The Matchup: No. 8/9 Wisconsin (8-0) at Virginia (7-1)
When: Wednesday, December 4 at 6:00pm CT
Where: Charlottesville, VA (John Paul Jones Arena)
Radio: Badger Radio Network
All-Time Series: Virginia leads 2-1
Last Meeting: 60-54 UVa Win
Having seen the Cavaliers play on multiple occasions already this season, this team reminds me a lot of all that didn't go right with the 2012-13 version of the Wisconsin Badgers. Early on this season, Tony Bennett's squad has struggled to put points up, but is living on a defense that has been stifling at times too.
UVa is scoring 69.6 points a game, which isn't a lot in college basketball these days, but what should be troubling is that the Cavaliers rank 51st nationally in shooting percentage, hitting on 48.9 percent of their field goal attempts. Wisconsin has struggled to hold opponents down in this area, allowing opponents to shoot 44.8 percent on the year.
The bad news gets worse for Badger fans as Joe Harris, the guy who single-handily put the Wahoo's over the top with 22 points in this contest last year, is back and leads his team in scoring (12.4ppg). However, just two other Wahoo's are in double figures in Malcom Brogdon (10.8ppg) and Anthony Gill (10.4ppg).
This has all been done against a backdrop of a schedule that hasn't been all that unkind to Bennett's team. Virginia will be facing just its second ranked opponent of the season, losing to VCU 59-56 in its second contest on the schedule. Since then it's been cupcakes and sunshine for UVa.
Key to the Game:
Wisconsin needs to hit the boards defensively in this game. UVa has a 39 to 26 rebounds per game advantage over its opponents coming into the contest and that's a troubling number. Especially given the fact that UW barely holds a rebounding advantage.
Of course, shooting well and not needing to give up rebounds would also help that situation, but Wisconsin can't afford too many one-and-done trips on its end of the court and needs to force them on the defensive end.
We'll probably say it till we're blue in face, but the game will be all about rebounding, rebounding, rebounding tonight.
Prediction: Wisconsin 71, Virginia 61
While the numbers on defense are impressive for the Cavaliers of Virginia, they haven't faced a team anywhere near as good as Wisconsin is. Look for the Badgers to be the team attempting to push the pace a bit on the offensive side of things and if they are dictating the pace it means UW is winning the game. What the Badgers can't do is get into a defensive slug-fest with UVa. Look at the halftime score to tell you all you need to know. If UW is close to, or over, 30 points at the half Wisconsin wins.