Illinois-Wisconsin: A Preview of Two Teams Headed in Opposite Directions

Jim SmithContributor IJanuary 23, 2009

Although only separated by one game in the Big Ten standings, the 25th ranked 
Illinois Fighting Illini (4-2 in conference play) and Wisconsin Badgers (3-3) 
couldn't be heading further in opposite directions as they head into Saturday's 
showdown in Champaign (4 pm EST, ESPN). 

Illinois (16-3 overall) has been hot as of late. After a near upset of Michigan 
State in Lansing, the Illini jumped on Ohio State, going on a 22-9 second-half 
run to secure a 67-49 victory. 

Much-maligned, yet talented guard, Demetri McCamey played perhaps his most 
complete game of the season, scoring 13 while dishing out seven assists. Forward 
Dominique Keller provided an early spark off the bench, adding 12 points and six

Most importantly though, the Illini turned in their most impressive defensive 
effort of the season, holding the Buckeyes to 41 percent shooting and forcing 20 Ohio 
State turnovers. OSU's Evan Turner, the fifth-leading scorer in the Big Ten, was 
held to only four points on only 2-7 shooting. 

Meanwhile, Wisconsin has followed its 3-0 Big Ten start with three straight 
losses, most recently a 73-69 road upset at the hands of the Iowa Hawkeyes. 

It's difficult to pinpoint one factor that has led to the three-game losing streak. 
Offensively, in the games against Purdue and Minnesota, the Badgers struggled 
to put the ball in the basket, shooting only 38 percent in both games. 

Point guard Travon Hughes has also struggled in all three games, committing 14 
turnovers, including five against Purdue and six against Minnesota. 

Wisconsin's normally stiff defense has also not been as effective, allowing big 
games to individuals on all three teams. 

Purdue's JaJuan Johnson scored 20, on 8-10 shooting. 

Minnesota's Lawrence Westbrook exploded for 29. 

And Iowa's David Palmer went for 21, 16 points above his per-game scoring 

Against the Badgers, the key for the Illini will be too start out fast. If they jump 
on the Badgers, and build a substantial first-half lead, the Badgers may start to 
question themselves. If that happens, it could be a long night for coach Bo 
Ryan's team. 

For Wisconsin, the key will be to control the tempo. Hughes needs to limit his 
turnovers and get the ball inside to forward Marcus Landry, whose combination 
of agility and strength on the inside could prove a mismatch against Illinois' 
skinnier post players Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale. 

And the Badgers would serve well in containing McCamey, the one player for 
the can easily have the type of big game Johnson, Westbrook and 
Palmer had against the Badgers if he gets hot early. 



It's the easy pick to go with the streaking Illini over the slumping Badgers. I will 
take the easy road and do just that. 

Not only are the Illini the hotter team, but they are at home and have revenge on 
their minds after being beat by the Badgers three time last year, including a loss 
in the Big Ten Championship game. 

That being said, it will be a close and low scoring defensive struggle. But in the 
end, the home crowd, and their balanced offense (5 players average between 11-15 points/per game) will help the Illini slide past the Badgers 56-48.