After being readmitted into the AP Top 25, the No. 24 ranked the University of Wisconsin Men’s Basketball Team (14-6, 6-3 Big Ten) look to continue their recent success in Lincoln, Nebraska Tuesday night at 7 p.m.
As a confident Wisconsin team — currently in the midst of a three-game win streak — travels to Lincoln, they cannot overlook the unranked Cornhuskers (13-7, 3-6 Big Ten). Another upset like the Jan. 3 loss against Minnesota would demean all of the progress Wisconsin has regained over the last few weeks.
Looking to add to their three-game win streak — starting with the dethroning of former No. 2 Michigan — the Badgers will roll into Lincoln’s sub-freezing climate armed with a red-hot Ethan Happ. Over the three-game span, Happ has averaged 16 points, 10.3 rebounds and eight assists, including his second triple-double of the season in their most recent outing against Northwestern.
Happ is only one of two players to ever record a triple-double at Wisconsin — joining Josh Gasser who recorded his in 2011 — and is the only current player nationally with more than one. The All-American has looked absolutely unstoppable all year long, and there is no reason to expect his dominance to halt versus Nebraska.
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The Cornhuskers tend to play a lot of small ball, alongside their tallest player in 6-foot-8 junior forward Isaiah Robyearning who earns significant minutes. Happ should be able to use his size advantage to dominate Roby in the paint coupled with his length and footwork in the post — areas where no one has been able to stop him all year.
Another point of emphasis for the Badgers’ offensive attack will be the consistency of 6-foot-11 sophomore forward Nate Reuvers, who has been hit or miss all season as a reliable offensive option. But, much like Happ, he has a distinct advantage in height against a smaller Nebraska team. The Cornhuskers will have their work cut out for them defending two near 7-footers with the unique skill sets both Wisconsin forwards present.
When Reuvers gets going, he has proven to be deadly from beyond the arc — shown by his 40 percent shooting from deep thus far this season. This creates a nearly unstoppable inside-out game gievn the Badger’s ability to surround their star center with shooters.
Reuver’s offensive productivity sometimes overshadows his defensive efforts in which he uses his size and length as an advantage on whoever he matches up against. One game removed from a career-high 22 points against Northwestern, Nebraska will have to watch out for another big game from Reuvers.
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On the defensive end, Wisconsin will have to limit Nebraska senior guard James Palmer Jr., who averages 19.4 points per game and sits second in the conference in scoring. Palmer has been the go-to guy all year for the Huskers with his ability to get one big bucket after another when Wisconsin needs it most.
The 6-foot-6 Maryland native was awarded First-Team All-Big Ten honors and dominated the Badgers in two Nebraska wins last season, scoring 18 and 28 points. It will take a group effort to stop him and it seems like there could be a plethora of defenders taking turns Tuesday night. Between Brad Davison, Khalil Iverson and Kobe King, it should be interesting to see who Head Coach Greg Gard places his trust in guarding the 2019 NBA draft prospect.
The Badgers — favored by ranking — should be the team to prevail. If they fail produce offensively or take the Cornhuskers seriously on defense, Nebraska could end up being one of those “bad losses” fans and analysts reference when tournament time comes around. It would be especially detrimental to the team’s confidence and momentum as Wisconsin has already worked hard to regain respect and return to the AP Top 25.
You can catch the game live from the Pinnacle Bank Arena Tuesday night in Lincoln at 7 p.m. on the Big Ten Network, or listen on the Badger Radio Network, 100.9 FM.