MADISON - When Wisconsin and Milwaukee players meet at center court Wednesday night, it will be the final in-state meeting for the Badgers. So far, it has been an up and down ride for UW with a loss at Green Bay and a win over Marquette at home. Now, the Badgers get a chance to take the state crown with a win over the Panthers.
Before tip-off at the Kohl Center in a matter of hours, BadgerBlitz.com presents five things to watch over the course of the game.
1.) Familiar face in a familiar place:
When talking about Rob Jeter and Bo Ryan, one word comes to mind: Familiarity. Jeter was a former player under Ryan and former assistant coach with Ryan at Wisconsin. Tonight, the two will meet again.
"It's like anything else," Ryan, who has never lost to Milwaukee as the head coach of the Badgers, said. "We all did it. Growing up, we always played against our buddies. Once a game starts I don't hear the crowd. It's hard to explain. You meet and greet, shake hands afterwards and say I'll talk to you later on. I'd like to be able to describe it, but once the game starts, your team is what you're working on."
But the relationships between the coaches extend even a bit further to the players. So much so that Trevon Hughes had nothing but kind words for his former recruiter.
"I don't really talk to him as much," Hughes, who averages just less than 18 points per game, said. "When I do see him I say what's up. He's such a good guy. I loved when I used to come on official visits. I loved to hang out and talk to him."
It will be interesting to see Jeter and his Milwaukee squad square off yet again against his former mentor and former team.
2.) Expecting some good defense:
It should go without saying that a disciple of Bo Ryan's system would have his team playing good defense, but it's the truth. Jeter, having played for and coached with Ryan, has his team playing great defense. Much like you see the Badgers doing on a nightly basis.
"They're playing very good man to man right now," Ryan said. "I mean they could have had those two conference wins if they just maybe hit a couple of shots. They could be sitting 2-0 in the Horizon league. But a win over Miami (OH) like that and what they did to them, that was huge."
Stemming from that, Milwaukee is another in-state rival that is playing great basketball with a high amount of confidence heading into the game against the Badgers. Much like Green Bay, it seems that the Panthers have momentum on their side at the current moment.
"Green Bay was on a big roll when we played them," Ryan said. "And Milwaukee is on the same."
3.) Is Nankivil finding his stroke?
After a stretch of games where Keaton Nankivil did not contribute much offensively and saw his minutes drop a decent amount, the junior big man started to regain his scoring touch against Cal Poly.
Now, heading into the final in-state matchup, Nankivil is hoping to contribute that trend.
"Scoring is definitely not the only thing to look at, but at the same time there is always room for improvement and room to do more," Nankivil said. "We watched the film and I'm trying to keep improving on all that stuff."
4.) Getting back into basketball mode:
Since last week's thumping over Cal Poly, the Wisconsin hoops team has had a full week to prepare for Milwaukee. However, the practice schedule has been a little bit different as the team has been right in the middle of finals week.
Now, with exams in the rearview mirror, and with Ryan expecting another great performance by his guys in the classroom, the ninth year head coach is interested to see how his team reacts to being in a game.
"It's not a week off," Ryan said. "We won't know until we get on the court. Offensively our points per possession in the Green Bay, Marquette and Duke, Grambling games were off the charts. But you take a look at Indiana tonight (Tuesday), it's like we were last night (Monday) in practice.
"Hopefully we got that out of our system."
In that Indiana game Ryan referenced, the Hoosiers were incredibly slow out of the gate and eventually fell to upset minded Loyola of Maryland. After putting so much focus into final exams, it is understandable that a team could come out a bit rusty.
"After finals we've had a week off and every other Big Ten team has played in this week," Nankivil said. "We've got to get back on track and get on the floor. It's like any game, you just want to win every one of them."
5.) Is Bohannon finding his stroke?
Much like Nankivil, senior guard Jason Bohannon seemed to be regaining his scoring touch against Cal Poly last week. By the end of the game, Bohannon had hit four of his six three-point shots and finished with 12 points. As the Big Ten season approaches, and using the next two home games as momentum builders, Bohannon seems to be confident with the direction of his shot.
"I got some open looks and knocked them down," Bohannon, who is shooting 39 percent from distance, said. "I've had confidence all year. There were a couple of games where they weren't falling. But that's just kind of the nature of shooting."
-Location: Kohl Center (17,230)
-TV: Big Ten Network (Brent Stover and Shon Morris)
-Radio: Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)
-All-Time Series: UW leads 25-1
-Last Meeting: UW won, 67-46, Nov. 29, 2008
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