Wisconsin, at 10-4 in the Big Ten, is looking for another statement win, this time on the road. And Michigan, at 7-8 in the Big Ten, might just be opportunity they needed.
Don't get me wrong: Wisconsin has beaten both teams ahead of them in the conference standings (Purdue and Ohio State) and every single conference opponent at least once thus far. But they lost to Illinois, Michigan State, and Penn State on the road. They knocked off Purdue in Madison, but lost the return trip to West Lafayette pretty convincingly. A win in Ann Arbor would look good on Wisconsin's resume.
Michigan, at 7-8 in the Big Ten, has had a rough road. They were swept by Ohio State. They suffered a six game losing streak after pulling to 1-1 in the Big Ten (following a win over Penn State). But consider their competition during that time:
vs. then-number-3 Kansas
vs. then-number-2 Ohio State
vs. then-15th ranked Minnesota
Michigan salvaged things, coming up with their first win in East Lansing in over a decade, but they fell to Ohio State again and had a three game winning streak snapped by Illinois. Still, after starting out 1-6 in conference play, Michigan pulling out a 7-8 record is impressive considering the graduations of Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims.
Wisconsin's offense will likely go through Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor. Both players average double-figures scoring, and Taylor's impressive assist-turnover ratio is one of the best in the nation. Leuer averages 19.3 points per game, and Taylor 17.8. But if either of them go cold, the Badgers have other options. Keaton Nankivil shoots 47.9% from beyond the arc and averages 9.8 points per game. Josh Gasser averages 2.5 assists per game to 0.8 turnovers per game, as well as 5.7 points per game. If opponents send the Badgers to the line, it does not work out well...for the opponent, that is. Wisconsin is one of the best free throw shooting teams in the nation.
Michigan's offense will rely on good performances from Darius Morris and Tim Hardaway Jr., both of whom average double figures scoring (15.4 and 13.2 points per game, respectively). Like Wisconsin, Michigan has other options if either should go cold. Stu Douglass chips in 7.5 PPG, Jordan Morgan 9.5 PPG, and Zach Novak 8.9 PPG. Novak leads the Wolverines in rebounds per game, with 5.9, and Jordan Morgan's close behind with 5.6. Darius Morris leads the Wolverines in assists, and averages 6.9 per game.
Michigan and Wisconsin both need this game. Michigan would get a significant RPI boost from upending Wisconsin. Wisconsin would get a much-needed road win and stay in contention for the conference title. Who takes this game in Crislin Arena?