Florida (1-0, 0-0) at Wisconsin (1-0, 0-0)
9:00 PM EST
Line: Wisconsin -10
Series Record: Florida 2-1
Last Meeting: Florida 74-56 (2012)
Blog Representation: Bucky's 5th Quarter | Alligator Army
In what would be a considerably more hyped game if it weren't for the Michigan State - Kentucky game earlier in the night, Wisconsin will host Florida in the second big conference game of the season. Wisconsin is coming off of an impressive 86 point opener against St. Johns.
How impress was their first game? They scored 51 points in the second half, which was more points than they scored in eight games last season.
The Badgers were able to shoot at a high rate from beyond the arc, as well as at the free throw line after last seasons struggles. Every starter outside of Frank Kaminsky scored in double digits, with Josh Gasser leading the team in scoring in his first game back after missing last season with an injury. Potential breakout Sam Dekker impressed as well with 16 points and 7 rebounds, while the team spread the ball around without one player taking the majority of shots.
If Wisconsin can keep shooting at this rate they could be deadly. Bo Ryan discussed the possibilities of a faster offense and we saw it in the opener, though I'm not sure if he'll keep running this fast come conference play. Ryan's teams always play strong defense and make few mistakes, so if his team improves from the field then they'll be a very, very difficult team to beat. This of course is even truer in Madison, where the team rarely loses and will be able to take on anyone in the nation. Wisconsin is being penciled in around fourth or fifth in the league, but if they have it their way they'll be right in the thick of things with Michigan State for the Big Ten title.
St. Johns is pretty good, most likely a NCAA Tournament bubble team, but the Badgers first true test will be hosting the Florida Gators. The Gators are a top 10 caliber team and will be a force to be reckoned with in the SEC, but they got off to a rough start in their opener against North Florida. The Gators won by 8 points over the Ospreys, with sporadic support from their lineup. Forward Casey Prather paved the way with 28 points and 8 rebounds, while Michael Frazier II added 19 from the bench and guard Kasey Hill posted 15 points. Past that the remaining seven players only added 15 points.
If Florida wants to go into Madison and pull off the win, they'll need to spread the ball around some more. Relying on a handful of players can work versus some of the mid-majors, but Wisconsin is a defensively minded team fully capable of shutting down Florida if they're not careful. There's a bit of an opening in the Wisconsin frontcourt, but the Badgers will likely challenge teams to beat them outside and then try to rely on solid perimeter defense. Florida was 2-10 from three in their first game. Wisconsin tried to keep St. Johns outside in the opener and did a suitable job, forcing 13 three pointers and only giving up 2 baskets. If Wisconsin can keep the ball out of Prather's hands, it should be in perfect position to win.
Florida would probably be the better option if the game was down south or if this was a NCAA Tournament game. But as a regular season game in Madison, it's next to impossible to pick against the Badgers. With Gasser seemingly up to speed and Dekker continuing on from where he left off, Wisconsin has two emerging stars capable of doing damage in the Big Ten. If the backcourt sees similar production from Traevon Jackson and Ben Brust then this team is going to be good. Very, very good.
This matchup should be one of the more exciting games of the night, even more so with Wisconsin playing up-tempo. Florida will have a major test and at this point in time it's hard to pick against Wisconsin. The Badgers brand of physical and technically sound basketball should just work at home and Wisconsin looks to show off the strength of the conference in what should be an entertaining win for this Wisconsin team.