The No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team (2-0) will look to extend their 10-game winning streak going back to last season against the UW-Green Bay Phoenix (0-1). The game comes at the heels of the Badgers’ walloping of Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Saturday night.
Saturday evening’s massacre of the Golden Lions was an announcement of the Badgers’ arrival on the national scene. Their prior ten-point victory over Eastern Illinois was impressive, but not close to the 34-point demolishing of APB. Center Micah Potter led all scorers with 19 points on the night and a savvy three steals. Three other Badgers scored in double-digits, and freshman guard Jonathan Davis impressed with nine points and eight rebounds.
The Badgers’ impressive start to the season has landed them at No. 4 in this week’s AP Poll, up from No. 7 last week thanks to some major upsets around college basketball, such as University of San Francisco taking down the previously-4th ranked University of Virginia and No. 3 Villanova falling to No. 16 Virginia Tech. Big Ten opponents Iowa and Illinois are now No. 3 and No. 5, respectively.
UW-Green Bay has had a near-opposite start to their season. The Phoenix opened their season against the Minnesota Golden Gophers, who lit up the Phoenix despite shooting only 20 percent from three-point range. Minnesota guard Marcus Carr scored 35 points while the Gophers cruised to a 99-69 win. The Phoenix did have four players score in double digits, but so did the Gophers. Three Minnesota guards (Carr, Gabe Kalscheur and Both Gach) scored two-thirds of the Gophers’ points alone.
D’Mitrik Trice is this game’s player to watch based on Phoenix’s last game. Trice and Carr share a penchant for slashing towards the hoop with the ability to step out for a shot from distance; Carr had four of Minnesota’s seven 3-point shots against UW-GB. Each of these point guards deliver a poised, veteran presence to their respective teams. Given how much trouble senior guard PJ Pipes had guarding Carr, the Phoenix may be forced to change up their defensive strategy against Trice.
Look for Trice to play an important role on the defensive end as well. The Phoenix coughed up the ball 23 times in their game against Minnesota, so the Badgers should come out aggressive on defense in hopes of finding the same success that their rivals did.
While the Phoenix are a young team, their starting lineup has the veteran talent necessary for a successful lower-tier team. Redshirt senior Josh Jefferson, a transfer from Illinois State, opened his UWGB career with a double-digit scoring effort, and Pipes is coming off of his best offensive season so far. Junior forward Paris Taylor brought efficiency to the lineup against Minnesota, shooting five-for-eight from the floor. The rest of the team, however, is made up entirely of either freshmen or redshirt freshmen.
Of note on the Phoenix’s side is new head coach Will Ryan, the eldest son of legendary Badgers coach Bo Ryan. Will Ryan not only worked on his father’s staff in Madison in the early 2000s, but current Badgers head coach Greg Gard was his high school basketball coach in Platteville.
The Badgers are 25-point favorites in Vegas and New Jersey sportsbooks with the over/under set at 149. It does not seem like the Phoenix will be able to rise from the ashes just yet.