Well, it has been a wild couple of days for the Wisconsin Badgers (5-5 Big Ten, 12-9 overall), so let’s look at a quick recap of what has led the team to this point.
First, Wisconsin shot lights out at home against Nebraska on Jan. 21, hitting a school record 18 three-pointers. Then, the Badgers turned around and traveled to Purdue where they lost by 19 points as they shot just 31 percent from behind the arc. To finish up their stretch of away games, the Badgers headed to Iowa, which is where things started to really go south.
Before the game started, Wisconsin basketball tweeted that sophomore guard Kobe King would not be playing in the game and that he did not travel with the team due to “personal matters,” so freshman forward Tyler Wahl made his first career start.
Wisconsin contended well with Iowa and led for a majority of the game, but after going on near five-minute scoring drought at the end of the second quarter, the Hawkeyes quickly lessened the deficit and soon took the lead. With less than a minute left to play, down by three, junior guard Brad Davison received a flagrant one foul after fighting through a screen and hitting an Iowa player in the groin.
After a review, Davison was suspended for one game by the Big Ten, so he won’t be suiting up for Saturday’s game against No. 14 Michigan State (16-5 overall, 8-2 Big Ten).
However, just before the news of Davison’s suspension, King took to Instagram to officially announce his immediate departure from the Wisconsin men’s basketball program. King did not give much of a reason for his decision, except that he felt it was in his best interest for his basketball career, though he spoke to madison.com Thursday to clarify his reasoning.
So, with King — the team’s second leading scorer leaving the program — and Davison out for a single game suspension, things look grim for Saturday.
The last time Wisconsin faced Michigan State earlier this season the Badgers lost 55-67. Junior forward Nate Reuvers led the team that game with 19 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. King was the only other Badger to put up double figures. As for the Spartans, they had four players in double-digits, led by junior forward Xavier Tillman with 15 points and nine rebounds.
After the win against Wisconsin, Michigan State hit the road to take on Indiana and lost 63-67. But the Spartans turned things around and won their next two games against Minnesota and Northwestern.
The Spartans have a strong offense with multiple players who can put the ball in the basket with consistency. In their most recent 79-50 victory over Northwestern, the Spartans were led by senior guard Cassius Winston who put up 18 points, followed next by Tillman with 12 points.
The Badgers on the other hand are going to have to work hard to fill the scoring gaps left by King and Davison. Davison has averaged 8.9 points a game this season, and has been a big factor on the defensive end with his ability to make stops. That being said, with another flagrant one on his resume, Davison should expect all eyes on him when he takes the court next.
With two key players out, Wahl and junior forward Micah Potter should expect to see a lot of action. Throughout the eleven games he has played, Potter has averaged 9.5 points and 5.4 rebounds a game, showing his ability to make a significant impact on offense. Wahl too has had his moments of stellar play, but as a freshman he still has a lot to learn, particularly when it comes to slowing things down and taking care of the ball.
Another player who gets a lot of minutes, junior forward Aleem Ford, only averages around seven points a game. He will be another experienced player who the team will look for to get buckets.
Wisconsin has experienced a number of changes heading into Saturday’s game, but it is important that it focuses on the players it does have on the court, and work hard to contain Michigan State’s star, Winston. Even though the Badgers held Winston to a mere six points last time they played, they still allowed four other players to score double figures.
Tipoff is set for 12 p.m. at the Kohl Center on Saturday.