After a disappointing stretch for the Big Ten going 2-6 against the Big East in the Gavitt Tipoff Games, it is time to look ahead.
The Badgers fell to Providence in a hard-fought game on Nov. 15, missing their leading scorer Johnny Davis. But it’s a new week — and the Badgers have another chance to prove themselves.
“This time of year losses aren’t fatal,” senior Brad Davison said after the loss to Providence. “The beauty of basketball is we get a pretty big tournament coming up to go show all the lessons we have learned.”
The tournament Davison referenced is the iconic Maui Jim Maui Invitational being held this week at “Hawaii’s ninth island” in Las Vegas, Nevada.
While many heralded Providence as the first real test of the season, a more holistic representation of what the team will face in the Big Ten comes this week. The Maui Invitational is one of the most televised tournaments of early season play. The event is important for a variety of reasons, as the Badgers will be tested on the court and get a chance to showcase themselves nationally.
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Monday’s opening game against Texas A&M will mark Wisconsin’s first appearance at the Maui Invitational since 2016. Much like past years, this season’s Maui Invitational has no shortage of talented teams. Houston and Oregon are on the field, both among those ranked in the top 25. The winner of Wisconsin’s first matchup against Texas A&M will face the winner of Butler v. Houston.
Unlike Providence, A&M is a more guard-oriented team, with their leading scorers Marcus Williams(10.5 ppg) and Andre Gordon (8.5 ppg) both in the backcourt. For A&M, their fast-paced style has worked well for them as they are on a four game win streak heading into this matchup.
With their fast pace and strong guards, the key for Wisconsin will be on the defensive end — a place where they have shown pride this season. Chucky Hepburn will be asked to have a big game defensively, as he picks up A&M’s scoring threats full court.
On the offensive end, the Badgers will be aided by the addition of Johnny Davis back in the rotation. With the return of his scoring and passing talents, Wisconsin’s main struggle will be to stick to their identity.
If the Badgers can hold true to Gard’s offensive philosophy of getting a paint touch on every possession and not let the running Aggies speed them up, they will be in a good spot. The Badgers will need to shake off their shooting woes in this key game — a difficulty that will cripple the team in high-scoring games down the line if they fail to produce on offense.
Charlie’s key player:
It’s got to be Brad Davison at this point. After leading the team in scoring and three-point percentage, Davison is poised to continue his strong play against a defensively challenged A&M team.
Ian’s key player:
It will have to be Ben Carlson. Carlson shot 1-7 on Monday, with three of those misses coming from three-point range. The guard-oriented play of A&M could really provide an opportunity for him to dominate and build momentum for increased production.
If the Badgers can get Carlson, along with Steven Crowl going, UW will be a hard team to match up against in a tournament with an undersized field.