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No. 11 Wisconsin Badgers at Michigan Wolverines Preview: The Fight

The Wolverines welcome one of the conference’s best to Ann Arbor.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Michigan Wolverines have no fight. Well, maybe for the first 15ish minutes of every game, but nevertheless, they all end the same. Sometimes it is losses to those at the bottom of the Big Ten; other times it is embarrassments against Purdue and Illinois and the upper echelon. Either way, the loss column just continues to grow.

Wednesday is another in that second camp, with the Wisconsin Badgers visiting Crisler. Wisconsin is perennially a nuisance for the Wolverines, though last year’s Hunter Dickinson buzzer beater and overtime thriller was one of the season’s few highlights. It likely will take that sort of luck again to topple this top-15 team per the polls and Kenpom.

Of course, only one thing comes to mind when putting the words “fight” and “Wisconsin” together. Juwan Howard is trending in a very bad direction, and it is hard to not think about that incident in Madison two years ago. Michigan has gone 30-35 since that game and is going to miss the Tournament again. If only he could figure out how to get this roster to put up enough fight to save his job.

No. 11 Wisconsin Badgers (16-6, 8-3) at Michigan Wolverines (7-15, 2-9)

Date & Time: Wednesday, Feb. 7, 7 p.m. ET
Location: Crisler Center, Ann Arbor, MI
TV/Streaming: BTN

The Badgers are not better than Purdue, to whom they lost over the weekend, but they do have a good claim as the second-best team in the conference. Their main competition for that title is Illinois, with both teams owning top-10 offenses and adjusted defensive efficiencies around 30ish. In conference play, the Wisconsin defense has been just average, though, and this is Michigan’s only hope for the upset.

That is because this could (again) be an ugly game on the other end of the court. Wisconsin has the second-best two-point shooting in Big Ten games and third-highest effective field goal rate. The tempo remains painfully slow, which means the visitors will patiently wait for the Wolverines to make a defensive mistake, which is a pretty sure bet. Not to be too negative, but what has Michigan shown as of late to contain any sort of offense?

“I want people to be afraid of how much they love me”

Howard came to Michigan with the unenviable task of replacing the beloved John Beilein, and he stormed on the scene with the famous Battle 4 Atlantis title, then ended up winning a Big Ten Championship the following season. He was again able to make the Sweet 16 in Year 3, but the signs of worry were there, with that scuffle at Wisconsin especially being one of them. High-profile recruits came in and flopped, the results soured greatly, and even this year’s transfers are another example of things not working out.

Personally, I believe Howard should be fighting for his job right now, but who knows if that is actually in jeopardy or not. If it is, I cannot see how he would survive, as this team is showing no heart, no growth, and no potential. Howard needs a couple positive moments down the stretch to try to earn back any possible goodwill, and a win over No. 11 Wisconsin would certainly qualify, but there is nothing to make anyone think that is likely to happen. What was once a beloved hire has turned in the darkest way, and unfortunately that love is all but gone.