Illinois (17-13) at (14) Wisconsin (22-8)
Sunday, March 4, 1:00 p.m. (ET)
The Sports Network
By Lucas Gulotta, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Kohl Center (17,230) -- Madison, Wisconsin. Television: Big Ten Network. Home Record: Illinois 13-4, Wisconsin 13-4. Away Record: Illinois 2-7, Wisconsin 7-4. Neutral Record: Illinois 2-2, Wisconsin 2-0. Conference Record: Illinois 6-11, Wisconsin 11-6. Series Record: Illinois leads, 110-63.
GAME NOTES: The 14th ranked Wisconsin Badgers will try continue to build momentum as they conclude their regular season by hosting the Illinois Fighting Illini for a Big Ten Conference matchup at the Kohl Center.
With 264 career wins, Bo Ryan needs just one more to tie Harold Foster atop Wisconsin's all-time wins list.
The Badgers and Fighting Illini squared off on Jan. 22 in Champaign earlier this year, which resulted in a 67-63 road victory for the Badgers. Wisconsin was able to hang on to win the first encounter by knocking down 9-of-22 from beyond the arc, while Illinois made just 3-of-12 from deep in the contest.
Bruce Weber's squad had some hope for an NCAA Tournament at-large bid before it suffered a 72-61 loss to the nationally-ranked Michigan Wolverines on Thursday. The Fighting Illini will be trying to snap a six-game road losing streak in this one. The Fighting Illini seemed like a lock for the Big Dance before their late-season collapse. Illinois never led versus Michigan, and desperately needs a win today and a big run in the conference tournament to keep its NCAA Tournament hopes alive. Illinois is now 17-13 and in ninth place in the league.
Illinois' Meyers Leonard has recently shown why NBA scouts are predicting him to be a lottery pick one day. The Illini center has averaged 20.3 ppg in his last three games. Leonard led the team with 18 points and nine rebounds in its loss to Michigan on Thursday. Brandon Paul managed to score 15 points versus the Wolverines, but D.J. Richardson and Joseph Bertrand were held to six points apiece. Illinois will need all four of its scorers to contribute in order for its needed magical run to be possible.
Bo Ryan's Badgers are locked into fourth place in the Big Ten standings regardless of the outcome of today's bout. Wisconsin has won three of its last four games to arrive at a 22-8 overall record. The Badgers came up with a huge victory over Ohio State on the road last Sunday before they returned home to complete the season series sweep over Minnesota on Tuesday. The Badgers' success this year has been primarily due to its stifling defense, which leads the nation at a meager allowed average of 51.8 ppg.
Wisconsin has been led by its star point guard Jordan Taylor this season. The senior leader has been playing well as of late to average 20.5 ppg in his last two games. Ryan Evans and Jared Berggren are both carrying double-figure scoring averages while playing tough in the frontcourt. The Badgers' sixth man Ben Brust tied the UW record with seven made three-pointers twice, which makes him a factor anytime he steps on the floor.
With both teams locked into their Big Ten Conference Tournament destination, this should be little more than a tune up. Illinois is more desperate for a win, but Wisconsin will have very little pressure on it. The Badgers have the size up front to give Leonard multiple looks throughout the game. Illinois has a good backcourt, but it has struggled lately while Taylor has thrived.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Wisconsin 64, Illinois 56
03/04 10:36:44 ET