After falling to South Carolina on Saturday, the 22nd-ranked Syracuse Orange (4-1) travels to Madison to take on the 17th ranked Wisconsin Badgers (5-2) tonight at 7:30 p.m. The two teams are meeting for the second time in as many years, both in search of a marquee victory on the season.
Both of Wisconsin’s losses have come to ranked opponents — it first lost to Creighton, who has gotten off to a raucous start, as well as North Carolina who has looked every bit the part of a championship team. North Carolina made light work of Wisconsin in Maui, but that’s been the norm for all of UNC’s opponents thus far.
Last season Wisconsin traveled to Central New York as part of the ACC/Big 10 challenge and beat the Orange 66-58 in overtime. Ethan Happ and Nigel Hayes both had double-doubles in points and rebounds while Vitto Brown and Bronson Koenig had 14 and 12 points respectively. Syracuse got doubled on the boards 51-25. Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney had 19 and 14 points respectively for Syracuse.
This year’s contest figures to be similar as Wisconsin returns its starting five and Syracuse will be doing this thing called playing a 2-3 zone. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? For what it’s worth, Wisconsin has really struggled to the ball from range this season. Syracuse will have to force the Badgers into tough, contested shots and keep Greg Gard’s team off the glass.
Wisconsin has a veteran team with four seniors in its starting lineup. Koenig is a savvy floor general while Hayes — although struggling to shoot early — can hurt teams from all three levels. Zak Showalter has a great feel for the game. Despite a lackluster shooting percentage, he can shoot it from outside. Showalter is a capable playmaker and true team player. Brown can finish around the rim and is adept knocking down shots from fifteen feet.
The Orange will have its hands full but if it can rebound and take care of the ball/penetrate better than it did Saturday, it should be competitive on the road.