Coming off a 85-67 win over Prairie View A&M, the Wisconsin Badgers head to Norman, OK for their first true road game against the #7 Oklahoma Sooners at 1:30 PM on Sunday afternoon. Wisconsin holds the edge in the all-time series between the Badgers and Sooners 4-3, with the definitive win coming last year on a 69-56 Wisconsin win at the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.

Wisconsin Starters

G Bronson Koenig (17.3 PPG, 3.2 APG)
G Zak Showalter (9.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG)
F Nigel Hayes (14.0 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 4.2 APG)
F Vitto Brown (10.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG)
F Ethan Happ (10.8 PPG, 7.7 RPG)

Oklahoma Starters

G Jordan Woodard (11.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 4.0 APG)
G Isaiah Cousins (12.0 PPG, 3.3 APG)
G Buddy Hield (25.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG)
F Khadeem Lattin (2.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG)
F Ryan Spangler (10.7 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 1.3 BPG)

1. Contain Buddy Hield like last year, but don’t forget about the other guys. 

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield, one of the top guards in the nation, is averaging 25.3 points per game in only 26.7 minutes. He’s shooting an insane 56.8% from the field, 88.2% from the free throw line, and 57.9% from 3-point through three games.

Last season, Wisconsin was able to hold Hield to only 2-11 from the field and forced four Hield turnovers. Much of that defense on the 6’4″ Hield came from Josh Gasser, so the Badgers will need Zak Showalter, likely Khalil Iverson, and possibly the bigger Nigel Hayes to step up against the Sooners’ star. Iverson is the Badgers’ X-factor in this game.

Still, Oklahoma has some other great players in Isaiah Cousins, Jordan Woodard, and Ryan Spangler, all averaging over 10 points per game. Cousins and Woodard are two other guards that could give Wisconsin trouble, as the Badgers do not have much depth at the position Oklahoma is strongest at. Spangler also patrols the paint well, averaging 8.7 rebounds per game. The Badgers cannot get stuck focusing only on stopping Hield, because these guys can really kill them too. Oklahoma can win without a strong game from Hield, but they really need him to show up against Wisconsin.

2. Force turnovers and hope Oklahoma continues to struggle from the free throw line.

Oklahoma is averaging 17 turnovers per game so far this season in games against Memphis, McNeese State, and Incarnate Ward. Wisconsin has forced 13.33 turnovers per game against their six opponents, but this game has potential to raise that number. Wisconsin will need to really step on defense, however, considering their slow start defensively.

Oklahoma has also only shot 64.4% from the free throw line, with starters Isaiah Cousins and Ryan Spangler shooting 37.5% and 22.2% respectively. The Badgers could look to make Cousins and Spangler earn it from the line to slow down the game if Oklahoma gets on a run.

3. Nigel Hayes needs to take and make smarter shots, get to the free throw line, and be the leader of this team.

Hayes is struggling from the floor and free throw line this season, shooting less than 40% from the field and less than 70% from the line. He’s been disappointing in terms of his scoring output and efficiency, which is really hurting the Badgers’ offense. Hayes’s shot selection has been very questionable, and there’s no doubt that he needs to post up more and be the Nigel Hayes of the past couple of years. His transition to the 3/wing has not been easy.

Hayes also has not shown the leadership Wisconsin needs from him, and they’re going to need to hear his voice in this marquee matchup on the road in a tough environment. Of course, it’s not all up to Hayes, as the Badgers need Bronson Koenig to keep shooting well and scoring efficiently, Zak Showalter to make big plays, and Vitto Brown, Charlie Thomas, and Ethan Happ to clean up the boards and stay out of foul trouble.

Prediction: Oklahoma 70, Wisconsin 62

Photo via Fansided.