Coming off a close game against North Carolina in which the Badgers had a second half lead slip away and they lost to the Tar Heels 60-57, it doesn't get much easier for Wisconsin as it plays undefeated and No. 16 Marquette at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the Kohl Center. Marquette looks to avenge last year's 69-64 loss to Wisconsin. The Badgers have won the past two meetings with the Golden Eagles and nine of the last 14.
The in-state rivals have played since 1917 and every year since the 1984-85 season. The Badgers own a 64-53 advantage over Marquette and Wisconsin Head Coach Bo Ryan is 6-4 against them.
In it’s last game, Wisconsin gave up a season-high 60 points to North Carolina, but the Tar Heels were held 28 points below the their season average. The Badgers are still only allowing 42.1 points per game, which is the best in the nation, as well as allowing opponents to shoot 32.1 percent per game, which ranks third in the country.
This game marks the return of guard Vander Blue, who went to Madison Memorial High School and came Marquette after decommitting from Wisconsin because of things he reportedly read on message boards. Blue’s sophomore season sees him averaging 10.7 and 4.5 assists per game while shooting 51.2 percent from the field so far.
Marquette comes in fifth in the nation in scoring with 88 points per game. The Golden Eagles also come in fourth in the country in field goal percentage, shooting 53.1 percent per game.
The leading scorer for the Golden Eagles is senior guard Darius Johnson-Odom with 19.8 points per game, just ahead of senior forward Jae Crowder, who is second on the team with 19.3 points per game and leads the team in rebounding as well with 7.3 per game. They are shooting 57.1 percent and 58.9 percent from the field, respectively, as well. Johnson-Odom is also shooting 46.7 percent from behind the 3-point line. The Golden Eagles have an astounding six players shooting over 50 percent from the floor.
It will be interesting to see the guard matchup in this game. Johnson-Odom, Blue and junior Junior Cadougan will go up against All-American Jordan Taylor, Josh Gasser and Ryan Evans, even though Evans is not a guard, he will be guarding Blue for most of the game. He played great defense on North Carolina's John Henson and is the most versatile defender the Badgers have had since Joe Krabbenhoft. Josh Gasser looks to continue his hot shooting from 3-point land. Although he was shutout against North Carolina, he is still shooting a blistering 65.2 percent from 3-point range.
After a miserable shooting game against the Tar Heels, Taylor looks to play more like himself this time around against Marquette. He scored 21 points on 5-8 shooting in last year's win against them. Even with his struggles from the floor, Taylor has not let it effect his assist-to-turnover ratio, as his is an amazing 5.6. Jared Berggren came of age last game as well, scoring an efficient 14 points on 6-12 shooting.
With all that said, Marquette, although undefeated, has not played anybody even close to Wisconsin's caliber. The game is also at the Kohl Center, where the Badgers are 156-11 under Ryan and has won 10 consecutive games over ranked teams. The Badgers have also won 23 straight in Madison, which is the fifth longest streak in the nation. Marquette will keep it close into the second half, but the hot shooting of Gasser and Ben Brust take the game over and the Badgers win by double digits in the matchup of great offense against great defense.
Prediction: Wisconsin 71, Marquette 57