University of Wisconsin Badgers (3-3) at Virginia Cavaliers (6-0)
It was an action-packed weekend for college basketball as several Thanksgiving Day weekend preseason tournaments came to a close Sunday night. Last night felt like a Final Four preview as the finals of the PK80 tournament featured Duke, Florida, Michigan State, and North Carolina, all teams ranked in the top ten nationally. The Virginia Cavaliers won their own preseason tournament, taking down the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) season tip-off event. The event was overshadowed this year by several other major tournaments, but winning the preseason NIT tournament is always a great way to start the season. As is the nature of the beast that is college basketball we will roll right into another major event as today marks the start of the annual Big East/ACC Challenge. Here we will be breaking down the matchup between the Wisconsin Badgers and the Virginia Cavaliers.
The Wisconsin Badgers will try and turn their early season struggles around today as they travel to Charlottesville to play the Cavaliers of Virginia. Wisconsin has played three ranked teams already this season and has yet to knock off any of them. This Virginia team will most certainly be ranked this week after jumping out to a 6-0 start and winning the preseason NIT this weekend. The line is set at Virginia -8.5-points and the game total over-under is set at 123 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:00 PM PST from Jones Arena in Charlottesville.
Virginia head coach Tony Bennett has always been known for his stifling defenses. This year is no different as the Cavaliers can shut down just about any team in the country. The Cavs already have a couple of good resume-building wins this season as they defeated Rhode Island, a good squad that should be tournament bound this year, and they beat VCU, a team that is always hanging around in late March. Bennett’s squad has held opponents to less than 55 points in all but just one game this season, his trademark defense is getting the job done once again.
The Cavaliers are led by sophomore scorer Kyle Guy who leads the team in scoring at over 15 points a game. And this weekend they got a bump from an unfamiliar place as senior Isaiah Wilkens flashed some brilliance along the way to being named the most outstanding player of the tournament. Wilkens is the stepson of former college and NBA star Dominque Wilkens and has spent most of his career as a glue guy that gives you high effort that doesn’t always end up in the stat sheet, but this weekend it did, and the Cavs rolled to the championship. If Virginia can count on Wilkens to give these types of performances this season, they could contend to win the very tough ACC this year.
For Wisconsin, it has been a brutal stretch of schedule that has proven that they aren’t ready to compete at the highest levels of college basketball this season. They even lost against a UCLA team that has three of its best players suspended and is dealing with the Lavar Ball media circus. They dropped games to Xavier and Baylor as well already this season, with their best win coming against Yale. The Badgers are a low scoring and plodding team, and that plays right into Virginia’s game plan of playing a slow, low scoring game.
The one saving grace that has kept the Badgers in most games this season has been their ability to take care of the ball, they are 7th in the nation, averaging only 9 turnovers a game, but you can expect that number to rise against this stingy Cavalier’s defense. They struggle shooting the ball from the outside and are one of the worst free throw shooting teams in the country and they don’t rebound the ball well. This just isn’t a well put together team in Wisconsin this year, and I expect that they will get beaten down pretty badly in the rough and tumble Big 10 that always plays a physical brand of basketball.
This game is going to be very low scoring. Both teams are content walking the ball up the floor and playing a half court kind of game. It worries me a little bit laying a big number in a game where so few points are going to be scored, but I just don’t see the Badgers being able to match the physicality and intensity of Virginia in this game. The Badgers are 300th in the nation in total rebounds, meaning they are getting one shot per possession, that isn’t going to work against this defense. Coupled with the emergence of Isaiah Wilkens as a difference maker, I think Virginia completely shuts down the Badgers today at home. I’m not sure Wisconsin will score 50 points today. I see the final scoring landing in the 62-48 range with the Cavs covering the spread and winning at home in a low scoring grinder of a game. Give me the Cavilers!