Against the three ranked opponents that Wisconsin has faced this season, the Badgers (3-3) have routinely come up short when the game hung in the balance. Monday evening, UW travels to Charlottesville, Virginia to face a Virginia (6-0) team, while currently unranked, that serves as Wisconsin’s toughest road test so far.
The Badgers are looking to finally ace their exam.
Greg Gard has repeatedly said that come March, Wisconsin’s strength of schedule will not be an issue as it pertains to its tournament resume. But the Badgers are still looking for a signature non-conference win and are quickly running out of opportunities to snatch it.
UW was tied or within two points with two minutes to play against its last three ranked opponents, Xavier, Baylor and UCLA, but the Badgers faltered late in all three and squandered three chances to improve its resume.
In each defeat, however, Wisconsin struggled in different ways. Against XU, the Badgers went back and forth before a late sprint by the Musketeers sent UW fans in the Kohl Center home unhappy. Against Baylor, Wisconsin was in a constant game of catch-up as it fell behind early and ran out of gas against an experienced Bears team. The Badgers played a more complete game against the Bruins and led at the half, but they struggled coming out of the locker room and fell on a last second shot.
Most recently, in Wisconsin’s win over Milwaukee on Friday night, UW corrected some of its mistakes and played two consistent halves. The Badgers dominated the Panthers in the second half, something they were unable to do in their prior three games, and emerged with a comfortable victory.
Virginia is led by sophomore guard Kyle Guy and redshirt senior guard Devon Hall, who are the Cavaliers’ two most dangerous scorers and could potentially pose a problem to the Badgers’ young backcourt. Freshman guard Brad Davison will make his third consecutive start against the Wahoos and he will be joined yet again by redshirt freshman forward Aleem Ford.
Before this season, Wisconsin hasn’t started two freshmen in a game since 1997-’98, but it seems as if Gard will ride with his two freshman in the starting lineup indefinitely.
Redshirt freshman guard De’Andre Hunter provides Virginia with a spark off of its bench while senior forward Isaiah Wilkins has been a problem for some of the Cavaliers’ opponents early on this season.
The Badgers open conference play next Sunday against Ohio State. Monday is one of their last chances to get a quality non-conference win.
Such victories have evaded UW so far this season, but Monday night presents a new challenge.
Tipoff from Charlottesville is scheduled for 8 p.m. CT. Check back at Dailycardinal.com/section/sports and @Cardinal_sports for live coverage.