March has finally arrived and it’s time for the most thrilling month of college basketball. Whether you love basketball or not, March Madness undoubtedly makes for some of the most exciting sports moments of the year.
The 2020 regular season has come to an end and the University of Wisconsin Men’s Basketball team looks forward to starting their postseason this week.
Big Ten basketball has largely been considered the best conference in the NCAA this season. With some projections putting nine Big Ten teams in the NCAA Tournament, the Big Ten Tournament is sure to have major seeding implications and provide the opportunity for bubble teams to make a statement.
The conference tournament begins March 10 at 5:30 p.m. CT with a matchup between the 12-seed Northwestern Wildcats (9-14, 6-13 Big Ten) and the 13-seed Minnesota Gophers (13-14, 6-14).
Immediately following the first game on Wednesday is the final first round contest. The University of Nebraska (7-19, 3-16) significantly has the worst conference record and earned the 14-seed. They will take on the No. 11 Penn State Nittany Lions, (10-13, 7-12) who have generally underperformed this season but look to make a splash in the Big Ten Tournament in hopes of getting a bid to the big dance.
Penn State is coming off an impressive road win at Maryland this past Sunday and plan on building off of their success. Nebraska ended their season with a loss to Northwestern and have failed to put up any marquee wins this season. The Husker’s most notable victory was their 62–61 nail-biter against none other than Penn State earlier this season. The Nittany Lions are the faster and better team and should look to handle Nebraska.
The winner of the Nebraska vs. Penn State matchup will take on the Wisconsin Badgers (16-11, 10-10). The experienced group of Badgers look ahead to tightening up their play and gaining momentum heading into the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. While their tournament spot seems to be locked up, the conference tournament gives Wisconsin the chance to reach a higher seed.
After dropping five of their last six, all top ranked opponents, the Badgers landed the No. 6 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. If Penn State holds their own against Nebraska, Wisconsin would face the Nittany Lions Thursday night at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Penn State beat Wisconsin by double-digits in State College Jan. 30 before losing to the Badgers 72–56 just three days later in Madison.
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Penn State displayed impressive speed and pushed the pace of play in their win over Wisconsin earlier this year. Wisconsin’s steady, controlled style of basketball usually makes for lower scoring games and a slower pace. But, Penn State hit the ground running and were able to speed up the game with fast break points and capitalizing on the Badgers’ mistakes. Wisconsin will need to limit turnovers and stay solid defensively in order to take care of Penn State.
With a win over Penn State, Wisconsin will look forward to a rematch with No. 3 seed in the Big Ten Tournament and No. 5 team in the nation the University of Iowa Hawkeyes (20-7,14-12). The Badgers rounded out their regular season in Iowa City Saturday with a hard-fought loss. Iowa defeated Wisconsin 77–73 in a game that was largely controversial due to questionable officiating.
“Any time there’s a foul in question, the opponents are yelling to the officials about the monitor,” Wisconsin Head Coach Greg Gard said when asked about Big Ten officiating and the “hook-and-hold” rule.
There were about 10 instances during the game where the officials turned to the monitor, and the officials were blowing their whistles on what seemed like every possession.
“If college basketball is headed in this direction, we’re in big trouble,” Gard said.
Iowa standout Joe Wieskamp was injured during the second half of Saturday’s game and was seen wearing a boot on the sideline for the remainder of the game. Wieskamp averaged 15.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per game during the regular season. While Wieskamp has until Friday to recover for Iowa’s first game of the tournament, his status will be of great concern to the team.
Iowa also defeated the Badgers in Madison Feb. 18 behind a punishing 30-point performance by star Luka Garza. The Badgers found themselves in deep foul trouble in their losses to Iowa. Guards Tyler Wahl and D’Mitrik Trice both fouled out in the final moments of Saturday’s game. Wisconsin must focus on staying out of foul trouble and limiting big runs in order to defeat the strong Iowa team.
As the tournament progresses and we reach the semi-final round, the Badgers will likely have to face a menacing Illinois team for a third time this season. The Illini (20-6, 16-4) have played their best basketball lately and are legit Final Four contenders. The one-two punches of future first round pick Ayo Dosunmu and dominant big man Kofi Cockburn pose many challenges for the less physical Badgers. The two contests between Illinois and Wisconsin this year both resulted in losses for the Badgers.
The No. 1 seed and tournament favorite Michigan Wolverines (19-3,14-3) will likely win their first tournament game and reach the semifinals. In the semis, the Wolverines can expect to face a slipping Ohio State group (18-8, 12-8) or a hot Purdue team (18-8, 13-6). Michigan is not invincible, but their extreme athleticism and large presence in the paint makes them a favorite to reach the Big Ten Championship.
Wisconsin looks to build off of their recent losses and prepare to play their best basketball of the season as the tournament approaches. Their invaluable experience and senior core of players will provide an advantage as they plan to face younger teams. As seven Wisconsin players gear up for their final postseason, the Badgers look forward to ending the season on a high note.