ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The homestretch is upon the Michigan basketball team.
The Wolverines (16-9, 6-6 Big Ten) host No. 11 Wisconsin at 7 p.m. ET on Thursday, and a win against the Badgers could sure help their postseason hopes. With less than three weeks left in the regular season, Wisconsin (21-4, 10-2) is atop the Big Ten standings and all but a lock for the NCAA Tournament.
Michigan? The Wolverines are still on the bubble, but can help their cause Thursday night against Wisconsin and again Feb. 25 against Purdue, two teams that are in the top 25 in the RPI.
“This is a great opportunity for us to embrace this challenge, grow from it and build a résumé that can put us in postseason play,” said Michigan coach John Beilein, whose team lost at Wisconsin 68-64 on Jan. 17. “So, we’ve got that part done, now we’ve got to go do it again and again and again until the season’s over.”
Michigan’s Derrick Walton discusses Wisconsin
Michigan basketball vs. Wisconsin game time, details
Time: 7 p.m. ET
Date: Thursday, Feb. 16
Location: Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, Mich.
The line: Wisconsin is favored by 1.5 points.
Which TV channel broadcasts Michigan basketball vs. Wisconsin?
ESPN will broadcast the game.
How can I watch Michigan basketball vs. Wisconsin online?
ESPN will stream the game at WatchESPN.com
How can I listen to Michigan basketball vs. Wisconsin on the radio?
You can listen on Sirius channel 84 and XM channel 84. Click here for Wisconsin radio affiliates.
For Michigan basketball, 950 AM (WWJ-Detroit), 102.9 FM (WWWW-Ann Arbor) and 1050 AM (WTKA-Ann Arbor) are the primary stations. Click here for all Michigan radio affiliates.
Who is calling the Michigan basketball vs. Wisconsin game?
Play-by-play announcer Rece Davis and analyst Jim Calhoun will call the game for ESPN.
Wisconsin’s radio crew includes play-by-play announcer Matt Lepay and analyst Mike Lucas.
Michigan’s radio crew includes play-by-play announcer Matt Shepard and analyst Terry Mills.
Two keys for Wisconsin
Rebound from loss to Northwestern: The Wildcats provided a blueprint for the rest of the Big Ten in their 66-59 win against the Badgers on Sunday, and it centers on double-teaming Ethan Happ. The sophomore center is a gifted passer for a big man — he leads the Badgers in assists in conference play — but he struggled to exploit vulnerabilities created by the extra man. With the Badgers shooting just 37.5 percent in their last five games, they are running low on reasons why defenses shouldn’t just swarm on Happ whenever the Big Ten Player of the Year candidate touches the ball.
Find someone to pick up slack for injured Koenig: Bronson Koenig has been struggling with a leg injury for the last few weeks, limiting the Badgers’ top 3-point shooter at a time when they have a clear need for someone like him on offense. Wisconsin coach Greg Gard said after the game Sunday that the main issue created by the injury was Koenig losing speed off screens — but he’s also been a non-factor on defense and is shooting just 25.5 percent from the field overall in his last five games. Koenig getting back to full health will be a priority as the Badgers gear up for a Big Ten Tournament run that could be key in deciding their seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Two keys for Michigan
Don’t ignore the bottom line: With its win Sunday at Indiana, Michigan helped its NCAA Tournament chances. But the Wolverines still remain squarely on the bubble, and needs to be consistent. A win against Wisconsin would help Michigan’s chances, but that’s almost putting the cart before the horse. Michigan also attempts to do this against one of the Big Ten’s consistent teams: Wisconsin can finish out games, and will have an added incentive against Michigan — Wisconsin’s loss at Northwestern was the Badgers’ first loss in more than a month. “They’re not beating themselves,” Beilein said. “They’re just not going to beat themselves, and you can’t beat yourself.”
Continue an aggressive pace of play: While Walton has been the star as of late, averaging 23 points in his last five games, sophomore forward Moritz Wagner has shown a new side of his game with a certain level of aggressiveness. That’s shown both in Wagner’s demeanor on the court and in his statistics; Wagner scored 11 points and had a game-high 10 rebounds Sunday at Indiana, and has averaged 11.8 points and 5.8 rebounds in his last five games. Michigan needs its players to continue that aggressive pace as it begins the final three weeks of the regular season.
Landof10’s Jack Baer contributed to this report.