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Syracuse vs. Wisconsin basketball Q&A with Bucky’s 5th Quarter

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We caught up with our friends at Bucky’s 5th Quarter to preview the B1G game tonight.

NCAA Basketball Tournament - Wisconsin v Syracuse Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

In case you haven’t heard, Syracuse plays Wisconsin on the road tonight as part of the ACC/B1G 10 challenge. Our friend Curt Hogg over at our sister site Bucky’s 5th Quarter helped preview the Badgers. Let’s dive in.

TNIAAM: So far you guys are 5-2 with both losses over ranked opponents. What's your assessment of the two losses?

Curt Hogg: Wisconsin dropped its second game of the year at a good Creighton team by 12 points, but it was closer than that for most of the game. The Badgers shot 38 threes against the Bluejays' zone, which was a problem. Things were all tied about about midway through the second half, then the Wisconsin offense went silent while the defense uncharacteristically lapsed. Turnovers were also a problem, and the Badgers didn't get to the free throw line very much, either.

Against the Tar Heels, we learned that, no, Wisconsin is not an elite team -- at this point. Though Wisconsin held UNC to its second-lowest adjusted offensive efficiency this season, that number was still 105.6 PPP. The Badgers' two senior leaders, Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes, struggled. I would tell you how bad they were from the field, but you probably wouldn't believe me. It was the third game in three days in Maui, so a lot was up against the Badgers.

TNIAAM: Conversely, what have you guys done well in wins?

CH: The offense has usually been there (despite not being a great shooting team), but the Badgers' defense stymies opponents in wins. Opponents have scored under .94 points per possession in each of the five Wisconsin wins. Lowly Prairie View A&M averaged just over .7 on Sunday, but then again, that is Prairie View A&M. The Badgers limit opponents' three-point attempts, but they have allowed a high percentage of those to go in (35.6 percent, 208th in the nation). Three-point percentage allowed is a bit fluky, but there's enough of a historic trend where opponents have shot well from deep.

TNIAAM: How similar do you think this game will be to last year's matchup?

CH: Well, from one angle, it features two programs that are relatively known quantities. Syracuse with its zone and Wisconsin with its defense, physicality and its returning cast.

But it also could be pretty different. If I am remembering correctly, that game last season was pretty ugly at times (especially Vitto Brown's air ball on an elbow jumper to win at the buzzer). Both teams definitely made huge strides over the course of the season, and so I'll expect it to be a little cleaner. In the end, though, it could come down to one or two possessions.

TNIAAM: Everyone knows Hayes, Koenig and even Happ. What can you tell us about Zak Showalter?

CH: Showalter is a redshirt senior and the starting two-guard in Greg Gard's offense. He's a hard worker on defense, can shoot it from three-point range and makes an impact in the rebounding game, as well. Despite shooting just 30 percent from deep to start the season, his 119 offensive ratio is second-best on the Badgers (behind freshman guard D'Mitrik Trice). With the way that Hayes and Happ draw double teams, Showalter should get some open three-point looks. Some nights, though, Showalter's shot isn't falling and that puts a dent in the Badgers' offense. He's backed up by guard Khalil Iverson, who doesn't have Showalter's shot but brings lots of athleticism and defense.

TNIAAM: What are the keys to the game for Wisconsin?

CH: Against the zone, the Badgers can't get too jump-shot happy. They've already lost a game because of that, so they are likely to be cognizant of getting paint touches and mixing the inside/outside combo offensively. Opponents are shooting 20 percent from deep against the Orange, so Wisconsin could really be in trouble if the deep balls are getting jacked up. If Hayes is efficient and attacking the basket rather than settling for jumpers, Wisconsin is tough to beat. Ethan Happ had 18 points and 15 rebounds last season, so he will need to have a solid game once again.

TNIAAM: Wisconsin wins if...

CH: They follow the keys to the game and get to the line against a defense that does not allow a lot of free throw attempts.

TNIAAM: Syracuse wins if...

If the Orange keep this close, they will be in a good position come the final five minutes. Keeping Happ in check will be big, and they could achieve that by doubling him whenever he gets a touch. What's interesting to watch is the rebounding battle. Both of these teams are great on the glass, so if the Orange can win that battle by a solid margin, they should win.

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Thanks, Curt! Be sure to visit buckys5thquarter.com and give Curt a follow on Twitter for all Wisconsin updates. Cheers to a good game.