On Saturday Dec. 7th, the Wisconsin Badgers and Marquette Golden Eagles will battle in Madison, Wis., an annual rivalry game between the two state of Wisconsin schools. The Golden Eagles have won the last two meetings, though Bo Ryan's Badgers will enter Saturday's contest as the favorites in this matchup.
Point Guard: Traevon Jackson vs. Derrick Wilson
In a battle of junior ball-handlers, the Badgers' Jackson gets the edge. Jackson is averaging 11.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists compared to Wilson's 5.5 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists.
Wilson is a shutdown defender, so don't expect many points to come from either lead guard. Jackson isn't as good an outside shooter as his numbers may show, though he is still a much bigger threat from the perimeter than the pass-first Wilson.
Shooting Guard: Ben Brust vs. Jake Thomas
Two seniors will battle it out at shooting guard, with Wisconsin's Brust getting the nod. Brust's season averages are 11.2 points, six rebounds and two assists, while Thomas is averaging 7.3 points, two rebounds and 1.5 assists.
Brust is a knockdown shooter and great rebounder for his position. Thomas is also a major three-point shooting threat, though the rest of his game isn't as well-rounded. However, Thomas is a better defender than he is given credit for.
Small Forward: Josh Gasser vs. Juan Anderson
Unfortunately for Marquette, the team's backcourt is its weakness, while guard play is one of the Badgers' strength. Once again UW gets the edge as Gasser is averaging 10.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists to Anderson's 4.4 points, five rebounds and 1.1 assists.
Both players are juniors, though Gasser is a redshirt junior after sitting last season with a torn ACL. Gasser is an opportunistic shooter and has connected on half of his three-point attempts this season. He is also a terrific defender. Anderson makes the little plays and does the dirty work, but is a hesitant shooter.
Power Forward: Sam Dekker vs. Jamil Wilson
Both Dekker and Wilson are their team's best starters. Unlike the previous three matchups, there is a big age gap between the sophomore Dekker and redshirt senior Wilson. Still, Dekker has the advantage. Dekker is averaging 13.8 points, 5.4 rebounds and 0.8 assists, while Wilson averages 10.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and two assists.
This is the most intriguing matchup in this bout, as both players have the ability to score on the perimeter or in the paint. Whoever is the aggressor here will be the ultimate winner. Both Dekker and Wilson were reserves a season ago, but have proven their worth as go-to guys early on in the 2013-14 season.
Center: Frank Kaminsky vs. Chris Otule
Unfortunately for Marquette, Kaminsky is given the edge here—giving the Badgers a clean 5-0 sweep in the matchup of the team's starting lineups. Kaminsky is averaging 15.0 points, 6.1 rebounds and one assist, while Otule averages 7.4 points, 4.9 rebounds and 0.1 assists. Again there is an age gap, as Kaminsky is a junior compared to the sixth-year senior Otule.
As the Badgers' leading scorer, Kaminsky's point average may be inflated due to his 43-point school record performance several weeks back, but the numbers remain impressive nonetheless. Otule is the more physical specimen in this matchup and will try to get Kaminsky is foul trouble, as the Badger frontcourt is slim.
Bench: Bronson Koenig/Nigel Hayes/Duje Dukan vs. Davante Gardner/Todd Mayo/JaJuan Johnson/Deonte Burton/Steve Taylor Jr.
It would be unfair not to mention key players off each team's bench. Wisconsin has played an eight-man rotation all season, while Marquette's Buzz Williams plans to go deeper into his bench and get 10 players regular minutes. Here, the edge clearly goes to the Golden Eagles.
Gardner is the team's best player, leading scorer and leading rebounder, and will sub Otule out early on in Saturday's game. Mayo is Marquette's third leading scorer and was a star two years ago in this contest when Marquette shockingly won at the Kohl Center.
Koenig will spell one of Wisconsin's three backcourt players, playing the point guard position. Hayes and Dukan stand 6'7" and 6'9", respectively, but will exclusively play power forward or center against the bigger and stronger Marquette frontcourt players.
Marquette comes into Saturday's game with a disappointing 5-3 record, while the Badgers remain unblemished at 9-0. Both teams rank in the lower half of the nation in scoring, as the Badgers score 76.8 points per night, compared to MU's 71.0 points.
Marquette must take advantage of its size, as the team averages close to 8 more rebounds per game than Bo Ryan's squad. On the other hand, Wisconsin is an immensely better three-point shooting team. Expect a physical, low-scoring, but down-to-the-wire game between these two on Saturday afternoon.