Michigan flat out destroyed Illinois in their opening round game in the Big Ten Tournament and you could even see the surprise on their faces. Not that they were winning, competitive people expect to win, they just couldn't believe that everything was going their way. Michigan's offense flowed perfectly and open shots were had all game long.
Now, Michigan will have to find out if they have what it takes to beat the best team in the Big Ten, Wisconsin. The teams have only met one time this season in a thrilling overtime game that resulted in Wisconsin taking home a slim five point victory. Both teams had very similar end of game stats, with the only real difference being the number of free throws that Wisconsin shot. Wisconsin shot 14-19 from the charity stripe while Michigan hit 11-12. There is one really big difference though between the Michigan team that took Wisconsin to overtime and this team: Derrick Walton Jr., who scored 17 points, but hasn't played since. He was on the bench during the Illinois game, but it remains to be seen if he will be ready to play against Wisconsin.
Michigan Wins If...
They continue to shoot at a very high percentage like they did against Illinois. On offense they were able to spread the floor out by driving and kicking to open shooters. Many of their made threes came off of wide open looks. Michigan will also need to draw fouls and get to the foul line. Wisconsin gets the foul line a lot, and Michigan will have to make sure that they do not gain a huge advantage based on free throw disparity. Rebounding will also play a huge part in the game, Michigan has to find a way to cut down second chance opportunities for Wisconsin.
Wisconsin Wins if...
They continue to play consistent Bo Ryan basketball. Wisconsin kills you with precision. They do everything in their system to perfection, which drives other team to play above their level to win the game. Often this results in an opposing team losing sight of their own identity and leads to teams playing too fast to try and keep up. Wisconsin will need to close out well on Michigan's shooters, and not let them get going early. Michigan is a very good three point shooting team and won't have a legitimate chance of winning this game unless they are shooting threes at a high percentage. If Wisconsin can force them into another sub 35% three point shooting night, like they did in their first meeting, it will go a long way towards securing a victory.
Derick Walton, Jr. scored 17 points during the first meeting between these two team. He hasn't played since, so it remains to be seen if he will be able to contribute when he does finally return. If he could come back for this game, Michigan could use his scoring and leadership. Walton could instantly add another dimension to Michigan's offense if he is back to his early season form. On the flip side, inserting Walton back into the rotation in this late stage could really hurt Michigan's offensive flow.