For the first time since Dec. 30 and Jan. 3, the Wisconsin Badgers have won two straight games. After a 75-71 win over Liberty yesterday, the Badgers will travel to Eugene to take on the Oregon Ducks in an NIT Tournament quarterfinal. The winner of this game will play in the semifinals in Las Vegas next week. Wisconsin has played really well on the offensive side these last two games. Tip time is 8 PM tomorrow night on ESPN. Here is a preview of tomorrow night’s game.
Wisconsin Needs Connor Essegian to Advance in the NIT Tournament
Sharpshooting freshman Connor Essegian has been everything and then some for the Badgers. He’s clearly their best shooter and best offensive weapon. However, Essegian has been in a slump for the last three games and the first two of the nIT TOurnament. Over those three games, Essegian is shooting only 28% and 2-15 from three. On the other side, he has been 12-13 from the free throw line and is averaging six rebounds in those games.
Essegian could also have freshman’s legs and could be burned out. That is understandable, as the Badgers are playing their 37th game and have asked Essegian to play a ton of minutes. The Badgers need to rely on him to shoot the three tomorrow night because they won’t get away with making only one three and win like they did yesterday.
Will the Oregon Ducks Have Their Entire Core?
It may not show in the stat sheet in the NIT Tournament, but the injury bug has hit Oregon late this season. According to Matt Prehm, the 247 writer for the Ducks, Oregon is unsure if they will have N’Faly Dante and Jermaine Cousinhard. These are their two leading scorers, and they combine for 26 points a game.
Dana Altman says he was hoping for a Wednesday game to allow Dante and Cousinard one more day of rehab. Said they've been getting multiple treatments per day, but said he truly doesn't know if they will play Tuesday vs Wisconsin.
— Matt Prehm (@MattPrehm) March 20, 2023
If these two can’t go, 7’0 freshmen Nate Bittle and Rivaldo Soares have stepped up in the NIT Tournament. Wisconsin will have to go against the tallest players they have seen in this tournament and some of the more athletic guards beside Liberty’s Darius McGhee.
NIT Tournament Prediction: Wisconsin vs. Oregon Ducks
This seems like a tall task for the Badgers. I am surprised this is a Tuesday tip, as both teams played yesterday. Because of the long travel for Wisconsin, I would have assumed this would be a Wednesday game. It’s a lot to ask a team playing their 37th game to get on a flight across the country 24 hours after a back-and-forth game the day before. It’s OK to do that in December and January. In March? It’s asking a lot from both teams.
The three-point shot has to be there for the Badgers. They only shot 1-15 yesterday on their home court. Despite a win, that can’t happen. The good news? Wisconsin has been great in the paint in the NIT Tournament. They have to do the same thing against what will be a group of tall Oregon forwards.
Can Chucky Hepburn and Steven Crowl continue the momentum they created over the last two games? Can Connor Essegian make timely shots? Can Tyler Wahl do it all on both sides? If they can play the way they’ve played the last two games and sprinkle in some three-pointers, I like the Badger’s chances to advance in the NIT Tournament.
At the end of the day, I think Oregon’s athleticism is too much, and the ask to fly across the country on less than 48 hours is a tall ask. I think to a point, this team is tired, and the minutes the starters have logged in have caught up to them. I think the Badgers play tough, but the Ducks close this game late.
Oregon Ducks 68 – Wisconsin Badgers 62
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