Badgers present many game changers

Tomorrow night, the Milwaukee Panthers face their toughest test of the season as Bo Ryan’s Wisconsin Badgers come to the Panther Arena for an 8 pm contest on ESPN2. The Panthers are coming off a disappointing 83-61 loss at DePaul, which dropped them to 4-5, while the Badgers are coming off a win against the other Brew City school, Marquette 49-38, improving their record to 8-1.

The Panthers will have to play a near perfect game if they have any shot at competing with the 5th ranked Badgers as they present tough match ups at every single position. Here are the projected starters for each team:

Steve McWhorter (16.2 ppg) vs. Traevon Jackson (10.1 ppg):

If there was one match up where the Panthers could hold an advantage, it would be the match-up between the two point guards.  McWhorter is coming into the game averaging a team high 16.2 points per game and leading the Panthers in scoring in all but two games. Jackson, on the other hand, is averaging 10.1 points per game. Unlike Jackson, McWhorter has been relied on heavily to produce offense this season for Milwaukee and just about all the offense is run through him. No other player for Milwaukee is averaging double figures in scoring.

Jackson can rely on just about every player who steps on the floor for the Badgers, which is why his scoring average is only 10 points per game. Jackson loves coming off ball screens and either pulling up for short jumpers or attacking the rim. Out of all match-ups, this one might be the most even.

JeVon Lyle (9.0 ppg) vs. Josh Gasser (6.7 ppg):

Similar to Jackson, Josh Gasser is another Badger player who isn’t relied on to score much each game. With that being said, Gasser is a great outside shooter and penetrator. In Wisconsin’s last game against Marquette, Gasser knocked down four big threes, which helped the Badgers secure a win Saturday afternoon.

What makes Gasser such a great player is the way he defends. Lyle, who is coming off a 13-point game against DePaul, won’t see many clean looks while being defended by Gasser. If Lyle is going to contribute offensively Wednesday night, he will need to be patient and make sure to take good shots.

Akeem Springs (6.6 ppg) vs. Sam Dekker (10.7 ppg):

Dekker has been dealing with an ankle injury over the past two weeks and it clearly has been affecting his play. He’s scored a total of seven points over the past two games while averaging only 23 minutes per game. However, reports are coming in that Dekker is practicing and feels better on the ankle. If he’s healthy, he presents mismatches all over the place. He can take you in the paint and score from the post, or take his defenders outside and score off the dribble. Dekker is listed at 6-9 compared to Springs who comes in at 6-4.

Springs started the season off with a bang as he poured in 21 points in the season opener against Auburn. Since then, he has only been averaging only 4 points per game. Springs has been dealing with an injury of his own which may be the reason why he’s been struggling as of late. For him to be successful, he will need to be aggressive attacking the rim and hope he can draw some fouls and get to the free throw line.

Matt Tiby (7.8 ppg) vs. Nigel Hayes (11.6 ppg):

Everyone knew Hayes was going to be good this year, but I don’t think many people thought he was going to be as good as he has been thus far. Hayes has developed a three-point shot that must be respected by opponents while also having a respectable mid-range jumper and a good post game. Hayes is another Badger player that can take you off the dribble or step back for a jump shot. Hayes is also very solid on the defensive end and is very good on the offensive and defensive boards.

The biggest factor to Tiby’s game on Wednesday will be if he can stay out of foul trouble or not. Tiby has dealt with early foul trouble in a few games this year and will most likely be put in spots where he is forced to guard someone in the paint which could very easily result in foul trouble. Offensively, Tiby will need to hit a few outside shots so the Badgers are forced to come out and guard him and then hopefully he can move inside and score in the paint.

JJ Panoske (6.4 ppg) vs. Frank Kaminsky (16.4):

Out of the five match ups between starters, this will be the biggest problem for the Panthers. Kaminsky came into the season ranked as the best player in all of college basketball and his play thus far as proven that ranking to be accurate. The Badgers’ big man stands at 7’ feet tall and cannot only score from inside, but also stretch the floor and knock down threes. Kaminsky is active in pick and rolls and seems to always find a way to get a good shot off.

For Panoske, where he needs to be most effective is on the defensive end. Somehow he’ll need to find a way to contain Kaminsky and keep him below his scoring average. On the offensive end, if Panoske can get his opponent in foul trouble, Milwaukee should consider that as a win. If he can score any points, it will all just be an extra bonus. Where Panoske might be able to cause some issues for the Badgers is from the outside. He has the ability to knock down three’s, but getting opening looks won’t be easy.

Milwaukee Reserves vs. Wisconsin Reserves:

When it comes to reserves, the Badgers hold a significant edge over UWM. The Badgers can bring in Bronson Koenig, Duje Dukan, and Vitto Brown and at any point in the game without losing a step on offense or defense. Koenig has a very solid mid-range and three-point shot and is a very good passer. Dukan doesn’t do much off the dribble, but he is one of the Badger’s best three point shooters.

As for Milwaukee’s bench, the player that needs to step up the most is Cody Wichmann. Wichmann’s play has picked up as of late, and he will be definitely be counted on Wednesday night to produce off the bench. Also, it will be interesting to see how freshman Justin Jordan handles the big game atmosphere.

The Badgers hold a 21-game win streak over the Panthers coming into Wednesday’s game and are 30-1 all time against Milwaukee. Tip off is set for 8 o’clock and will be aired on ESPN2.

Although the Panthers won’t be able to make the tournament this year, if they can pull of the upset Wednesday night the season won’t be forgotten.

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