The University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team (3-4) will take on Big Ten rival Ohio State (5-2) as they begin their conference schedule at the Kohl Center Saturday.
While the Badgers have showed glimpses of promise at times this season, the team has been thus far unable to close out close games in what has been a disappointing start to the year. Wisconsin has capitalized on subpar competition, beating South Carolina State, Yale and UW-Milwaukee, but have lost all four games against major conference opponents this year.
The player to look out for on Ohio State will be dynamic forward Keita Bates-Diop. The junior has one of the most unique skillsets in the Big Ten as he leads the Buckeyes in points, blocks, rebounds, three-pointers and three-point percentage while having only turned the ball over seven times all year.
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Fortunately, Wisconsin has their own dynamic defender in Khalil Iverson to take on Bates-Diop. Iverson’s athleticism and hustle has made him one of the Badgers’ most impressive defenders with a defensive plus-minus of 3.9 points per game while he is on the floor.
On the other side of the ball, Wisconsin will look to rebound after a dismal 37-point offensive performance against Virginia. While this was in part due to opposing coach Tony Bennett’s slow style of play, the team needs to convert on their attempts with greater efficiency as they only shot 31.3 percent from the field and 15.1 percent from three against the Cavaliers.
For the Badgers to win this game, they will need scorers like Brad Davison and D’Mitrik Trice to hit their shots and hopefully draw some of the heavy coverage off of star forward Ethan Happ. The young backcourt duo will look to get back on track this game after shooting just 1-9 from deep in the last contest.
Ohio State will be an important challenge for Wisconsin to prove themselves as a contender in a Big Ten conference that is loaded with parity. As of now the only ranked teams in the conference are No. 3 Michigan State and No. 12 Minnesota who the Badgers will not face until late January and February.
Tip-off is at 7 p.m. this Saturday in Madison with live coverage available on FOX.