The 11th ranked Wisconsin Badgers hit the road tomorrow night to Champaign to take on 18th ranked Illinois. Both teams hold an 8-2 record in conference play. As a result, sole possession of first place is on the line. The Badgers are coming off a 66-60 win against Minnesota Sunday. Tip time is scheduled for 8 PM CST on BTN. Here are they keys for a huge Badger win.
Contain Kofi Cockburn
When you look at the scouting report for Illinois, big man Kofi Cockburn is at the top of the list. Cockburn is a strong and physical player and will play at the next level. He has been virtually unstoppable since his arrival to campus. He has established himself as one of the best centers in the country. Steven Crowl and Chris Vogt will have their hands full and must stay out of foul trouble.
The supporting cast is no joke either. Seniors Alfonso Pummer, Trent Frazier, and sophomore Andre Curbelo are all capable of shooting from anywhere on the court. The Badgers might have to decide which way to sell and which player to commit to.
Winning The Rebound Battle
Illinois is first in the Big Ten in rebounds per game at just over 41. Wisconsin is 12th in the Big Ten at almost 36. Wisconisn has been good on the glass lately. As a result, they need to establish defensive rebounds and limit Illinois to one shot per possession.
Illinois is also second in the Big Ten in rebounding margin at 9.4. Wisconsin is at 0.4. There’s a good chance that whoever wins this game will win the rebounding battle, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
If Wisconsin is going to get a massive road win, they need their defense to travel and establish the momentum. Illinois is third in the conference in scoring (77 ppg) and third in three point percentage (36.9%).
Wisconisn can’t afford long lapses on offense. With players such as Cockburn, Frazier, Plummer, and Curbelo, they will need to score in order to win. The Badger defense continues to be really good and this will need to be the case tomorrow night.
Wisconsin has been battle tested this Big Ten season. They have already played Ohio Stat twice, Michigan State once, and on the road at Purdue. I don’t expect the Badgers to be intimidated with the road environment. They have proven that all year.
I don’t like the Vogt/Crowl duo against Kofi Cockburn. Both players have the tendency of getting into early foul trouble. This spells trouble for Wisconisn if this happens. Cockburn has dominated almost every center to this point of the year.
I think the Badgers give Illinois a battle and all they can handle. However, I can’t see a road win tomorrow, which is okay. It wouldn’t be a season-changing loss for the Badgers and it wouldn’t hurt their NCAA seeding.
Illinois- 74 Wisconsin- 67