After the crazed Bellagio buffet of hoops we were treated to between opening weekend and the Tip-Off Marathon, we all could use a cool-down lap. For Big Ten watchers, Wednesday is that moment of calm, even though the two games on tap are both in-state grudge matches. One of America's favorite big men leads Wisconsin into battle against one of the nation's best (and least-known) little men, Green Bay combo guard Keifer Sykes. And after a loss to George Washington, Rutgers picks on someone closer to its own size when it hosts Fairleigh Dickinson. BTN will bring you the Badgers. BTN Plus subscribers can check out the Scarlet Knights, and then fight the urge to demand a refund.
Game of the Night: Green Bay at Wisconsin (9 PM/BTN)
The Badgers doubled up Northern Kentucky and fell one point short of doing the same to Chattanooga. While UW will still be favored in Game No. 3, a 30-plus margin of victory would be a stunner. Green Bay didn't exactly tune up for this one the right way, claiming a 31-point victory over Division II Illinois-Springfield, but the Phoenix will still be itching for vengeance.
Last season, the Badgers went into Green Bay's Resch Center and escaped with a 69-66 win. UW had to rally from a seven-point deficit with 11:30 to go. Sykes exploded for 32 points, but got absolutely no support. No other Green Bay player cracked double digits. That game only polished Sykes' reputation as a big game hunter, as he averaged a cool 25.6 points and 5.1 assists against eventual NCAA tournament teams last year. Forward Jordan Fouse is one of the nation's better defensive stoppers, already ranking in GB's all-time top 10 in both steals and blocks two years into his career. The matchup between him and Badger forward Sam Dekker may be more entertaining than it should be.
Despite the weak opposition, Wisconsin is still shooting only 34% from three-point range through two games. Perimeter defense was one of Green Bay's strengths last season. Star 7-footer Alec Brown is gone, but GB still has five players who stand 6'8" or taller. Finally, the Phoenix will be motivated, as they labor under a 19-1 all-time deficit to the Badgers, with a December 2009 victory in Green Bay still standing as GB's last win over a ranked team. This game will be the first time the Phoenix have met a top-5 team since Kentucky in December 1996.
If the Badgers can continue dominating the offensive glass and shoot solidly from long range, they should walk out of the Kohl Center with a double-digit victory. Still, the game is well worth watching just to see if the 5'11" Sykes will throw down any YouTube-worthy dunks like these:
Fairleigh Dickinson at Rutgers (7:30 PM/BTN Plus)
For reals, can we boot Rutgers back to the American if they find a way to lose this game?
That's a serious question, because FDU (or Fairdick, as I like to call it) has already pulled out a victory over St. Joseph's. That's Atlantic 10 St. Joseph's, the one that came one rebound away from derailing UConn's latest national championship fairy tale before it even got started. Even scrutinizing the box score from the Knights' 58-57 win, the result is still a head-scratcher. Fairdick only turned the ball over seven times to SJU's 16 (including 10 Dickinson steals), but aside from that, St. Joe's appeared to be in firm control. It took a Mustafaa Jones three-pointer with four seconds left to give FDU the win. The Knights followed that up with a 41-point hammering of satellite campus FDU-Florham.
Against George Washington, Rutgers slumped to a 70-53 defeat, never pulling the margin within 10 points after halftime. Turnovers were a problem, as was the absence of forward Kadeem Jack. Jack is still likely to miss the FDU game as he continues to recover from his sprained thumb.
Finally, let us not forget that Fairleigh Dickinson did walk into the RAC and steal a win last season.
The Scarlet Knights will need much more of a presence from their veteran players than they got against GW. Freshman Mike Williams (10 points) was the team's second-leading scorer, while classmate D.J. Foreman was the No. 2 rebounder, pulling five boards to go with his nine points. Returners Greg Lewis, Junior Etou and Malick Kone - along with Miami (Fla.) transfer Bishop Daniels - shot a combined 3-24 from the field with 12 turnovers.
The GW loss is fully forgivable, since the Colonials are still a very likely NCAA tournament team out of the Atlantic 10. Fairleigh Dickinson, however, is a whole different ball of knives. FDU shouldn't have a legitimate chance to beat Rutgers or any other Big Ten team, but...