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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Monday, August 15, 2022
Ethan Happ

The Badgers will look to close out their 2015-16 home schedule with a win over fellow NCAA Tournament bubble team, Michigan.

NCAA Tournament implications on the line in Badgers' home finale against Michigan

With its final home game Sunday, Wisconsin (10-5 Big Ten, 18-10 overall) will look to all but seal up an NCAA Tournament bid against the Michigan Wolverines (10-6, 20-9).

Winning nine games out of its last 10, the Badgers have been one of the most impressive squads in the entire nation over the past month and a half, owning wins over Michigan State, Indiana, Maryland and Iowa.

Getting a victory Sunday will essentially clinch an NCAA Tournament spot for UW and will serve as another résumé booster. The task won’t come easy though, despite the matchup being at the Kohl Center and with UW riding on full momentum.

The Wolverines have already reached 20 wins with quality victories over Texas, Maryland and Purdue. And above all, U of M will have a true sense of urgency to win with just a few games left remaining in the season and its place in the Big Dance still not yet secured.

Undoubtedly, Sunday’s matchup will have significant NCAA Tournament implications, as ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has the Wolverines projected as a nine seed and the Badgers as a seven seed.

In its marquee win against Iowa on Thursday, UW shifted away from the scoring duo of junior forward Nigel Hayes and redshirt freshman forward Ethan Happ, instead receiving major contributions from its bench and supporting cast.

Redshirt sophomore Jordan Hill and true freshmen Khalil Iverson and Charlie Thomas combined for 23 points to help the Badgers get past Iowa on a night when Happ and Hayes weren’t at their sharpest.

Bench productivity won’t be the only thing Wisconsin will need to rely on, as its 3-point game has determined whether they win or lose this season. When hitting six or more threes in its last six games, the Badgers are 5-1.

Leading this charge from 3-point range will be juniors Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes. Koenig has been terrific from beyond the arc in his past five games, as he has averaged 3.0 threes per game and had four against Iowa his last time out. Hayes has struggled as of late with his deep game, but just two weeks ago against Maryland, the versatile scorer knocked down four, highlighting his potential from that range.

On the other side of the spectrum, Wisconsin will need to find a way to get to the free-throw line. U of M comes in to Madison as one of the country’s least-fouling teams, ranking at No. 7 in the nation. Whether this involves driving more with guards Zak Showalter or Bronson Koenig or having Ethan Happ featured more on the post, UW will need to get into the bonus early and take advantage of free-throw opportunities.

Wolverine senior and co-captain, Caris LeVert, is also highly doubtful for Sunday’s matchup due to a leg injury suffered on Dec. 30. His missing presence will certainly be a bonus for UW.

While the Badgers haven’t dominated at the Kohl Center this year as they have in seasons past, they still have the opportunity to add another victory to their remarkable turnaround in Sunday’s home finale.

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