On Thursday at 9:00 ET, the #17-ranked Indiana Hoosiers (16-4, 4-4) travel to Madison to take on the #25-ranked Wisconsin Badgers (16-5, 5-3) on the ESPN2.
As always, Jerod, Ryan, and Andy will be here with another episode of The Assembly Call as soon as the game ends with instant analysis and fan reaction.
- Date: Thursday, January 26th
- Time: 9:00 ET, 8:00 CT
- TV: ESPN2
- Announcers: Dave O’Brien and Stephen Bardo
- Point Spread: Wisconsin by 6.5
- Over-Under: 125
- KenPom Prediction: Wisconsin 66-58 with 78% chance of winning
- Peegs: IU Gameday
- Inside the Hall: What to Expect – Wisconsin
- IU-Penn State live tweet coverage: @AssemblyCall
- Assembly Call IU Postgame Show: http://assemblycall.com/live
After starting out just 1-3 in the Big Ten, the Badgers have bounced back to win four straight heading into Thursday’s game. On Sunday, Wisconsin picked up their third road victory in league play, winning at Illinois behind 19 points, nine rebounds, and five assists from Jordan Taylor. Big man Jared Berggren chipped in 18 points, and the Badgers shot better than 40 percent from beyond the arc.
This season’s Wisconsin offense is reliant on a couple things: hitting three-pointers and limiting turnovers. The Badgers take nearly 40 percent of their field goal attempts from long range (and nearly 42 percent in league play), where they are hitting 37.5 percent for the season. While Taylor has struggled with his outside shot, guys like Berggren (37.0%), Mike Bruesewitz (38.0%), Ben Brust (39.0%), and Josh Gasser (52.0%) have all had big games throughout the season. Limiting open looks will be critical for the Hoosiers, who have struggled defensively in conference play.
Led by Taylor, the Badgers have the second-lowest turnover rate in the country with a miniscule 15.2 percent mark, so don’t expect the Hoosiers to force a lot of turnovers. They will also need to improve their defense on ball screens, which is an area that has plagued them recently and something that Taylor and Wisconsin use frequently.
Wisconsin has a relatively low offensive rebounding percentage, so they don’t seem likely to take advantage of IU’s weakness on the defensive glass. They also have one of the lowest free throw rates in the country, which is not unexpected for a team that shoots so many three-pointers.
Taylor’s scoring and shooting percentages are down, but keep in mind that he lit up the Hoosiers for 67 points in two games last season. Still, he leads the team with 14.1 points per game to go with 4.4 assists and 4.2 rebounds, and he’s been scoring more of late with 53 points in the last three games. Five other Badgers average at least 6.5 points, but they have struggled with consistent production throughout the year.
Defensively the Badgers are as impressive as ever and allow just 0.83 points per possession for the year. In fact, they have allowed just three teams to score over 1.00 ppp this season. Wisconsin is first in the nation in defensive effective field goal percentage, and they rank 17th in both defensive rebounding percentage and opponents’ free throw rate. They don’t force many turnovers, but nothing will come easy for Indiana on the offensive end.
The Hoosiers are coming off of a much-needed win over Penn State on Sunday where they blitzed the Nittany Lions for 46 points in the second half and won by 19. Cody Zeller led the way for IU with 18 points, and he now has 75 points over the last four games. As always, the Hoosiers need to get him involved early and often.
Indiana also got 18 bench points in the win over Penn State, and the team will need guys like Matt Roth and Will Sheehey to come in and make shots against the stingy Wisconsin defense. Jordan Hulls posted 14 points against the Nittany Lions, and he enjoyed some success against Wisconsin last season with 31 points in the teams’ two matchups.
The game will also be a battle of tempos, as the Badgers play at one of the slowest paces in the country, while Indiana would like to get out and push the pace. They will certainly find it challenging to score in the half court against the Badgers, but if they can find ways to involve Zeller and create open threes, they should be able to score enough points to win.
Once again, it will come down to defense for IU. The Badgers aren’t particularly explosive offensively, but the Hoosiers have made lesser teams look like offensive forces in conference play. Their defense on ball screens and three-pointers will go a long way toward deciding the outcome of the game.