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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Friday, January 21, 2022
Wisconsin Basketball

With Nigel Hayes (10) graduating, it will be left to Ethan Happ (22) to carry on the Badger tradition next season.

Badgers host floundering Rattlers in final non-conference matchup

Before dipping into Big Ten play for what should be an eventful conference season, the No. 14 Wisconsin Badgers (10-2) host Florida A&M (2-10) Friday night in a matchup that could get ugly.

The Rattlers have just two wins on the season and haven’t won a single game against a Division I opponent thus far. They beat Trinity Baptist at home before squeaking out a 9-point victory over Johnson University, which has just one win in Division II this year.

Florida A&M is the fourth-worst team in the country, according to Ken Pomeroy, and gives up offensive rebounds on an astonishingly bad 37.2 percent of their opponents possessions. That’s a recipe for disaster against the Badgers, who have been one of the top rebounding teams in the country all season.

Juniors Desmond Williams and Marcus Barham do most of the heavy lifting for the Rattlers, scoring a combined 28.1 points per game. Barham can get hot from outside and is shooting 37.3 percent from 3-point range this season.

Williams is a strong post player, but will likely be forced to match up up with either redshirt sophomore forward Ethan Happ or senior forward Nigel Hayes at the Kohl Center. Despite his offensive prowess down low, Williams gives up several inches to both players and could struggle heavily against two of the most effective offensive forwards in the country.

Although the Badgers will have a massive advantage in the paint against Florida A&M, they could find themselves taking upwards of 30 3-pointers again Friday night, as the Rattlers have been prone to deep shots all year.

UW won’t struggle in this game, and it could be a prime opportunity for developing players Brevin Pritzl and Andy Van Vliet to get some extended minutes. Though the pair might not see extensive playing time in the Big Ten season, they are expected to play big roles in the Badgers’ future. They need plenty of work to be ready for upper-echelon Division I basketball, but that work can’t all come in practice.

The Badgers open up Big Ten play at home against Rutgers, which has been pathetic in recent years but has taken a significant step forward in the first third of the 2016-’17 season. The Scarlet Knights are 11-1 and boast perhaps the best offensive rebounding unit in the country. UW can’t fall asleep at the wheel after coasting past the Rattlers before Christmas or they might be on upset alert come the conference opener.

The Badgers tip off with Florida A&M Friday night at 8 p.m.

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