hero, taking an ill-advised step back three with 32 seconds to go. Wisconsin lost its second straight series and went winless without an election.
The Badgers played better than their first game without a pick when they didn’t really stand a chance in the second half against Illinois. Markus Ilver played 13 minutes off the bench and delivered a solid performance overall. Although he’s still fairly limited and his defense isn’t as solid as Wahl’s, he played well, hitting a nice three-point shot in the first half to prevent the Spartans from building a potentially notable lead.
Carter Gilmore also hit a clutch three late in the second half but he still needs to deliver more spark than he does. His role right now is to play defense and rebound. His defense was solid but the forward needs to be a more assertive rebounder. Gilmore grabbed just one board on Tuesday and the Badgers were out-rebounded 18-33.
Wahl’s status is still unknown for Indiana. He’s reportedly making progress, but there’s no real timeline for his return — “day by day” isn’t a time frame. Wahl is still not expected to be out for a long time, but it’s clear how much this team misses him.
Ultimately, this period of no choice should be formative for this Badgers team and the experience should help them tackle the track when the road gets tight. For now, however, Wisconsin needs to get back on the winning track. They risk dropping three straight Big Ten competitions going into Saturday’s matinee.
Indiana is on similarly thin ice. After starting 7-0, the Hoosiers have lost six of their last nine. They are currently on a three-game losing streak, falling to Iowa, Northwestern and Penn State. Both Indiana and Wisconsin are desperate to win, but with a 1-4 in conference play, Indiana arguably needs this game more than the Badgers. Dropping six of their first five conference games would be a nightmarish start for a team widely voted as the crème de la crème of the Big Ten.
Indiana’s offense runs through the elite center Trayce Jackson Davis, who once again puts up big numbers. Just like a season ago, he’s averaging about 18 points, but this year his rebounds and assists are up. With the Badgers at rock bottom, Jackson-Davis should be even more of a focus for the Hoosiers this coming Saturday.
However, the man tasked with stopping him has enjoyed a renaissance of his own. Steven Crowl almost willed Wisconsin to a win against Michigan State with his dominant presence on the post. The center lost 19 points, relying on a sweet jump hook late in the game that the Spartans just couldn’t defend. Jackson-Davis presents a whole different challenge, but Crowl is again asked to play elite basketball for the Badgers in order to win this game.
The other scoring threat Indiana should keep an eye on is their freshman point guard. Jalen Hood-Schifino. The product of Montverde Academy (Fla.) was a five-star top 20 recruit and it paid off immediately for the Hoosiers. He has 13.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.5 assists while shooting 44.8% from downtown. Hood-Schifino accumulated 33 points against Northwestern on Sunday in a game Indiana somehow lost.
Both teams desperately need a win on Saturday. Indiana needs to stop their skid, fix the ship and hope they can fight their way back into the Big Ten. Wisconsin needs a big conference win, and to prove themselves, they can play without a choice.