The search for quality wins has begun for Wisconsin basketball and it starts with Northwestern of all teams.
The Badgers received a rude awakening on Saturday when the NCAA Tournament selection committee neglected to include a single Big Ten team in its early top 16 despite Wisconsin being ranked No. 7 in this week’s AP poll. That would leave the Badgers with a 5-seed at best if the Big Dance were to start this week.
The reason for that is a lack of quality wins, which comes due to a weak nonconference slate, a Big Ten that’s weak at the top, and the Badgers falling flat during big opportunities against North Carolina and Purdue.
This all makes Sunday’s date with Northwestern key to Wisconsin’s hopes of opening March Madness in Milwaukee as a 4-seed or better. Northwestern is currently in the midst of what could be the Wildcats’ first-ever season reaching the NCAA Tournament.
A win over the Wildcats would be one of Wisconsin’s signature wins in the eyes of the committee. Not an ideal signature win, mind you, but at least better than what the Badgers have now.
UPDATE: Northwestern now figures to see even more of a challenge against the Badgers, as leading scorer Scottie Lindsey is out with an illness for Sunday. This will be his third straight game missed.
Wisconsin basketball vs. Northwestern game time, details
Date: Sunday, Feb. 12
Time: 5:30 p.m. CT/6:30 p.m. ET
Location: Kohl Center, Madison, Wis.
The line: Wisconsin is a 10-point favorite.
What TV channel broadcasts Wisconsin basketball vs. Northwestern?
The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.
How can I watch Wisconsin basketball vs. Northwestern online?
The Big Ten Network will stream the game on BTN2Go as well as all BTN2Go apps.
How can I listen to Wisconsin basketball vs. Northwestern on the radio?
The Wisconsin call for the game will be on the Badger Sports Network. A list of affiliates can be found here and the game can be heard online here. Northwestern’s call will be on 720 AM in Chicago and can be found here.
Who is calling the game for the Big Ten Network?
Kevin Kugler and Jon Crispin will be providing commentary.
Wisconsin’s keys to the game
Double down low
The Wisconsin offense has been on an extended cold streak, shooting just 37 percent (86-for-230) in their last four games. Those games include overtime wins over Rutgers and Nebraska, meaning that shooting has nearly doomed the Badgers to a pair of awful losses. Those struggles are leaving teams free to double-team Big Ten Player of the Year candidate Ethan Happ, which Nebraska did for nearly the entire game until Nigel Hayes took over. The Badgers might need another player to pull through against an objectively better Northwestern defense.
Northwestern’s Dererk Pardon doesn’t rank among the conference leaders in rebounding due to missing three weeks with a hand injury, but he represents Happ’s main opponent on the glass. Whether he can keep Happ off the offensive boards could be the tipping point in what should be a rebounding mismatch between these teams. The Badgers rank 12th in the coutnry on offensive rebounding rate per KenPom.com, while the Wildcats sit at 218th in defensive rebounding.
On the defensive
This game figures to a boon for those wishing to see a slow, defensive throwback to ye old Big Ten days, with the two teams ranking 1-2 in the conference in scoring defense. Part of that is thanks to strong defenses that rank favorably in several team stats, but it’s also partially due to them having two of KenPom’s three slowest tempos in the conference.