Last season when Michigan and Wisconsin faced off in Madison, their head coaches started a scuffle at the handshake line. Juwan Howard was suspended for the rest of the regular season in what was an extremely low point for the Michigan Wolverines.
Many of these same players were on the court that day, and Hunter Dickinson added fuel to the fire on this game in early January (EXPLICIT):
Hunter Dickinson: "Wisconsin, they're just scumbags" pic.twitter.com/53VUjYdF7G— Main Team (@MainTeamSports) January 3, 2023
The Wolverines are fighting for their NCAA Tournament lives and, unlike last season, Wisconsin is right there with them. Neither team can afford a loss in this one, and they play each other twice in the last six games of the regular season.
Needless to say, there is going to be a lot of emotion heading into this game tomorrow night. Wisconsin’s slow pace and defensive prowess could cause a unique problem for the Wolverines. The Badgers rank second-last in scoring in the Big Ten, better than only Minnesota. However, their defense is a top-five unit in the conference.
Given their unique style of play, let’s take a look at the guys who can be the difference on Tuesday for the Badgers:
C Steven Crowl
The Badger’s 7-footer is one of the few guys that can go toe-to-toe physically with Dickinson. Crowl is a big 245 pounds and plays a somewhat similar game to Dickinson with his ability to stretch the floor and dominate on the interior against smaller teams.
Don’t get me wrong, Dickinson is the superior player. If Crowl slows him down, it is going to be a massive disappointment. Wisconsin likes to get the ball to him and let him use his size to play physically in the interior. They draw up plays like this that can get him open underneath:
BIG STEVE @steven_crowl has a game-high 11 points for the Badgers so far tonightpic.twitter.com/brHDVeS3J2— Wisconsin Basketball (@BadgerMBB) February 3, 2023
I believe Crowl is a little more fleet-footed than Dickinson, and the Badgers will get both of them moving with a pick-and-roll. It will be interesting to see how Howard and the Wolverines play this one out.
PG Chucky Hepburn
When Wisconsin’s offense is moving, it is likely because of a strong performance from Hepburn. The point guard is the team’s leading scorer and is the primary offensive option on a team limited with that kind of talent.
Hepburn has taken 14 or more shots in six of the last seven games; that includes 21 attempts and just 3-of-12 from deep in the overtime loss to Nebraska over the weekend.
Typically, he is going to play a lot better than that, and he is pretty good at creating his own shots. His stepback off a pick can be lethal if he is hot, and he can also take you off the dribble to the hoop.
Hepburn finds the basket @ChuckyHepburn | @BadgerMBB pic.twitter.com/z2x9PtTRxg— FOX College Hoops (@CBBonFOX) February 11, 2023
Michigan has struggled to slow down guards with similar wiggle as Hepburn throughout the course of the season. Dickinson will have to play solid defense off those screens, and Kobe Bufkin and Dug McDaniel need to stay in front of them.
Hepburn has scored 15 or more points in each of the last five games but when he is struggling from the field, Wisconsin is probably losing. He’ll be the key to this game for Michigan’s defensive efforts.