Wisconsin will look to stay perfect under Bo Ryan against Iowa at the Kohl Center (8-0 currently) at noon today. Having ended last season with a run to the Sweet 16 and coming into this game ranked #11 in the country the Badgers can say it's been a pretty darn good 2011.
Standing in the way a 7 game win streak are the Iowa Hawkeyes, who haven't seen the Kohl Center since the 2009-10 season, during the Todd Lickliter era. Overall this is the 154th meeting between these two teams in a series that dates back to 1909. Wisconsin owns the narrowest of leads with a 77-76 edge overall.
However the Badgers have won 3 straight games, including last seasons thrilling 62-59 overtime win at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Additionally Wisconsin has won 13 of the last 15 match ups.
Both teams also hold a major advantage playing at home with Wisconsin having a 49-27 edge in games played in Madison.
Iowa comes into this game at 8-6 overall but lost their Big Ten opener 79-76 at home to Purdue earlier this week. The Hawkeyes sure didn't get any favors to start their 2nd Big Ten campaign under Fran McCaffery, having to face Purdue, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan State, and Michigan in their first five games. It could very well be an 0-5 start.
Let's take a look inside this match up by starting with the probable starters:
F - Ryan Evans (10.8ppg, 6.9rpg, 1.7apg)
F - Mike Bruesewitz (6.0ppg, 5.1rpg, 1.3apg)
F/C - Jared Berggren (12.1ppg, 4.6rpg, 0.9apg)
G - Josh Gasser (7.5ppg, 4.4rpg, 1.9apg)
G - Jordan Taylor (12.4ppg, 3.9rpg, 5.0apg)
F - Melsahn Basabe (9.8ppg, 6.1rpg)
F - Zach McCabe (7.1ppg, 4.7rpg)
G/F - Eric May (7.7ppg, 3.1rpg)
G - Matt Gatens (13.8ppg, 3.6rpg)
G - Roy Delvyn Marble (11.4ppg, 3.9apg)
This game features one of the most underrated guard matchups in the conference. Iowa's Roy Delvyn Marble and Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor both have a pension for hanging on to the rock, making solid decisions with the ball, and scoring in bunches. Marble is 8th in the country in assists to turnover ratio at 3.7 while Taylor isn't far behind, ranking 13th at 3.30 assists to turnovers (going into this week).
Overall the guards will be the key to this game. Matt Gatens can be one of the best shooters in the conference on any given day and is shooting 45.9% from the field and 90% from the free throw line. While Wisconsin finally has Taylor as the leading scorer on the team, just .2ppg ahead of Berggren, and Ben Brust coming off the bench to add 10.6 points per game himself.
Up front for the Hawkeyes the one guy that's not listed on the starters sheet, but needs to be accounted for is two time Big Ten Freshman of the week (including the most recent week) Aaron White. He's averaging 9 points a game and 4.6 rebounds a game. Over the past 3 games he's actually averaged 14 points a game.
One thing is for sure, this is a total clash of styles. In the 8 wins for the Hawkeyes they've scored 80 or more points in 7 of those games while Wisconsin has managed to hold 12 of their 14 opponents to their lowest scoring games of the season and no opponent has scored more than 61 points a game against the Badgers defense.
If Wisconsin wants to win this one it's clear they have to play great defnese and the target for making it 13 of 15 is 55 points, something well with in reach for the Badgers defense.
In fact the Badgers defense has been so dominate that it continues to increase it's lead in scoring defense, now sitting at nearly 4 points a game better than 2nd place Virginia. Overall Wisconsin is holding opponents to 44.4 points a game. They are also the nations best in opponents field goal percentage, limiting teams to just 33.3% shooting a game.
Iowa comes in shooting 45.5% as a team, not exactly amazing, pretty average actually. One thing is clear though, Wisconsin can not get into a track meet.
Tempo will be key and playing at home the Badgers seem to just have that magic under Bo Ryan, only losing 6 games in his tenure as coach in Madison. After a close loss to Purdue at home earlier this week the Hawkeyes may be confident they are ready to compete, but I don't think they've seen a defense like this one all year and may be in for a bit of a shocker at the Kohl Center.
As long as Wisconsin continues to ride the hot shooting of Ryan Evans and Jordan Taylor. Yes, I said Ryan Evans, who is averaging 8 more points a game than last season (3rd best improvement on this team and the 8th best in the Big Ten). I see that being the case as they enjoy their conference home opener and win this one easily.
Prediction: Wisconsin 71 Iowa 52