The Big Ten has offered up its share of surprises this season and two teams right in the middle of the upsets have been Northwestern and No. 13 Wisconsin. The Badgers will try to avoid becoming the latest victim when they host the Wildcats on Wednesday night. Wisconsin had its 17-game winning streak to start the season wiped out by a three-point loss to unranked Indiana two weeks ago — the first of three straight losses by the Badgers — but the Hoosiers didn’t have long to enjoy the win as they were knocked off by Northwestern four days later.
Wisconsin should have some comfort in knowing it blew out the Wildcats, 76-49, in the conference opener four weeks ago, its seventh consecutive win against Northwestern. That game belonged to Wisconsin freshman forward Nigel Hayes, who established season highs in points (19), rebounds (six), field goals (eight) and field goal attempts (12). Northwestern 7-foot center Alex Olah gave the Badgers similar problems with his size, scoring a career-high 23 points on 10-for-14 shooting, though he’s just 5-for-24 from the floor in the last three games.
TV: 9 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
ABOUT NORTHWESTERN (10-11, 3-5 Big Ten): The Wildcats are one of the lowest scoring teams in the nation at 61.4 points. Drew Crawford needs to perform like a fifth-year senior and not the one who’s shooting lower (40.7 percent) than what he shot as a freshman during the 2009-10 season (44.7). JerShon Cobb and Tre Demps, the second- and third-leading scorers for the Wildcats, also need to step up after combining to shoot 4-for-19 in the first meeting with Wisconsin.
ABOUT WISCONSIN (17-3, 4-3): If the Badgers have a weak spot, it’s their bench. George Marshall transferred after just two games this season and Duje Dukan hasn’t scored in four of the last five games after opening the season with 15 points against St. John’s. That has left Hayes also the only real threat off the bench and even he can disappear, evident by his two-point performance in Saturday’s win against Purdue.
1. Wisconsin G Ben Brust has made 14 consecutive free throws dating to Dec. 14 and is shooting 37-for-39 overall from the stripe this season.
2. The Badgers haven’t turned the ball over more than 10 times in the last five games and lead the nation with the fewest giveaways (8.3).
3. Northwestern G Dave Sobolewski, who returned Saturday against Iowa after missing the previous four games with a concussion, is shooting 25.5 percent from the floor this season after shooting close to 40 in each of the last two seasons.
PREDICTION: Wisconsin 77, Northwestern 62