Two storms are brewing on their inevitable paths toward campus. One brings drifts of snow, and the other, if weathered, could bring the Wisconsin's men's basketball team another Big Ten regular season title.
The Badgers are coming off a successful week, upsetting Michigan State Tuesday and making easy work of a struggling Michigan team Saturday by dropping 3s like they were Friday morning classes. And Wisconsin's opponent, Illinois, is coming off its own upset of Michigan State and is on a four-game winning streak.
When the two teams meet at 6 p.m. tonight at the Kohl Center, the 40 minutes of play could be an important turning point both teams look back to when the season is over.
Wisconsin will face one of the most underrated guards in the conference. After losing his starting job earlier this season, Illinois junior guard Demetri McCamey is back on top as the leader of his squad. He leads the conference in assists, and in a career game against Michigan State he scored 22 points and dished out 11 assists to stifle the Spartans.
""McCamey's playing really well right now,"" senior guard Jason Bohannon said. ""He's being able to do whatever he wants a lot of times. For us it's going to be key to be able to contain him and make them play within their offense a little more.""
The Illini also suit up 7'1"" junior center Mike Tisdale. He has the ability to take over a game down low both offensively and defensively. Tisdale, who was once on Wisconsin's radar as a recruit, has games of 31 points and 11 rebounds against Northwestern and 27 points with nine rebounds against Indiana. He's averaging 11.7 points and 6.2 rebounds on the season.
In addition, head coach Bruce Weber has junior Mike Davis, who leads the team in rebounds with 8.5 per game, and freshman D.J. Richardson, who is third on the team in scoring average with 11.2.
Wisconsin assistant coach Gary Close headed the scout team for the upcoming game and sees Illinois as a dual-threat team.
""They can score inside,"" he said. ""They can score [outside]. They can take it to the hoop, and that's why they're shooting a real high percentage. They're shooting a high percentage from three, and they're shooting a high percentage from two because they get some inside baskets and McCamey just finds people.""
The Badgers will again rely on the play of their hot-shooting guards and a scoring defense that ranks No. 5 in the nation. Illinois is scoring 74.2 points per contest, but the Badgers' disciplined defense is only allowing 56.2 points per game.
""Obviously we know Illinois is a good team,"" sophomore guard Jordan Taylor said. ""They're hot right now, and McCamey is as good as anyone in the Big Ten and maybe even in the country when he's playing his game. So they're a good team, and we've just got to get better at what we do to prepare for them.""
Both the Badgers and Illini will also pay attention to the game between Purdue and Michigan State that takes place at 8 p.m. If the Boilermakers are able to continue the Spartans' slide and Wisconsin takes care of business against the Illini, the Badgers would hold a share of the Big Ten lead.