Well folks, the 6-1 Wisconsin Badgers managed to make it through their seven non-conference games relatively unscathed, save for a heartbreaker in Milwaukee. In these games the veteran squad has proven themselves as a team that, as every college basketball pundit has put it, “won’t beat themselves.” But now, the truly challenging part of the schedule begins: conference play.
The Badgers are set to take on the 4-3 Nebraska Cornhuskers on Tuesday evening to open up play in the Big Ten, this year’s deepest conference in college basketball. This week’s AP Poll has seven Big Ten teams in the Top 25: No. 4 Iowa, No. 9 Wisconsin, No. 11 Rutgers, No. 12 Michigan State, No. 18 Illinois, No. 19 Michigan, and No. 23 Ohio State. Indiana, Purdue, Northwestern, and Minnesota also received votes.
Nebraska is not one of those teams. The Huskers already have two losses to unranked teams this season with a three-point loss to Nevada and an 11-point loss to Georgia Tech. Their loss to No. 13 Creighton by 21 points is more understandable, but doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in Fred Hoiberg’s team. But if Michigan State’s double-digit loss to Northwestern taught us anything, it’s that you can’t sleep on any team in the Big Ten.
Junior guard Teddy Allen is Nebraska’s do-it-all star. The Meso, Ariz. native was a JUCO star at Western Nebraska Community College before transferring to West Virginia, where he was the Mountaineers’ Rookie of the Year in 2018-19. Allen then transferred to Wichita State, where he did not play a game, before ending up at Nebraska this year.
The 6’6” guard doesn’t bring much in terms of passing, but Allen’s shooting and defensive tenacity make up for that. He leads the Huskers in scoring with 18.3 points per game on a relatively clean 45% clip, including a season-high 26 points against Creighton. Allen also has 19 steals on the season, which is more than double the Badgers’ leader in steals (Tyler Wahl with 9). Allen nabbed five steals each against North Dakota State and Nevada. Allen’s nose for the ball sets up an interesting matchup against Badgers guard D’Mitrik Trice, who has not committed a turnover in his last two games.
The Huskers boast a couple of good two-way players as well. Western Illinois transfer Kobe Webster provides a spark plug off the bench with his three-point shooting. The 6’0” guard has four games with 2+ three-pointers, including a six made threes against Georgia Tech. Sophomore big man Dalano Banton is a legitimate triple-double threat, averaging 13.7 points, a team-leading 7.7 rebounds and an also team-leading 5.7 assists. And Reykjavik, Iceland’s own Thorir Thorbjarnarson, has one of the best names in college basketball.
The Badgers’ Big Ten opener comes in the wake of Wisconsin’s bullying of the Louisville Cardinals by a score of 85-48 to kick off an excellent Saturday of Wisconsin sports. The Badgers lit up and shut down Louisville from start to finish. The dominant performance was a perfect appetizer to Wisconsin football barely keeping Paul Bunyan’s Axe.
The Badgers and the Huskers tip off at 6 p.m. Central Time on FS1. Wisconsin’s seniors will look to kick off Big Ten play with a bang while the Huskers will look to “shuck” the world.