Things start to heat up in the Big Ten on Wednesday night when the no. 22 Wisconsin Badgers host the Indiana Hoosiers. The Hoosiers are already 1-0 in conference play while this game is Wisconsin’s Big Ten opener. At home, the Badgers are slight 3.5-point favorites, with the over/under set at 132.5 points.
The Badgers are off to an impressive 7-1 start this season that has moved them into the top-25. Wisconsin’s only loss came last month against Providence. However, the Badgers have an upset win over Houston on their resume on their way to winning the Maui Invitational, as well as more recent wins over Georgia Tech and Marquette.
As for the Hoosiers, they beat Nebraska in their last game to open Big Ten play. That was a good bounce-back effort for Indiana coming off a double-overtime loss to Syracuse. That remains Indiana’s only loss of the season, although the Hoosiers don’t have that many impressive wins on the season thus far.
Best in Show
While Indiana still has a lot to prove, there’s little doubt that the Hoosiers will have the best player on the floor in Wednesday’s game. Forward Trayce Jackson-Davis has been an unstoppable force in the paint this season, averaging 21 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. He can score in the paint any time he gets the ball and is also averaging 3.8 blocks per game on the defensive end of the court.
Fellow forward Race Thompson has registered back-to-back double-doubles, giving the Hoosiers an intimidating frontcourt. Meanwhile, Pitt transfer Xavier Johnson is running the point and averaging four assists per game despite only being a modest scoring threat. That means the Hoosiers need players like Miller Koop, Parker Stewart, and Tamar Bates to knock down shots; otherwise, their backcourt scoring can be limited.
Wisconsin’s star power will come from the backcourt, specifically sophomore Johnny Davis. After scoring seven points per game last season, Davis has made a huge leap and is scoring 20.1 points per game this season while making over 40% of his three-point shots. However, Davis is just as good at getting to the basket while backcourt mate Brad Davison is more of a spot-up shooter, averaging 15.9 points per game.
Unfortunately for the Badgers, neither Davis nor Davison is a true point guard, which is why Wisconsin averages fewer than ten assists per game. Those two are also among the team’s best rebounders, so the Badgers rely a lot on them. On the bright side, Wisconsin has decent size in the frontcourt with Tyler Wahl and seven-footer Steven Crowl, who might be able to contain Jackson-Davis a little.
Something to Prove
This game gives the Hoosiers an excellent chance to get a quality win against a team that’s overachieved early in the season. Even with some size inside, stopping Jackson-Davis will be tough for the Badgers. With a dominant big man, Indiana will be able to stay close, making them a good pick as 3.5-point underdogs.
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