This week will be a good test of how much progress the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team has made on defense since a horrid stretch in January. The two teams the Badgers play, Minnesota and Michigan, both put on offensive clinics against UW over the span of five days last month. The Badgers (19-5, 6-5 Big Ten) host the Golden Gophers (16-8, 5-6) on Thursday night at the Kohl Center. The Gophers shot 58.9 percent from the field and averaged 1.42 points per possession — both season highs for a UW opponent — during an 81-68 victory at Williams Arena in Minneapolis on Jan. 22. The No. 15 Wolverines (17-6, 9-2) host UW on Sunday at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, Mich. Michigan shot 54.7 percent and averaged 1.15 points per possession during a 77-70 victory in Madison on Jan. 18. UW has shown noticeable improvement on defense over its past five games, including a 60-58 victory over No. 9 Michigan State on Sunday at the Kohl Center. The Spartans went scoreless over a stretch of 12 consecutive possessions to end the first half, shot 39.3 percent for the game and averaged 0.89 points per possession. It certainly didn’t help matters for Michigan State it was missing two starters — including senior point guard Keith Appling, who has given UW fits during his career — but Spartans coach Tom Izzo still made a point to praise the Badgers’ defensive effort. “This is a good defensive team,” Izzo said. “They maybe haven’t been ‘Wisconsin good’ because Wisconsin’s been unbelievable defensively the last 10 years. I would say — I hope this isn’t insulting — it’s not one of (Bo Ryan’s) best, which (still) makes them probably in the top three of the league. Usually, they’re (No. 1).” The victory over Michigan State, combined with one earlier in the week at Illinois, helped UW move back into the Associated Press Top 25 poll at No. 21 on Monday. The Badgers, who had climbed to No. 3 in the poll after a 16-0 start to the season, dropped out of the poll last week after losing five of six games in a span of three weeks. More importantly, the Badgers moved up to No. 7 in the official Ratings Percentage Index released by the NCAA. UW is 5-2 against RPI Top 25 teams and 12-5 against teams in the top 100. ESPN has the Badgers projected as a No. 4 seed, while CBSSports.com has UW as a No. 5 seed.
Key rematches coming for UW
Wisconsin State Journal | Feb 11