Wisconsin stands in the way of Northwestern’s Cinderella story Saturday in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals.
But the second-seeded Badgers (24-8) will see their own obstacle in the sixth-seeded Wildcats (23-10), blocking a goal that is perhaps less feel-good but more common than Cinderella: revenge.
Northwestern was the beginning of Wisconsin’s slide from the top of the conference standings, defeating the Badgers 66-59 at the Kohl Center on Feb. 12, ending the Badgers’ eight-game winning streak and providing the rest of the Big Ten a blueprint on how to contain Ethan Happ and stifle the Wisconsin offense. The Badgers would lose four of their next five and relinquish the Big Ten regular-season title to Purdue.
In the olden days, Wisconsin could strike back and end Northwestern’s hopes of an NCAA Tournament berth with a revenge win in the Big Ten Tournament, but not so this year. The Wildcats are expected to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever, even with a loss on Saturday.
Instead, the Badgers will take on a team that has designs on its first Big Ten Tournament title and its first Big Ten title of any kind since 1933. This territory is so uncharted for the Wildcats that Saturday will be their first Big Ten Tournament semifinal.
Final: Northwestern 72, Maryland 64. It'll be Northwestern vs. UW in a semifinal made for Chicago, only it's in Washington, D.C.
— Jim Polzin (@JimPolzinWSJ) March 11, 2017
Northwestern got here by defeating No. 14 seed Rutgers and then knocking off No. 3 seed Maryland on Friday, while Wisconsin only needed a win over No. 10 seed Indiana. Ending a run this unprecedented might be cruel to some, but it’s exactly what the Badgers are planning on doing.
Northwestern basketball vs. Wisconsin game time, details
Date: Saturday, March 11
Time: 2:30 p.m. CT / 3:30 p.m. ET
Location: Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.
The line: Wisconsin is favored by 5 points.
What TV channel broadcasts Northwestern basketball vs. Wisconsin?
The game will be on CBS.
How can I watch Northwestern basketball vs. Wisconsin online?
CBS will live-stream the game at CBSSports.com, as well as on the CBS Sports app.
How can I listen to Northwestern basketball vs. Wisconsin 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.
Northwestern basketball vs. Wisconsin keys to the game
Nebraska did it a game earlier against the Badgers, but Northwestern was the first team to double-team Wisconsin star Ethan Happ and have it be truly effective. While the Wildcats lack a real interior defensive stopper, they managed to make do with having Dererk Pardon and whoever was nearest cover Happ, who struggled mightily to find the open man to pass to. It’s a little simplistic to say that repeatedly double-teaming Happ turned out to be the key to stopping the Wisconsin offense, but it certainly was part of a larger shift that left the Badgers scratching their heads.
What made Northwestern’s win over Wisconsin even more impressive is that it came without No. 2 scorer Scottie Lindsay, who was out with an illness. It took Lindsay a while to get back to full speed once he did come back, averaging only 7.6 points per game in his first five games after the illness. But he has scored a combined 33 points on 13-of-24 shooting in Northwestern’s two Big Ten Tournament games. If he really is 100 percent, that’s another weapon for the Wildcats against a foe they’ve already beaten.
Shoot your shot
Quite possibly the biggest variable for Wisconsin game-to-game has been 3-point shooting, both offensively and defensively. Wisconsin lit Indiana up in its last game, going 10 of 22 from beyond the arc, but it will also be facing a team that was 7 for 15 on 3-pointers against Maryland. How much damage Bronson Koenig, Zak Showalter and D’Mitrik Trice can do from beyond the arc and how much they can contain the Wildcats will be pivotal.
Badgers fans, don’t boo Julia Louis-Dreyfus, whose son Charlie Hall is a walk-on guard for Northwestern. It really didn’t end well for Maryland.