The Badgers hit the road to take on the Illini on Sunday, January 31 at 6:30 P.M. CT on Big Ten Network.

Wisconsin (12-9, 4-4) is riding a season-best three-game winning streak. Illinois has had a rough season up to this point, going 10-11 on the season, and 2-6 in the Big Ten.

Projected Starters

Projected Wisconsin Starters

G: Bronson Koenig (13.5 PPG, 2.2 APG)
G: Zak Showalter (7.5 PPG, 4.0 RPG)
F: Nigel Hayes (17.0 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 3.6 APG)
F: Vitto Brown (8.4 PPG, 5.2 RPG)
F: Ethan Happ (12.6 PPG, 8.2 RPG)

Projected Illinois Starters

G: Jaylon Tate (2.6 PPG, 3.1 APG)
G: Malcolm Hill (18.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 3.3 APG)
G: Kendrick Nunn (17.9 PPG, 5.3 PPG)
G: Jalen Coleman-Lands (9.0 PPG, 1.9 RPG)
F: Michael Finke (9.2 PPG, 4.0 RPG)

Outlook

A lot of Illinois’ inconsistencies can be attributed injuries. Junior forward Mike Thorne Jr., who was averaging 12.9 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, only played 8 games before being ruled out indefinitely from a knee injury. Starting guards Kendrick Nunn and and Jaylon Tate have missed a combined 10 games this season as well.

Illinois makeshift starting lineup has ended up in very unbalanced lineup of four guards and one forward, and all four guards are under 6’6″. But, Illinois’ small lineup may not matter as much in terms of matchups if Vitto Brown cannot go on Sunday. Brown has an upper body injury (ribs) that he re-aggravated and caused him to miss the team’s practices Thursday and Friday. At Friday’s practice, redshirt sophomore Jordan Hill “started” in a three-guard lineup in place of Brown. Still, either Nigel Hayes or Ethan Happ will get a very favorable matchup for the Badgers against a four-guard lineup even if Brown doesn’t play.

Defensively, the Badgers will have to contain Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn. The duo scores nearly 49% of Illinois points. Nunn is shooting 40.7% from the three-point line on the season, and freshman Jalen Coleman-Lands is also shooting over the 40% clip. Hill creates off the dribble and scores at the rim, but he’s also an effective passer, leading Illinois in assists.

As previously mentioned, on paper, the Badgers have a distinct advantage in the paint. The Badgers will look to slow the game down and limit possessions. With Illinois guard heavy lineup they look to push it from end to end, and the Badgers can’t play that way against Illinois.

Bottom Line

The Badgers can’t afford any slip ups if they want to have a chance at being a bubble team next month. Keeping the possessions low against Illinois will be a point of emphasis, and pounding the ball in the paint to Hayes and Happ.