Wisconsin (-11.5) hosts Northwestern this week in a game that, on paper, really shouldn't be all that close. But as we've seen in the Big Ten this year, anything can happen if you don't come ready to play every single night.
Streaking or Skidding? - This NW team is absolutely REELING. After starting out 3-0 in Big Ten play following a couple huge wins against Michigan State and Ohio State (with Indiana mixed in between) this team has not been the same. They come in to this spot having lost 5 in row by an average of over 18 PPG. The teams they've played have been very good (including Iowa, Illinois, and Michigan) but they really never stood a chance in any of those games. If Wisconsin wants to solidify themselves as a big dog in the conference, they need to take care of NW and do it handily.
Players to Watch Out For - Boo Buie is without a doubt a First-Team All Name player in the league and he has shown the ability to score at an elite level in spurts (primarily that Michigan State game). He's the number one playmaker on offense for the Wildcats and is someone that Wisconsin will need to key in on. Outside of that, there really aren't any players that scare you. Miller Kopp is a nice big who can shoot from deep and Chris Audige showed some killer instinct in their win against Indiana, but they lack a solid interior rebounder who can grind out second-chance points...something I think they will need to pull the upset.
Stats to Know - The difference in seniority between these two teams is night and day. As we know, much has been made about the age of the Wisconsin starting lineup with all 5 starters being seniors (with a few redshirts mixed in). In contrast, NW is one of the youngest teams in the conference and they have exactly 0 seniors on the entire roster. Wisconsin needs to take advantage of this lack of experience by looking to stay disciplined on defense and limiting turnovers on the offensive end.
Analysis - This Wisconsin team desperately needs to get Nate Reuvers going if they want to have any hopes of a Final Four run come March. I think this is a great opportunity to do so against a young, seemingly inferior opponent. They need to build some more confidence going into a big time Saturday game against Ohio State. I like Wisconsin to win this one rather handily, but anytime Wisconsin is favored by double digits I get worried about the backdoor cover because of their slow pace of play. That said, I really don't believe in this NW team so I'll lay the points and roll with the Badgers.