The last two champions from the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament square off in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge Wednesday night at 6:15 p.m. in Syracuse. This is the second straight tough road game against a ranked opponent for the Badgers, after their loss against Oklahoma 65-47 on Sunday. The last time the Badgers faced Syracuse was in the Sweet 16 of the 2012 NCAA tournament, when the Badgers fell painfully to the #1 seeded Orange, 64-63.

Click here for Wisconsin’s updated traditional and advanced statistics.

Projected Starters

Projected Syracuse Starters

G: Trevor Cooney (15.0 PPG, 3.5 APG)
G: Malachi Richardson (13.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG)
F: Michael Gbinije (19.7 PPG, 4.0 APG)
F: Tyler Lydon (11.5 PPG, 8.7 RPG)
F: Tyler Roberson (8.7 PPG, 9.5 RPG)

Projected Wisconsin Starters

G: Bronson Koenig (16.1 PPG, 2.9 APG)
G: Zak Showalter (8.6 PPG, 4.9 RPG)
F: Nigel Hayes (14.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 4.1 APG)
F: Vitto Brown (10.1 PPG, 6.1 RPG)
F: Ethan Happ (10.0 PPG, 7.6 RPG)


Syracuse is 6-0 to start off the season. They have notched two notable wins over then #18 UConn and then #25 Texas A&M, both in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament last weekend. With the Badgers already falling against two possible NCAA Tournament teams with losses against Georgetown and Oklahoma, beating Syracuse would be a good way to salvage an already shaky non-conference season. If the Badgers can pull off the upset, it would also go a long way for the Big 10 in the Big 10/ACC challenge with the Orange being favored (-5) at home, winning 63 of their last 64 non-conference games in the Carrier Dome.

The Orange are headlined by junior Michael Gbinije who is leading the Orange in points, assists, steals, and field goal percentage. Gbinije is the central player for the Orange, although they get key contributions from their role players with four players averaging double digit points. Senior Trevor Cooney is the Orange’s second option averaging 15.0 PPG, and he’s been a starter in the last three campaigns for Syracuse. The Badgers will have to improve defensively from their previous outings, not giving up easy perimeter looks, as the Orange thrive from the three-point line, with the Orange shooting 41.1% from deep.

Syracuse is young, although their youngsters aren’t having trouble contributing early into their careers. Freshman Malachi Richardson has been an early surprise for the Orange averaging 13.8 PPG on 39.0% from the three-point line. Freshman forward Tyler Lydon is averaging 11.5 PPG and 8.7 RPG, shooting a ridiculous 58.8% from the three-point line as well, which isn’t from a lack of opportunities since he’s 10-17 on the season. Even with both freshmen being in the ESPN Top 100 a year ago, coach Jim Boeheim couldn’t have even asked for the productivity and efficiency he’s received from his newcomers.

Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig need to have more efficient days than they did on Sunday against Oklahoma if they want to have a shot at upsetting the Orange. The Badgers will have to convert their open three-point looks against Syracuse’s 2-3 zone to loosen it, since the team is only shooting 30% from three. Koenig could carve their zone up with his vision and handles, but the key for him as always is to hit his threes. Wisconsin will also rely on fellow starting guard Zak Showalter and possibly Brevin Pritzl off the bench to knock down threes. Freshman Khalil Iverson has done a great job this year of finding open spots around the blocks for easy dunks, and he’ll have to continue finding those gaps against the zone.

Guarding the Orange will be tough since they get offensive contributions from all five starters, and early on the Badgers have had trouble guarding anyone. Syracuse is vulnerable from a depth standpoint, with all four starters averaging over 30 minutes a game, and only one bench player averaging over 10 minutes.

Syracuse and Wisconsin matchup very well in size, as each team suffers from short front courts. The Badgers have been a solid offensive rebounding team so far this year, making that a key in the matchup with the Orange being susceptible due to their 2-3 zone.

Matchup to Watch

Nigel Hayes vs. Michael Gbinije

Although Syracuse will be running their 2-3 zone, Hayes should be guarding Gbinije on the defensive end. Lots of similarities between these two. Each are juniors who are stepping into a leadership role in their third year. Both have multiple jobs on the offensive end for their teams not only scoring, but passing as well, with both forwards leading their teams in assists as well.

Coaching Legends

Bo Ryan vs. Jim Boeheim

Both programs have long time leaders in Bo Ryan and Jim Boeheim. Both are suspected to be retiring within the next two years.

Bottom Line

To pull off the upset, the Badgers are going to need to do two things well they haven’t done all year: defend and score from the three-point line. This may seem like a very obvious statement, but a three-pointer is worth more than a two (like I said, very obvious). With the three-point shot being so crucial in today’s generation of basketball, just ask last year’s Badgers, it has become crucial to be efficient in both of those categories. If they can do both of those things, it could be a happy trip home for the Badgers.

Photo courtesy of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Athletic Department (David Stulka).