The No. 12 Wisconsin men's basketball team will hit the road Wednesday to take on a red hot Michigan team in Ann Arbor. Winners of five out of their last six, the Wolverines (7-8 Big Ten, 17-11 overall) have gotten themselves squarely back onto the bubble, now competing for fourth place in the Big Ten with Illinois, Michigan State, Penn State and Minnesota.
While Michigan opened Big Ten play losing six of its first seven conference games, including a 23-point loss to Purdue and a 19-point drubbing to a struggling Indiana squad, the recent turnaround has them currently playing some of its best basketball of the year. It seems Michigan is poised to give the Badgers a challenge much like similarly streaky teams in Penn State and Iowa, both of whom welcomed UW to their home arena precisely when they were playing their best basketball of the season.
The Wolverines surprised many by winning their first game in East Lansing since 1997, the young team has turned things around and in the process has begun a long climb up the Big Ten standings. Now coming off a come-from-behind road victory against Iowa, the Wolverines are as confident as they have been all season.
"We're more focused on trying to stop teams," Michigan freshman forward Jordan Morgan said of the added defensive intensity. "[We're] playing with more energy and taking teams out of their rhythm."
The sharp shooting backcourt of sophomore guard Darius Morris and freshman guard Tim Hardaway, Jr. have lead the Wolverines in their recent surge.
"Morris seems like he's been a little more consistent, and that's pretty important when you've got the ball in your hands as much as he does," UW head coach Bo Ryan said.
"He's being smart about the shots he takes and he knows the times when we need big shots," Morgan said of Hardaway, who notched a career-high 30 points in the Wolverines 75-72 overtime win at Iowa. "He's got a lot of confidence and his confidence is growing with every good game he has."
Despite the confidence building in Michigan's dangerous backcourt, the frontcourt will likely have their hands full Wednesday night.
The Badger's senior frontcourt duo Keaton Nankivil and Jon Leuer stand at a respective 6'8" and 6'10". In comparison, Michigan's frontcourt Morgan and junior forward Zack Novak are just 6'8" and 6'4" respectively. The Badgers will not only have a size advantage in the paint; Wisconsin will also have a crucial advantage in the experience column.
After shooting just 20 percent from the field in Wisconsin's previous three games, Nankivil erupted Sunday against Penn State. He nailed all five of his three-point attempts on his way to 22 points.
"Their pick-and-roll situation is tough to guard because they'll pop," Morgan added. "They've got a lot of guys who can shoot it, so that puts us in a lot of recovery situations."
If the Badgers hope to come out of Ann Arbor will a win, they will need to take advantage of those recovery situations and shoot the ball well from range, something they have thus far been unable to do on the road.
Let's hope that Bucky can keep it rolling. GO BUCKY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!