November 23, 2008

Badgers square off with San Diego in semi-finals

CHARLOTTE AMALIE, U.S. Virgin Islands - The Wisconsin men's basketball team snuck past a feisty Iona team in the first round of the 2008 Paradise Jam Tournament on Friday night. With the win, the Badger's advanced to the semi-finals of the same tournament where it will take on San Diego tonight.

The Toreros return most everyone from a team that upset Connecticut in last season's NCAA tournament in March. In its first round match-up, San Diego held on for a hard fought 73-66 win against Valparaiso.

The following is a positional breakdown of tonight's UW-San Diego contest:

Trevon Hughes vs. Brandon Johnson

-Hughes finally broke out of his early season slump and scored a season high 21 points against Iona. Perhaps more impressive, was Hughes' night at the free throw line. The junior connected on 11-of-12 attempts from the Charity stripe. If tonight's game is anything like Friday night's, it will be crucial for Hughes to perform well from the line.

Johnson ranks third on San Diego's roster averaging just under 14 points and six rebounds per game. The senior, one of four on the Torero's roster, is familiar with tournament play as he was the West Coast Conference tournament MVP and also played an instrumental role in the Torero's NCAA run last spring. This match-up will be a good one to pay attention to.

Advantage: Wisconsin

Jason Bohannon vs. De'Jon Jackson

-Bohannon has played consistently well in the extremely early stages of the season, but his critical free-throw misses have been somewhat eye opening. If tonight's game is close, like expected, Bohannon will need to improve his clutch shooting from the line.

Jackson started his first game of the season against Valparaiso and finished with seven points, five rebounds and three assists in only 17 minutes of play. However, he will have to cut down his turnovers against a good Badger defense.

Advantage: Wisconsin

Joe Krabbenhoft vs. Matt Dorr

-Do not expect Dorr to have a major offensive impact in the game. The Torero sophomore averages just over five points per game and will be guarded by one of the Big Ten's better defenders. Meanwhile, Krabbenhoft has struggled somewhat on the offensive end as he averages only six points per game. But he is still a good defender and his six rebounds per game lead to extra possessions for the Badgers.

Advantage: Wisconsin

Keaton Nankivil vs. Rob Jones

-Nankivil has underperformed on the offensive side of the ball, but he has been okay on defense and his rebounding seems to be progressing. When he takes the court tonight, he will likely be matched-up with the Torero's leading scorer in Jones. In three games, the San Diego sophomore is averaging 16.7 points and eight rebounds per game.

Advantage: San Diego

Marcus Landry vs. Roberto Mafra/Gyno Pomare

-For San Diego, Mafra has started all three games to this point, but Pomare, arguably the best player on the entire roster, comes off the bench and averages 14.5 points per game. For Landry, even while his offensive numbers lead the Badgers, his defense in the low post, especially when guarding Pomare when he is on the court, will likely be a deciding factor towards the outcome of the game.

Advantage: Push

Wisconsin bench vs. San Diego bench:

-As already mentioned, Pomare is the lead contributor off the bench for San Diego. Other than him, Chris Lewis, Devin Ginty, Danny Brown and Nathan Lozeau will likely see playing time.

For Wisconsin, Jon Leuer, the teams first off the bench, Tim Jarmusz, Jordan Taylor, Robert Wilson and Kevin Gullickson could potentially see game action.

On the season, the Badgers are averaging 20 bench points per game while the Torero's average 22. In close games, the team with more bench production usually has the upper hand. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in tonight's game.

Advantage: Wisconsin

Prediction: San Diego will be a very good test for this somewhat young Wisconsin squad. The Torero's have the talent to beat the Badgers but whether or not it will execute in the fashion it needs to remains to be seen.

After a somewhat sloppy opening round game against Iona, UW will need to be much more efficient and disciplined if it hopes to earn a birth in the championship game. Expect another very competitive game with the deciding factor being bench play. Whichever team gets a boost from its bench will win and in this game, I think that team will be the Badgers.

UW wins a hard fought game 73-68.

Lea's record: 3-0

Game notes:

-Sunday's game between UW and San Diego will be the first meeting between the two schools. UW does own an 8-3 record against teams from the WCC, San Diego's conference.

-Torero's assistant coach Mike Burns was an assistant coach under former UW head coach Dick Bennett when he was at Washington State.

-No Badger team has ever lost in the Virgin Islands, where Wisconsin is 4-0 all-time.

-The winner of this game will play the winner of the No. 2 Connecticut-No. 17 Miami game tomorrow.

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