What is Dispatches from Blogfrica? Pretty simple: I ask questions of an blogger for an opposing team; he (or she) answers. A truly revolutionary idea, no? Today: Drew from Bucky's 5th Quarter, SB Nation's fine blog for all things Wisconsin.
1) Wisconsin's loss to Rutgers -- Rutgers! -- last weekend was certainly one of the most shocking results of the season so far. What went wrong for the Badgers in that game? Was it just a matter of health catching up to them, between Frank Kaminsky's absence and the injury that took Traevon Jackson out of the game? Or were there other issues that Rutgers was able to exploit?
DREW: This Rutgers game that you're talking about, I'm not 100% sure it actually happened. But, for the sake of discussion, let's say it did. Starting the game off without one of the best players in the conference/nation certainly didn't help matters for Wisconsin, but probably shouldn't have been a death knell considering the competition. However, losing their starting point guard during the second half was just too much for the Badgers to overcome. Rutgers also shot unbelievably well from the floor (14 percentage points higher than usual) and the Badgers couldn't make their free throws. Again, not entirely sure that game wasn't just a fever dream on my part, but whatever you say, man.
2) Iowa has an advantage against most Big Ten teams in the front court, but Wisconsin has an excellent front court in their own right. Will the key to the game be which team is better able to impose its strength in the front court?
DREW: Wisconsin is a team that loves to dominate the rebounding category. They allow the least amount of offensive rebounds in the country and keeping Iowa from getting second chance points will go a long way in deciding who wins the game. Wisconsin allowed Nebraska to collect eight offensive boards in their last game and that (along with an amazing game by Terran Petteway) kept the Huskers in the game during the first half. Keeping Adam Woodbury and Gabe Olaseni off the glass will be paramount for Frank Kaminsky and Nigel Hayes.
3) On the flipside, what if it's not the strengths of each team (aka, the front courts) that are key to victory but the relative weaknesses (aka, the back courts). Who has the advantage there? How will the Badgers replace Traevon Jackson?
DREW: With Traevon Jackson healthy, the backcourt for Wisconsin would be considered a strength (or at least not a weakness), but he is obviously not healthy. Bronson Koenig is the starting point guard for the Badgers now and if the Nebraska game is any indication, he'll be getting a lot of minutes. Beyong Koenig, the only other guard off the bench is Zak Showalter and he's mostly an energy/defense guy, not a guy you want running the show. Mike Gesell could have a big game for the Hawkeyes, especially if Koenig gets into foul trouble. Josh Gasser is an excellent defender, but I could see him having trouble guarding a taller, more athletic guy like Peter Jok. I don't think Iowa has a huge advantage in the backcourt, but a young point guard starting his first big road game in a hostile environment doesn't exactly make me confident in saying Iowa has no advantage. Convoluted sentence structure aside, I give Iowa a slight advantage in the backcourt.
4) The games between Iowa and Wisconsin over the last few years have been absurdly close: the last five games have all been decided by five points or less and there have been a few overtime contests in there, too. For whatever reason, these teams just seem to bring out the best in each other. Do you see another nail-biter in the offing for Tuesday night?
DREW: Every time Wisconsin plays Iowa in any sport I assume it will be close. It's probably the reason that Wisconsin and Iowa fans love to hate each other. I see no reason why this game will be any different and shouldn't raise everyone's blood pressure a lot.
5) Bronson Koenig, Sam Dekker, Nigel Hayes, Duje Dukan -- are you sure y'all have a basketball team and not the cast of a lost '80s action movie bouncing around Madison? Do they spend their offseason taking down narco traffickers and rogue Central American generals?
DREW: A fun fact that not many people are aware of: Bronson Koenig's mother's last name is Funmaker. The only cooler last name than that is Deathblow, and I just made that up. If you are looking for something to kill some time before the game, I recommend looking up Nigel Hayes' "Hayes for Days" videos from the Badgers NCAA Tournament run last year. He plays a reporter named Nigel Burgundy and interviews his teammates. They are excellent and will maybe make you like the Badgers a little. The reason El Generalissmo isn't currently moving major weight into the United States is because Duje Dukan foiled his plot. You're welcome, American people.
6) OK, prediction time -- who ya got?
DREW: On KenPom, he somehow has the Badgers predicted to win by 10 in this game. There is little doubt in my mind that the game will be closer than that. I see this game coming down to a possession or two at the end and Iowa squeaking out a win 68-65. I feel dirty.
BONUS! I answered questions for B5Q right here.
Thanks for being a good sport, Drew, but I still hope your team gets mollywhopped tomorrow night. You can check out the the Bucky's 5th Quarter crew at Bucky's 5th Quarter. You can also follow Bucky's 5th Quarter on Twitter at @B5Q and Drew at @drewhamm5. The Iowa-Wisconsin game is in Madison, WI on Tuesday, January 20, and is scheduled to start at 8:00 pm CT, with TV coverage from ESPN.