After earning bye in first round, UW likely to face 5-seed Michigan Friday

first_imgSophomore guard Traevon Jackson hit a clutch shot against Penn State to win the Badgers final regular season game. UW will look to continue that trend when they enter the Big Ten tourney Friday.[/media-credit]It’s nearly impossible to follow up a miracle, the kind of game singularly defined by “The Shot.”But if the Wisconsin men’s basketball team draws a rematch with Michigan in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament Friday, it will be trying to do just that. It was just more than a month ago that junior guard Ben Brust tossed up and sunk a shot launched just a few steps past halfcourt as the clock expired, students swarmed the floor as the unranked Badgers took down the No. 3 Wolverines.UW players, however, realize it’s a fresh slate in the single-elimination format at Chicago’s United Center, and Big Ten Player of the Year Trey Burke remains an equally, if not more lethal, guard than he was in early February.“[Burke’s] the type of guy you can’t really scout because he’s such a reactionary player, he doesn’t have too many weaknesses,” sophomore point guard Traevon Jackson said. “With him you just got to kind of get a hand up and hope the ball doesn’t go in.“Make him take tough shots, but he’s made so many tough shots already so it just becomes natural to him.”Wisconsin held one of the nation’s best point guards to 8-of-21 shooting in its one and only matchup this season, but Burke still finished with 19 points. Any hope of shutting Burke down is unrealistic, the primary goal instead to keep him from taking over the game offensively. It’s something he can do not just as a scorer but also as a distributor, averaging 6.8 assists per game.“Trey’s really done a great job of learning how to create on his own and you can guard him perfectly and he’ll still create separation, be able to get a shot off,” UW associate head coach Greg Gard said. “He doesn’t make them all, but he’s made his fair share of them obviously, being the MVP of the league.”Even if Burke enters a dry spell he has plenty of talent around him to keep Wisconsin defenders on their toes. Shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr., a first team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches, had 18 points in the Badgers’ upset at the Kohl Center and hit a well-contested three-pointer in the final five seconds, the apparent game-winner before Brust’s miracle heave.While he may not be able to match Burke’s natural ability to create his own shot, Hardaway still posts 14.8 points per game as a steady 45 percent shooter and has the ability to step outside and convert a deep three.Although the Wolverines’ two elite guards hog most of the spotlight, Michigan’s scoring threats don’t end there. Freshman guard Nik Stauskas can catch fire from three-point territory and his 46 percent conversion rate from downtown ranks third-best in the Big Ten. “They’ve got a lot of weapons, they’ve played a lot of guys,” Gard said. “They played 12 Sunday against Indiana, so they’ll keep rotating the frontline guys through there, and obviously Hardaway and Burke get most of the attention.”The biggest change since the first matchup likely comes in the frontcourt, where 6-foot-8 junior forward Jordan Morgan is in the lineup after an ankle injury sidelined him in the earlier matchup with the Badgers. Along with Morgan, freshman forward Mitch McGary, who proved effective in the post against UW with 12 points and eight rebounds, rounds out the Wolverines’ primary inside threats.While Michigan must first make it past a pesky Penn State team Thursday – one that upset the Wolverines in State College, Pa., on Feb. 27 – Wisconsin will be running with fresh legs. The Badgers snuck into the top four of the conference standings and earned a first-round bye thanks to a last-minute collapse by the Wolverines in a 72-71 loss to Indiana at home Sunday.The key for a Wisconsin team that barely squeezed out a victory over the Nittany Lions Sunday courtesy of a late Jackson three-pointer is a return to its foundational principles. Following a stretch of three consecutive wins by at least 20 points, the Badgers were the victim of back-to-back losses to Purdue and Michigan State due largely to uncharacteristic defensive lapses that handed the opponent easy transition baskets.And in a Big Ten tournament stacked with talent, whether Wisconsin returns to its late-February form may decide whether the Badgers make a run at their first conference tournament title since 2008.“In some of our last games we’ve turned the ball over too much, given up too much in transition, haven’t done a great job rebounding – those are all things that just come down to execution and sticking to what helped us be successful,” fifth-year senior forward Jared Berggren said. “If we get away from that, we can be an average team and get beaten by anyone.“When we … take care of the ball, we rebound, we defend well, get back in transition and defend the basket, limit their easy shots, we’re capable of beating anyone.”last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *