On Thursday afternoon, the Terps open up the second round of the Big Ten tournament with a rematch against the Wisconsin Badgers (14-17, 7-11). Maryland (19-12, 8-10) won 68-63 the first time these two teams met on Feb. 4.
Terps Watch spoke again to the president of Sconnie Sports Talk, editor-in-chief and Wisconsin men's basketball beat writer Nick Osen for an update on Badger basketball. Our conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.
Since Maryland beat Wisconsin 68-63, how has Wisconsin played?
Since Wisconsin lost to Maryland in College Park a few weeks ago, the Badgers have actually played some of their basketball of the season, and certainly their best ball since D'Mitrik Trice and Kobe King went down. The team beat an atrocious Illinois team on the road, and played Michigan tough at home after an awful start. Then, they played defense like an old Badgers team and beat No. 6 Purdue in Madison. They followed that with a win over lowly Minnesota at home, and then a rare road win at Northwestern.
The most impressive game they've played was their 68-63 loss to No. 2 Michigan State. Against the Spartans, Wisconsin controlled the pace, held Miles Bridges to 20 percent shooting. They also held Bridges and Jaren Jackson to 21 points combined, and took the game to the final 90 seconds with a very short rotation. I have no doubt that if Trice or King were available, Wisconsin wins that game.
Brad Davison has been on a tear the last few games, how has he improved in conference play?
He had an uncharacteristically rough game at Northwestern, but other than that, has been playing like one of the best players in the Big Ten.
Over the last four games, the young freshman is averaging nearly 18 points a game, including an offensive explosion of 30 points against No. 2 Michigan State on Senior Day. Davison has been able to score just about all season, but honestly, I think he has just matured in a lot of facets. He has not forced as many tough three-pointers or passes into traffic, and does not attempt to pick up as many sloppy charging fouls on defense. Most of all, he truly has been the leader of this team since February began: controlling the pace on the court and being a vocal leader off the court, which is unbelievably impressive for a freshman. After a slow start to conference play, I really tried to let the season unfold and see how he progressed, but man, this kid is impressive.
It's been a tough season for the Badgers, what would make this season a success entering the Big Ten tournament?
It has been an extremely tough season, and watching the Badgers for nearly their entirety of their NCAA run, it is hard to deem this season a success without the Badgers making it to the tournament. That being said, because it is unlikely for them to run through the conference, I think they absolutely need to beat the Terps, at least play the Spartans tough again, and just keep playing Badger basketball (controlling pace, playing tough defense).
The team is still confident, and is playing well enough to make some noise in the conference tournament, but it will be tough, especially because they won't have the Kohl Center crowd with them. This Badgers team has been so reliant on that crowd, but will need to do win at least one game at a neutral site to avoid a sour end to the season.
Wisconsin will win if…
They control the pace of the game, keep it low scoring, and just make everything difficult for the talented backcourt of Maryland. In addition, shooters like Davison, Aleem Ford and Brevin Pritzl need to hit their open shots when Ethan Happ gets doubled, and maybe more than anything, just get Happ the ball. Whether he scores or kicks it out, good things tend to happen to the All-Big Ten performer when he gets the rock in the post.
Maryland will win if…
They push the pace, and hit their open shots. Wisconsin likes to play slow, especially away from the Kohl Center. If Anthony Cowan can get going, and the Terps slow down just one of either Happ or Davison, they likely win the contest. Regardless, I think it'll be a close game that goes down to the final few minutes.