Games to watch this spring semester

With Traevon Jackson out for several more weeks, Frank Kaminsky’s role will be even more significant this spring.

With Traevon Jackson out for several more weeks, Frank Kaminsky’s role will be even more significant this spring.

Image By: Nithin Charlly

Men’s basketball

While many may point to the Feb. 24 matchup of the Badgers and the Maryland Terrapins, the game to watch of the spring semester is actually the following game, when the Badgers take on the Michigan State Spartans to close out their home slate March 1.

With Traevon Jackson hopefully back in the fold by then, this should be a Senior Day to remember for a talented crop of players whose eligibility will be exhausted.

In recent memory, I can’t think of a senior class as prolific as this one, with starters Josh Gasser, Jackson and Naismith Award nominee Frank Kaminsky along with key reserve Duje Dukan.

Michigan State may only be 12-6 (3-2 Big Ten), but one can never count out a Tom Izzo-coached team, who still has a trio of talented upperclassmen in Denzel Valentine, Travis Trice and Branden Dawson.

Furthermore, if the Badgers can find a way to win both this game and their matchup against Maryland, they should find themselves in the driver’s seat of taking home the Big Ten crown. Throw in the Badgers playing the Spartans on national TV on a Sunday afternoon, and you have a perfect setting for a great game.

—Brian Weidy

Women’s hockey

The second half of the Badgers’ season has not started off well, and it does not get easier when they face the Clarkson Golden Knights this weekend.

Clarkson is second in the ECAC with an impressive 9-2-2 conference record, and sophomore forward Shannon MacAulay leads the charge, tied for the most goals in the conference with 15.

The Golden Knights field two of the conference’s three leading point scorers, all tied at 28, which is the same number as the Badgers’ leading scorer, senior forward Karley Sylvester.

Much like Wisconsin, Clarkson put up big scoring outputs against weaker opponents all season, while playing the top teams to tight finishes. Ten of their 15 wins came by three or more goals, but they also lost a big one, an upset 8-3 loss to Cornell in December.

The Badgers are dealing with their own slump right now, doubling their loss total over the last two series and earning only four points.

UW coach Mark Johnson will have his girls ready to go against a tough, nonconference opponent, but the Golden Knights will ride their momentum to try and remain undefeated in 2015. This series has the makings of a great one.

—Lorin Cox

Men’s hockey

If you somehow missed the first half of the Wisconsin men’s hockey season, you didn’t miss much. The Badgers were a dismal 2-13-3 with no conference wins and only one win against a ranked opponent.

However, there is good news: Wisconsin has improved more than its record reflects. It tied No. 2 Boston University following its first win of the season, and just last weekend, the Badgers picked up an extra point in the standings for winning the shootout against No. 16 (and heated rival) Minnesota.

Lucky for Badger diehards, Wisconsin has a rematch against the Golden Gophers in just two short weeks. It’s an off year for both programs, which both easily made the NCAA tournament last spring and now find themselves on the outside looking in.

Though the Badgers barely bested the Gophers in the first game of last weekend’s series, Minnesota pummeled them the next night, handily winning 5-2 and drawing the Badgers into an all-out brawl following a questionable Eddie Wittchow hit. The loss and fight should make for an exciting, chippy reunion between the teams, and it will be the Badgers with home ice advantage this time.

Watch for sophomore forward Grant Besse to have a big series: He scored three regulation goals against Minnesota and won Wisconsin the shootout in Friday’s game. Goaltending will also be huge, as senior goaltender Joel Rumpel’s play has been either hot or cold as of late.

The Badgers’ and Gophers’ border battle will continue at the Kohl Center Jan. 30 at 8 p.m.

—Devin Lowe

Football

Following the program’s first bowl win in five years, Wisconsin enters the offseason full of questions. How will the offense operate under new head coach Paul Chryst? Will the defense continue to thrive after losing four key players up front? And perhaps on the minds of most Badger fans, who will start at quarterback?

These questions will begin to be answered at the spring football game, the date of which has not been announced yet.

Often deservedly labeled as the bane of this past season’s team, the quarterback battle will garner the most attention all spring and summer long. Joel Stave infuriated many with his interceptions and inconsistent play, but he has the most returning experience. 

Tanner McEvoy showed he could not handle full-time quarterback duties. Meanwhile, there’s redshirt freshman D.J. Gillins and incoming prospects Austin Kafentzis and Alex Hornibrook.

On the other side of the ball, redshirt sophomores Chikwe Obasih and Alec James will have expanded roles following the departure of Warren Herring and Konrad Zagzebski. Two of the defense’s biggest playmakers, Derek Landisch and Marcus Trotter, have also graduated, leaving a hole at inside linebacker.

While the spring game is more a glorified practice than anything else, it will be the first chance to see Chryst at the helm as he ushers in a new era of Wisconsin football.

—Jim Dayton

Softball

The Wisconsin women’s softball team was able to finish their fall exhibition season with an undefeated 7-0 record.  Looking forward into the spring season, the Badgers will have an important home series against Minnesota at the end of April.

With both Minnesota and Wisconsin coming off NCAA tournament appearances, the matchup between the two teams could have a major impact on who wins the Big Ten.  The series will be the last home games the Badgers will have on their schedule.

Wisconsin will need to get another good season out of senior outfielder Maria Van Abel because of the youth the Badgers have.  The younger players on the team will need to have good performances in order for Wisconsin to do well.  However, the team should have plenty of experience before they have to play Minnesota at the end of the season. 

This matchup between the Badgers and Gophers is not only the game to watch because of the importance that it has in the conference, but also because it adds to a rivalry between the two schools. 

This series will begin Wednesday, April 29 at 4:30 p.m. at the Goodman Softball Complex.

—Jacob Hams

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