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Players to Watch: Michigan vs Wisconsin

Michigan has some work to do.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

It will be a battle for the Michigan Wolverines as they take on the No. 15 Wisconsin Badgers Sunday afternoon. Beating a ranked opponent on the road is far from easy, and the Wolverines have yet to accomplish the feat this season. They also have failed to consistently execute away from the Crisler Center, holding a 4-6 record on the road.

Now, tides are beginning to change. The Wolverines have left Iowa, Penn State and Indiana with a win in the last month. Three of their last five games on the road have turned into wins. None have come against a top-25 opponent, but that can change with a win against the Badgers.

Wisconsin still does what it has always done to win basketball games. They take care of the ball, shoot well from the line and don’t make many mistakes while taking advantage of others that do commit those errors.

That doesn’t mean the Badgers don’t have any standouts, though. The emergence of the Badgers’ guard play has contributed to their 20-5 record and is what makes them so dangerous. Let’s highlight a couple of them.

Sophomore guard Johnny Davis

There may not be a player in college basketball with a bigger ascent this season than Johnny Davis. It rivals conference counterpart Jaden Ivey from Purdue, but Davis’ may be even more surprising.

Davis was a consensus three-star prospect out of La Crosse, Wisconsin. He played in every game as a freshman, but was far from a key contributor. But right off the bat this year, Davis came out of his shell and is one of the five or six best players in the country. Some are now projecting him as a top five pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, making him a top candidate for the Wooden Award.

Davis is the only guard in the Big Ten to be in the top five in points and rebounding in the conference. Davis can take over a game, averaging 20.7 points and 8.3 rebounds, and has pushed the Badgers to being one of the top teams in the country. He only has four games with less than 15 points in Big Ten play.

He has become the focal point of the offense, taking just over 16 shots a game in an offense that shoots only 59.2 attempts per game, the fewest in the conference. He converts 44% by hitting shots from the inside at a relatively high clip.

The best part for the Badgers is Davis’ play when games are decided in crunch time. On the road against Indiana earlier this week, Davis was the difference-maker:

Senior guard Brad Davison

Brad Davison is the Badgers’ Eli Brooks. A tough-nosed guard who has years of experience behind him.

The difference is Davison has a history of being called a dirty player, but I think he is more of someone that gets under fan’s skin rather than being malicious. He has the fundamentals of a point guard for the Badgers’ system while also having the ability to take charges and fighting for every 50-50 ball.

He’s been huge for Wisconsin this season and throughout his career. Wisconsin is 13-3 this year when Davison scores more than 10 points in a game. His numbers are up year over year, averaging 14.7 points a game, an increase of nearly five points from last season. He is also shooting at a better clip — 38.6% compared to 34.5% in 2020-21.

The super senior guard can be a dangerous scorer, with seven games of more than 20 points. And he is one of those guys that just doesn’t miss when he gets to the free throw line, failing to miss a shot in February and holding an 88.4% overall mark.

This Badgers squad wouldn’t be the same without him, and he is a focal point of why this Wisconsin team could be a top seed in the tournament.