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Wisconsin Faces Northwestern Looking To Sweep Away Wildcats

The Badgers royally pummeled Northwestern the last time they faced the Wildcats. They ran the Wildcats off their home court with a 76-48 win, in which Josh Gasser became the first player in Wisconsin history to record a triple-double.

Fast forward to this game. Wisconsin has gotten more heroics from Gasser, this time, a game-winning three against Michigan that silenced the crowd in Breslin East Crisler Arena. 

As for this game...

Northwestern needs some help if they're going to make the NCAA- no. In all likelihood, Northwestern must win the Big Ten tournament itself if they're to make the NCAA tournament. Wisconsin does not lose at home (except to Purdue and Illinois, gah!). They just don't. Northwestern will need to play a perfect game if they're to come away with a giant upset.

Which, given Northwestern's play of late, especially against top opponents (or even middle-tier opponents) is just unlikely. Wisconsin doesn't turn the ball over. They can get offense from multiple players. They can outrebound you, and generally make you suffer for every single minute of a game. Let them stay in a ball game? Learn what Michigan's pain feels like. Don't close the Badgers out? Fall apart in Madison ala Indiana this year.

Bottom line: I don't see Northwestern winning this game. Anything may be possible, but it's not fairly likely that the Badgers come up short in Madison against a team that they absolutely throttled on their home floor.

Wisconsin's offense goes through Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer. Taylor, a Cousy Award candidate and one of the best PGs in the Big Ten, if not the nation, leads the Badgers in assists per game (with 4.9) and is second on the team in points per game (17.9). Leuer leads the Badgers in scoring (19.1 points per game) and rebounds (7.5 per game), and has scored double-figures in every single Wisconsin game this year. Every single one. Keaton Nankivil's 9.9 points per game are 3rd on the team and averages the most offensive rebounds per game for the Badgers (1.9). Josh Gasser, he of the game winning shot over Michigan and the triple-double against Northwestern in Evanston, is another solid player.

Northwestern's offense goes through Michael Thompson and John Shurna. Both average 15+ points per game (Thompson exactly 15.0, Shurna 17.0), and Thompson leads the Wildcats in assists. Drew Crawford averages 12.4 points per game, and is second on the team in rebounds per game (4.6). Luka Mirkovic is the leading rebounder on the Wildcats, averaging 5.6 per game, but he has been in a funk offensively, only scoring in double figures once since the Wildcats' first loss to Wisconsin in January. It's safe to say Northwestern will need all the help they can get if they're to become the first team to defeat Wisconsin at home this year.

Check out Wisconsin at Bucky's 5th Quarter and Northwestern at Sippin' on Purple.