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Week Two: BTP Game of the Week: Xavier at Wisconsin

BTPowerhouse previews an exciting week two of non-con action

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-East Regional-Wisconsin vs Florida Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten dominated a weak slate of games in the opening few days of the season. Now as the Gavitt Games continue and teams begin to prepare for Thanksgiving tournament week, more will begin to be revealed, especially near the bottom of the league. Here’s what to look for in Big Ten play between November 15th and November 21st.

Game of the Week:

-Xavier Musketeers at Wisconsin Badgers

These two programs have had a lot of success in March over the last decade, and both are now led by talented upperclassmen with All-American hype. For Xavier, Trevon Bluiett runs the show and can score in droves. Their senior heavy roster, particularly Bluiett’s running mate J.P. Macura, actually calls to mind some Wisconsin teams from recent years.

This is certainly a role-reversal in a year where some talking heads have fallen into the trap of underrating Wisconsin, with some asserting they will finish outside the league’s top 4. They offer that this is less a knock on Wisconsin than it is a complement to a deep league. They argue that the Badgers, with their only senior being a former walk-on, are a year away.

I’ve seen this movie before. I won’t fall into this trap. Wisconsin hasn’t finished outside of the top four in the Big Ten since 2001. That will not change this year. Ethan Happ is an all-Big Ten player. D’Mitrik Trice is a sophomore, but at 21 years old is more than mature enough to run the offense. Junior center Andy Van Vliet has already scored more points this year than he did all of last year.

That’s a long-winded way of saying this should be a great game and you shouldn’t be surprised if these two teams wind up playing meeting again in the NCAA Tournament.

Honorable Mention:

-Creighton Bluejays at Northwestern Wildcats

Probably the second best Gavitt Game after the above matchup, this will be Northwestern’s first test of the year. After uninspiring performances against Loyola Maryland and St. Peter’s, Northwestern will need a win against the Bluejays to prove themselves worthy of their aggressive #20 ranking.

Unsurprisingly, home crowds have been sparse for the Wildcats, playing 40 minutes away from campus (without traffic) at the Allstate Arena. Though the crowd won’t be much help, the Wildcats should have no problem getting energized for a primetime matchup against a perennially solid team in Creighton.

-Baylor Bears vs. Wisconsin Badgers

This game is being contested in Kansas City, Missouri as part of the annual Hall of Fame Classic. UCLA and Creighton play in the early session and the winners of each game will play each other the next day for the championship.

Baylor, led by Manu Lecomte (who’s been in college for about 8 years it seems), has crushed inferior competition. The Badgers, on the other hand, will have already played Xavier and handled what projects to be a solid Yale team. Both teams are in the low 20s on KenPom. Expect the score to be low and close.

Worst Game of the Week:

-Grambling State Tigers and Iowa Hawkeyes

I was very tempted to put Coppin State at Rutgers in this spot, but I worry that the CSU Eagles, who amazingly have made the tournament three times since Rutgers last did, would be able to keep the game close. Iowa has blown out two lesser opponents already, and D1 basketball teams don’t get much more lowly than Grambling. You won’t find this game on TV, thankfully.

Season Stats:

Game of the Week Appearances by Team:

  • Michigan State – 1
  • Wisconsin – 1

Game of the Week Honorable Mention Appearances by Team:

  • Minnesota – 1
  • Northwestern – 1
  • Wisconsin – 2

Total Appearances by Team:

  • Michigan State – 1
  • Minnesota – 1
  • Wisconsin – 3
  • Northwestern – 1

Worst Game Appearances by Team:

  • Wisconsin – 1
  • Iowa – 1