Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports
Indiana hosts Wisconsin, hoping for its first win over the Badgers in six years.
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2011-12 RPI 2011-12 SagarinPomeroy scouting reportSeries: Head Coach TV
Just two and a half weeks into the Big Ten season, IU has a chance to stand alone with an undefeated conference record and in first place in the conference. Standing in the way are the Wisconsin Badgers, whose current 10-game winning streak against IU is among the longest ever suffered by IU against any opponent. Bo Ryan is a remarkable 16-3 against IU during his time at Wisconsin. There have been all sorts of losses in that streak. The 2008 loss to the Badgers at home essentially knocked IU out of the Big Ten title race. The first four meetings of the Crean era were demoralizing blowouts. The last two trips to the Kohl Center were competitive but ultimately lost. IU's last win over the Badgers was in 2007, when IU ended a 17-game winning streak by the then #2 Badgers. This time, it is the Hoosiers who rank second in the polls and are favored against Wisconsin for only the second time since 2008 (IU was a 1.5 point favorite for last year's Big Ten Tournament game). As someone old enough to remember IU's 31-game winning streak against Wisconsin, which began in 1980 and didn't end until a Badger win early in 1997, this losing streak is very difficult to stomach. If it doesn't end tonight, will it ever end?
UW went 9-4 in the pre-conference, and while all of their losses were to respectable opponents (Florida, Creighton, Marquette, Virginia), they don't have any breathtaking wins, either. Whether Illinois is any good, the thoroughness of the Badger beatdown of the Illini last weekend was impressive. Regardless, the Badgers always seem to find themselves in the Big Ten race, and here they are again, standing with IU as one of two teams undefeated in the Big Ten.
The Badgers are doing what they almost always do: the control the tempo and make things very slow. They take excellent care of the ball, turning the ball over on only 14.8 percent of their possessions (best in the nation). While the Badgers always are strong on the defensive boards, they are standing out at both ends of the court this season, rebounding 36.8 percent of their own misses while holding opponents to 25.2. Perhaps even more than in previous seasons, the Badgers are winning by maximizing percentages. Through 16 games they have attempted 111 more field goals and 67 more free throws than their opponents. The Badgers have been very good on defense, and especially in Big Ten play, where they are holding opponents to .81 points per possession.
As always, the Badgers shoot lots of three pointers, but the guy to really watch is big man Jared Berggren. Berggren definitely had the best of Cody Zeller in Madison last year, and hopefully Cody can return the favor this year and get him into some early foul trouble. Thankfully, Rob Wilson, the benchwarmer who scored 31 on IU in the BTT, is nowhere to be found.
Obviously, it's good news if IU can control the pace to some extent and force the Badgers into more than their typical number of turnovers. Regardless, I hope the Hoosiers can put the 10 game losing streak behind them for good.