It’s a quiet weekend in college basketball, with not much notable on national television on Saturday and only major game set for Sunday. Wisconsin goes to Michigan for a 1:30 PM ET tip on CBS, a game the network will televise as a lead-in to the Pittsburgh-Denver AFC playoff game in the late afternoon.
The Badgers are struggling in Big Ten play, with their famed homecourt advantage at the Kohl Center having disappeared with two straight home conference losses. Bo Ryan had a rebuilding job ahead of him this year, although it seemed to progressing along quicker, after an above-average December, an opening Big Ten beatdown of Nebraska and a developing post player in Jared Berggen. But the Badgers haven’t rebounded the ball these last two games and they allowed Iowa to shoot 49 percent from the floor in a loss last Saturday. Point guard Jordan Taylor remains one of the nation’s best at his position, but he’s had precious little help, and needs Berggen to play well down low, Ben Brust to take some pressure off with three-point shooting and Ryan Evans to step up in the wings if Wisconsin is to get back into the Big Ten race.
Michigan is 2-1 in league play and has looked better in its one loss, at Indiana earlier this week, then it did in its two home wins over Minnesota and Penn State. The Wolverines barely got by the Gophers and needed a heroic effort from freshman guard Trey Burke, who scored 27 points. They played a better all-around game against Penn State and only lost by two at Indiana, in spite of allowing 55 percent shooting from the floor. If the Wolverines tighten up the defense and get frontcourt help to balance out Burke and team leader Tim Hardaway Jr., then John Beilen will have this team in contention and back in the NCAA Tournament. It should be a good game on Sunday afternoon. Michigan needs all their home wins if they hope to make a serious run at the conference title, and Wisconsin needs to steal back lost ground with road wins, and as soon as possible.
I suppose it works out well this way with the Green Bay Packers having a bye, but the state of Wisconsin’s other major college team plays the most significant game of Saturday. For reasons I can’t fathom, 20th-ranked Marquette’s 4PM ET game at top-ranked Syracuse isn’ t on national TV anywhere that I’ve seen listed. Maybe the networks have looked at MU’s soft frontcourt and determined they can’t contain Kris Joseph down low and that playing at home should add up to a win for the Orangemen. I’d agree, but let’s respect the Marquette backcourt, with Darius Johnson-Odom able to hit the long ball, and Junior Cadougan and Vander Blue adept at sharing the ball. Syracuse’s own guards, Brandon Triche and Dion Waiters are up to the task of matching up, but this game would still be worth watching if you’re a college basketball fan who’s not inspired by the Cincinnati-Houston NFL playoff game.