The Big Ten proved to be quite a mess after the final day of play where through what seemed like a miraculous turn of events, the Indiana Hoosiers were able to take a share of their 18th Big Ten regular-season title with home field advantage throughout the tournament.
With Indiana facing off against Wisconsin for the first time since the two teams battled to a scoreless tie Sept. 15, let’s take a look at how the Badgers have fared in regular-season play.
Although Wisconsin is the bottom seed of the Big Ten Tournament, the Badgers have played in close games all season long where their 6-4-6 record has a goal differential of zero.
Wisconsin managed to score multiple goals only three times this season with a 2-0 victory over Drake (Aug. 27), a 2-2 draw with then-No. 13 Northwestern (Sept. 19) and a 2-1 victory over Milwaukee (Oct. 24). In total the Badgers scored 16 goals on the year (1 GPG) while allowing 16 (1 GAPG).
The struggles have stemmed from a lack of shots being taken along with the quality of the looks that Wisconsin has fired.
The Badgers rank sixth in the conference in shots taken (186) and seventh in shots on goal (75) for a measly 40% shot on goal percentage. The 16 goals that Wisconsin has scored ranks last in the conference as well.
Wisconsin has outshot its opponents in 11 of the 16 matches this season. Six of those matches did not result in a win for the Badgers. In three of their four losses, they have outshot their opponent.
Another weak area in the attack has been the creativity in the midfield as the Badgers sit dead last in the Big Ten in assists (10).
Overall the Badgers have done a solid job when it comes to defending their net as they tied for fourth fewest goals allowed in the Big Ten (16).
There have been some positives in the backline that hangs in the top of the middle of the pack within the Big Ten defensive rankings which starts with junior keeper Nate Crockford.
The Northfield, Illinois native has put together a solid season ranking fourth in the conference in saves (43) while also being tied for first in shutouts (seven).
Freshman defender Ryan Quintos has made his presence known this season and has been a key contributor to the defensive front that Wisconsin has posed each game.
“They’re very disciplined and hard to break down,” Indiana head coach Todd Yeagley said.
Overall it has been tough to score on the Badgers. Two games this season inflate the stats about total goals allowed, with the Badgers losing 3-1 to both Marquette (Sept. 11) and Michigan State (Oct. 6). There have only been three other times this season an opponent has scored multiple goals on Wisconsin with the 2-2 draw to Northwestern, a 2-0 loss to UIC (Sept. 4) and a 2-1 loss to Rutgers (Oct. 13).
“Being able to beat guys off the dribble will be pivotal…you see guys like Hugo (Bacharach) and his ability to do so will pose a new challenge for them,” Yeagley said.
Hanging in games
Outside of the Marquette and Michigan State matches, the Badgers have found themselves in close games throughout the season with the 2-0 loss to UIC really being the only other decisive loss on the year.
In the third game of the season Wisconsin took down then-No. 2 Kentucky in a 1-0 victory at home. Obviously Kentucky has not been the team the preseason polls set it out to be, but it set the tone for a lot of the Badgers’ games.
Through the first four games of Big Ten play the Badgers sat at a 1-0-3 record with the draws being 0-0 vs. Indiana, 2-2 vs. Northwestern and 1-1 vs. Michigan. The lone win of the stretch came from a 1-0 victory at home.
With teams such as Northwestern and Indiana clearly having the on-paper advantage, when it came to game time Wisconsin was able to play at its own pace.
The Badgers closed out the season with a gritty 1-1 draw with Penn State which was the icing on the cake to allow Indiana a share of the regular-season title with the Nittany Lions.
Last time vs. Indiana
As mentioned earlier the Hoosiers and Badgers faced off at Bill Armstrong Stadium on Sept. 15 in an ugly 0-0 draw.
“They slowed the game down and it made it very difficult for us to break them down,” Yeagley said.
This was the first of a two-game hiatus in which senior defender (now midfielder) Hugo Bacharach was not even dressed for the match and fellow senior Jansen Miller was making his first start of the season as his replacement.
The Hoosiers were coming off a 1-2-0 three-game stretch with the lone win being a 1-0 victory over Seton Hall. That was also the only time Indiana found the back of the net during that stretch.
Flash forward to now, the Hoosiers have gone 2-1-0 in their past three matches with the lone loss being a 1-0 defeat at Northwestern.
Against Division III opponent Trine, followed by the season finale against Rutgers, the Hoosiers have scored six goals in their past two matches (the most in a two-game stretch this season).
“We knew we needed to improve on finishes and restarts…and it has started to show,” Yeagley said.
The Badgers similarly have plenty of momentum on their side as they have gone 2-0-1 in their final three matches with wins over Ohio State and Milwaukee.
Wisconsin has also scored in nine consecutive matches going 3-2-4 over that stretch. Both teams have at least looked to have found some scoring consistency coming into Friday’s game, which kicks off at 7:30 p.m. on Big Ten Plus. All that remains is one of the more jam packed conference tournaments in the country where seemingly any team can win.