The Badgers have been one of the hottest teams in the entire nation, as they are currently riding an eight-game winning streak. Wisconsin (12-2, 1-0) capped off the non-conference season strong and started out the Big Ten season in the same manner with a 20-point win over Rutgers. The Badgers’ foe on Tuesday night, the Indiana Hoosiers (10-4, 0-1), did not start out the Big Ten season as strongly, losing a shocker to Nebraska…at home. After that, Indiana switched back to non-conference play and was dominated by No. 6 Louisville, 77-62. With the two-game losing streak, the Hoosiers have seen their national ranking plummet down to No. 25.
Wisconsin and Indiana met twice last year and each team snagged a win. Not only did they go even for the season series, one of the games went to overtime (Badgers’ win at the Kohl Center), and the other was decided by a single point (Indiana win at Assembly Hall).
The Badgers and Hoosiers tip off at 6 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN.
G: Bronson Koenig (14.1 PPG, 2.0 APG)
G: Zak Showalter (8.1 PPG, 2.1 APG)
F: Nigel Hayes (14.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 3.3 APG)
F: Vitto Brown (7.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG)
C: Ethan Happ (12.7 PPG, 9.6 RPG)
G: Josh Newkirk (7.9 PPG, 3.6 APG)
G: Robert Johnson (13.8 PPG, 2.4 APG)
G: James Blackmon Jr. (17.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG)
F: De’Ron Davis (6.2 PPG, 3.4 RPG)
C: Thomas Bryant (12.1 PPG, 7.6 RPG)
Tom Crean’s Indiana Hoosiers were the Big Ten Champs in 2016, and with many key components back, many picked the Hoosiers to be the favorite this season as well. However, after a shaky non-conference performance and losing to Nebraska, Indiana has their work cut out for them.
Indiana has been all over the map this year in regards to the quality of their play. They started the year off with a 103-100 win over Kansas, the Jayhawks’ only loss of the season thus far. Indiana also had a decisive win over North Carolina, a team that dominated the Badgers from start to finish in November.
Those two Hoosier wins are as good of wins as any teams have at this point in the season, but their loss to Fort Wayne was as bad of a loss that anyone has at this point in the season as well. Tom Crean’s squad has lost three of their last five games, with the losses against Nebraska, Lousiville, and Butler.
Indiana’s inconsistency has happened despite the NBA talent on the roster. Sophomore forward O.G. Anunoby is a future lottery pick and has drawn many comparisons to the Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard. Anunoby has missed some games due to injuries and actually came off the bench against Louisville, leading the way for freshman De’Ron Davis’s first start. But Anunoby led the Hoosiers in scoring with 14 on 60% shooting from the field, so it wouldn’t come as a shock if he started against Wisconsin. Thomas Bryant came back despite some attention from the NBA as well, and he anchors the Hoosiers down low with 12.7 PPG and leads the team in RPG with 7.6. Bryant and Anunoby are stars on defense as well, both averaging over one steal and block per game. However, in multiple matchups last year, Ethan Happ played Bryant – a top center in the country – very well.
James Blackmon Jr. has been one of the best in the entire country so far this year, averaging 17.3 PPG on over 43% shooting from beyond the arc. Blackmon Jr. has had some explosive nights against ranked teams this year, scoring 26 points against both Kansas and Butler.
Yogi Ferrell departed Indiana last year, which is too bad for Tom Crean. Ferrell torched the Badgers in both games last year, scoring 49 points combined for the Hoosiers. Last year, the Badgers’ outcome was decided by exactly who you would think – the Big Three. In the loss, Hayes and Koenig went a combined 7-of-25. In the win, Hayes had 31 points and Happ had 25. With the trio for the Badgers playing well recently and the Hoosiers finding their footing, Tuesday serves as an opportune time for the Badgers to sneak out of Bloomington with a win.