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Minnesota Basketball: Previewing Wisconsin

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Gophers kick off real Big Ten season in Madison

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Western Kentucky
The Badgers lost to Western Kentucky on the road recently.
Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Welp, here we go. Time for conference play. Football season is essentially over, the NFL is winding down. All we’ve got left for the next three months is real, live college basketball. The greatest time of the year!

The Gophers will go 0-100 real quick. After having faced the likes of North Florida, North Carolina A&T and Mount St. Mary’s, they head into the belly of the beast against a good Bucky team in Madison. Far from ideal, but now that conference season is upon us, every game will be a grind. Will they be able to handle the jump in intensity?

Minnesota enters the game at full strength for the first time in years, having gotten Eric Curry back in the previous game. And while he’s still shaking off rust, his presence alone is a value add, and will take much-needed pressure off Jordan Murphy and Daniel Oturu.

However, the Gophers haven’t figured out how to kick their shooting woes, which have been masked in recent weeks by playing lower-level competition. They’re currently one of the worst-shooting teams in the country from deep and have an eFG% in the 200s. It’s been utterly painful to watch at times, and will be even more magnified on the road against a rival.

But ready or not, here comes the season.

Essentials:

Who are the Gophers playing?

Wisconsin Badgers (2-0, 10-3)

What time are they playing?

Thursday, Jan. 3 @ 8 p.m. CT

Where are they playing?

Kohl Center (Madison, WI)

Can I watch the game on TV?

Yes, BTN.

Can I listen to the game on the radio?

Yes, KFAN 100.3-FM

Tell me more about the opponent.

Wisconsin is full of pretenders and frauds, as evidenced by their recent loss at Western Kentucky. What else is there to know? They cut a deal with the devil a number of years ago and have been the darling of the national media ever since. Ethan Happ seems to top every list of National POY contenders out there even though he can’t make a free throw. Khalil Iverson is still bad, as is Nate Reuvers. D’Mitrik Trice is actually really good and has made a significant leap in his third season. He’s second on the team in scoring.

And then there’s Brad Davison. Everyone’s favorite Keebler Elf and impotent hobgoblin. Brad would be likeable if he wasn’t always flopping, clapping or punching people in the nuts. But, alas, it’s in his DNA to be obnoxious since he has to overcompensate for never actually doing anything meaningful on the court. The media loves Brad because he looks like a [Bennett Brauer air quotes] “scrappy gym rat” who “plays the game the right way” and definitely doesn’t “eat his own dandruff.” One time Brad took 80 charges in a game on national TV and the entire country fainted from [Ed.’s note: explicit material redacted]. It was really quite something. I guess what I’m trying to say is that he’s a fan favorite.

Brad sometimes scores 20 points against low-majors but usually he scores zero points like he did against Oklahoma and Marquette. Unfortunately, he’s probably going to be keyed up in this game because he went to Maple Grove and he wants to stick it to his home state school. That means he’s going to be extra petty and hateable and will be flopping like crazy. Of course, this in Madison, so he’ll get the benefit of the doubt in most cases. It’s going to be awful to watch.

What to Watch For

Can the Gophers hit some threes?
This team began the season hitting threes at a good rate. The last three games they have made just nine threes on 54 attempts. That’s a score of NOT GOOD if you’re keeping track at home. The Badgers have been pretty good at defending the three, and teams are going to dare Minnesota to make threes until they prove they actually can. We know Gabe Kalscheur can make them, but will he show up?

What will Brad Davison do next?
His lack of contributions to the game of basketball have been well documented, but can he top his own achievements of intentionally tripping opponents, faking charges and slapping people in the groin? I guess we’ll see. Here are a couple highlights of his jackassery:

And another one:

Predictions

As much as I hate Wisconsin, it’s hard to predict a win on the road in the Kohl Center. Minnesota just hasn’t played well there of late. KenPom likes Wisconsin by a whopping 11 points, which should be something of an indication. I think Minnesota keeps it close but falls by six, 73-67.