Who: No. 2 Michigan Wolverines (17-0, 6-0) at Wisconsin Badgers (11-6, 3-3)
Where: Kohl Center (Madison, Wisconsin)
When: Saturday, January 19, noon ET (11:00 a.m. CT)
Difference of points: Michigan -2.5
Listen out: Detroit: WWJ-950 AM; Ann Arbor: WTKA-1050 AM; Anywhere: MGoBlue.com
Follow: Andrew Kahn
Several streaks ended last year during Wisconsin's 15-18 season. It was the first time that the program did not reach the NCAA Tournament in 20 years and the first time the Badgers did not finish among the top four of the Big Ten in 18 years.
The badgers, it seems, are back.
Despite the four losses in their last five games, their All-America candidate is surrounded by a healthy support cast. Combined with the success of Wisconsin at home, particularly against the high-ranking competition, and Michigan will have to be in the neighborhood of excellent to stay perfect.
Michigan is one of two undefeated teams, along with Virgina. Both have tough road tests on Saturday. Virginia tips six hours after Michigan at No. 1 Duke, a team that already lost this week. In other words, the first place in the ranking could belong to a new team on Monday.
To make it Michigan, you'll have to find a defensive strategy that works against the 6-foot-10 Ethan Happ and the Wisconsin 3-point shooters. "We need a combination of attempts to make each point difficult, Happs 2s is difficult, but it also removes his 3-point game and his offensive rebound at the same time," Michigan coach John Beilein said.
Beilein said he has never seen a player like Happ, that size, with that set of legs and pbading ability, that he can grab a rebound and bring the ball to the court to start the offense.
"It looks like we've been keeping an eye on Happ for 16 years," Beilein said of the fifth-year student who started every game of his career. "I'll be very happy when he's gone."
The confrontation of Happ with Jon Teske will be critical. If Teske has fouling problems, Michigan will have to fight. Brandon Johns Jr. had a game from the bench on January 6 against Indiana, but the freshman has only played two minutes in total in both games since then.
When asked about Johns on Friday, Beilein said: "It probably depends on what you see and what you do in practice, what is the situation in the game, what patterns of change you are in. Right now, Isaiah ( Livers) is our backup (center) as much as Austin (Davis) or Brandon, and it depends on the opponent: any of those three could be the first to leave the bench in that position, I would feel much better when we got consistent there. We are trying to get there. "
Livers, a 6-foot-7-year-old sophomore, is completely healthy after missing two games due to a back problem. Michigan has had additional time to rest as it has not played since Sunday's 20-point win over Northwestern. It is one of the two extended breaks that each Big Ten team receives during the game of the league. The next dismissal from Michigan will not come until before his last game of the regular season.
The trip from Michigan to Wisconsin will be very special for Jordan Poole, a native of Milwaukee. The sophomore will be able to choose the colors of the arms and sleeves of the arms of Michigan. However, do not expect all Wolverines to wear shorts as short as Poole. "Coach Beilein should make that a subject for Jordan to return home," joked Livers.
Wisconsin will visit Ann Arbor on February 9.
+ The Michigan basketball star who has never appeared in a game.
+ Ethan Happ, Player of the Year candidate, the next challenge for U-M
+ Within the culture Michigan has undefeated and improving.
+ A No. 1 ranking for U-M? The loss of Duke opens the door.
+ Michigan, MSU on collision course for the No. 1 seed of the NCAA Tournament
+ The free kick is no longer a big concern.