Late Monday morning, we still believe the University of Wisconsin’s No. 13 men’s basketball team (3-1) will face 25th in Louisville (4-0) on Wednesday evening as part of the Big Ten / Acc Challenge. Instead, we are pleasantly surprised by the afternoon match against Rhode Island (3-2) thanks to COVID-19 issues in the Louisville program.
The competition will serve as an added bonus for the Badgers, boosting their non-scheduled conference schedule while Louisville is set for a later date, hopefully sooner this weekend.
Rhode Island would easily be the best team the Badgers have welcomed at the Cole Center so far. The Rams are led by Vats Russell, a point guard who does it all.
Russell has seen good minutes since his first campaign in 2017-18, the last year the Rams competed in the NCAA Championship. Russell was a major contributor to Rhode Island’s first-round victory over Trey Young, led by Oklahoma, Pour in 15 points from three throws and adding three assists in 21 minutes off the bench.
Russell is the only remaining contributor to this championship team, and his leadership and tenacity are contagious. This year, Russell scored 17.6 points, 3.6 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 2.2 steals per match.
Russell is the highest goal scorer to enter the game from both sides, and due to his size, it is likely that all scorers will lead when the match is over.
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If anyone can restrict Russell, it’s Badger D’Mitrik Trice point guard. No collector’s basketball player has played more games than Trice. And after a devastating loss to a bitter opponent, I don’t want to do anything with Trice or his big brothers.
Wisconsin has a chance on Wednesday to quickly erase the Markit loss and look ahead to a tough timeline with confidence.
The loss of Markit should ignite the fire under the leadership of Gard and his senior team. If anything, it can provide the badger with a sense of urgency before a conference. Wisconsin will have to set the tone early and come out as if their hair was on fire.
Rhode Island dropped its first two games of the season in the 2K Empire Classic to Arizona and Boston College. Both matches were tightly packed throughout and both margins were in the six-point range.
Since then, Rhode Island has won three in a row. Their last win on a respected show at Seton Hall came in double digits. If you thought that the rams would lie before the badger, then you are deeply mistaken.
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Behind Russell, the Ramez family enjoyed high-profile transfers in Galen Curry (Syracuse) and the Mitchells (Maryland). Senior sniper Jeremy Shepherd will need to be the focus of Badgers’ defense as he shoots 46% out of the arc in the youth season.
Young striker Antoine Walker provides low-profile physical presence, placing 10.7 points on 69% of shots and 6.4 rebounds per match. His 230-pound frame imposes, but his 6’7 height should favor Nate Reuvers and Micah Potter over the boards.
The key to this game will ultimately be rhythm. Badger’s team plays this at a remarkably slow pace while Rams loves to push the ball at all times.
In three of the five Rhode Island games, Rams scored over 84 points. If Badgers can control the ball, slow the game and limit move points, then they should be able to take care of the rams with relative ease.
The Badgers will, of course, need to shoot better than they did against Markett if they want to win, starting with Brad Davison. Davison failed to score a field goal against Marquette and proved expensive.
He and his colleagues will need to be more productive and efficient going forward if the Badgers plan to compete for the Big Ten title and beyond.
Wisconsin is a 2-0 all-time against Rhode Island, its last meeting in 1999. The match will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network, live from Kohl Center in Madison 3:30 PM CT.