we may not win the game tonight, but we can win the Challenge
Indiana’s De’Ron Davis and Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ [Darron Cummings – AP]
Two weeks into conference play, and each team has already suffered at least one loss. By splitting a pair of games on the road against Indiana and Purdue, Wisconsin is positioning themselves well for a run to the Big Ten title, but there’s a ton of basketball left to be played, of course. Minnesota and Nebraska are pleasant surprises thus far, while Indiana and Michigan have disappointed.
Onto the biggest storylines of the week:
Wisconsin goes 1-1 in the state of Indiana
It was pretty clear that these two games would go a long way in determining Wisconsin’s Big Ten hopes; the Badgers are probably the best team in the league and, after beating Indiana but losing to Purdue, they’re in the driver’s seat for the conference now that what are likely their two toughest games are over. As of right now, Kenpom predicts that both Wisconsin and Purdue will finish atop the league with 13-5 records; because the conference is too large an unwieldy these days, there won’t be a regular season rematch between the two teams.
Wisconsin leapt out to an early lead against Indiana at Assembly Hall with a 13-0 run; although Indiana eventually was able to take a brief lead in the second half, the Badger offense was running too effectively (1.23 PPP) for IU to keep up. Ethan Happ led Wisconsin in scoring with 19 points, but more importantly held Indiana big man Thomas Bryant to just 6 points on the night. Bronson Koenig hit all five of his three point attempts and UW went 10-20 from behind the arc in total. It was the third straight loss for Indiana (though to be fair, two of them came to excellent teams) – they rebounded nicely with a comfortable home win over Illinois to get their first conference win.
Against Purdue, Happ had another standout performance – the sophomore is arguably the best player in the conference (and played across from the other candidate, sophomore big man Caleb Swanigan, in that game) and scored 17 points. Happ also added six steals – as a 6’10 center – and had four assists in both games. Unfortunately for Wisconsin, his teammates were largely held in check and they combined for just two three-point makes on the game. Swanigan also played well: 18 points and 13 rebounds made for a great double-double but he did turn the ball over 8 times as well. Fellow big man Isaac Haas, who now comes off the bench, chipped in 13 points for the Boilermakers.
There’s a four-way tie for first place in the conference right now but Wisconsin is favored in each remaining game, per Kenpom, and has less than a 60% chance of winning just two of those games.
[More on the week that was after the JUMP]
Forget about recruiting and hoop and hockey
that 2013-2014 season was a ton of fun