Fresh off of a statement win over No.17 Florida State for their first ranked victory of the season, Indiana will look to build upon their momentum with a road game at Wisconsin Saturday to open up Big Ten play.
Wisconsin is not having a season like Florida State by any stretch, but the game is still a huge opportunity for Indiana to earn some more validation. Following up a 16-point win over a ranked opponent with a conference road win to start Big Ten play at 1-0 would certainly put Indiana in the discussion for potentially being ranked in the next polls.
Wisconsin has not started out very smoothly and does not look the part of a typical Wisconsin team of years past. The Badgers are 4-4 thus far and have lost their last three games to Richmond, New Mexico and most recently at North Carolina State as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Wisconsin’s only impressive win has been a 16-point drubbing of Marquette at home.
Even with Wisconsin in the midst of what looks to be a down year, this game has the potential to be deceivingly difficult for the Hoosiers.
Leaving the past in the past
This is Indiana’s first road game of the season which should really test the team after being in the comfort of Assembly Hall for the first eight games. Along with that, playing in Madison is a very difficult place to play. This is especially the case for the Hoosiers as the last time they won at Wisconsin — and the only time they have ever won at the Kohl Center — was in 1998.
A year ago, these teams only played once, and it was a thriller. Indiana won at home in double overtime thanks to a game winning layup by then-freshman Romeo Langford. Langford is obviously gone now, but so is former Wisconsin star Ethan Happ. Happ was one of the best players in school history, garnering second-team All-American honors in his senior year along with being a three-time first-team All-Big Ten honoree.
With Happ gone, juniors of Nate Reuvers and Brad Davison have emerged as Wisconsin’s top players.
Reuvers, a 6-foot-11 power forward, will test the Hoosiers on the inside with his great scoring ability, averaging 15.4 points per game while shooting a bit under 50 percent from the field. Reuvers is also a very reliable free-throw shooter for a big man, hitting 79 percent of his looks. The junior forward also has 18 blocks on the year while grabbing 5.7 rebounds per game.
Davison has been a reliable player and contributor in all three years of his time as a Badger. The junior guard is scoring 12.1 points per game while showing great rebounding ability for a guard, averaging about four per game. He has been an efficient 3-point shooter for his career at about 35 percent, but this season that figure is slightly down at 31 percent.
Getting the offense going early
Reuvers and Davison make up the main scoring punch for a team that really does not score a whole lot. Wisconsin has built a reputation over the years for having a great foundation of defense and playing in low-scoring games. That is the case once again this year as the Badgers only are scoring 68.3 points per game. Indiana is quite the opposite, scoring 85.6 points per contest, good for eighth-best in the country.
In order to overcome the crowd and nerves of the first road game, Indiana has to get scoring early and often to dictate the pace. Wisconsin slowing the game down to their preferred pace would even the game out with Indiana.
If Indiana could get the game moving faster and force the Badgers to score to keep up, that would put Wisconsin at a major disadvantage. The Badgers’ offense as of late has been particularly dismal. They did not score more than 54 points in their past three games.
Look for the Hoosiers to try and keep feeding their senior guard Devonte Green after he had his career-high 30 points in the win over Florida State. This could be a game that plays well to IU’s 3-point shooters.
Guys like Green, Damezi Anderson, Al Durham and others could have some good opportunities as Wisconsin does not guard the perimeter well. The Badgers are allowing opponents to convert on 35 percent of their looks from deep throughout the season.
Despite a standout win over the Seminoles on Tuesday this could be a “prove-it” game for the Hoosiers. A year ago, after Indiana got their standout win over Marquette at home, they followed that in their first two road games of the year with losses at Arkansas and Duke.
Playing in its first road game will answer a lot of questions about this Indiana team.