Indiana (25-7) continued its outstanding season with its convincing 75-58 win over Penn State in Thursday's first round, extending its current winning streak to five games in the process. Despite finishing in fifth place in a loaded Big Ten, the Hoosiers have proven themselves to be an elite team, with fantastic wins this season over No. 1 Kentucky, as well as league rivals Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State. In fact, the only top-flight Big Ten team IU hasn't defeated yet this season is today's opponent, Wisconsin.
Wisconsin currently sits with a 23-8 overall record, and it has been tabbed the nation's 14th-ranked team. It finished an impressive 12-6 in the Big Ten, coming in just a game behind the three first-place teams (Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan). The Badgers earned the No. 4 seed and a bye in the tournament for the 12th straight season, the longest streak in conference history. UW also comes in with some momentum, winning three straight, including perhaps its most impressive victory of the year on Feb. 28 at Ohio State, 63-60.
Although Indiana has a 94-64 advantage in the all-time series with Wisconsin, the Badgers have collected nine straight wins over the Hoosiers, including a 57-50 triumph in the only meeting this year on Jan. 26 in Madison.
Indiana ended a six-year winless drought in the Big Ten tourney with a solid showing against Penn State in the first round. Though it only connected on 36.5 percent of its field goal attempts in the win, it shot an impressive 29- of-36 from the free-throw line and held the Nittany Lions to a 34.5 percent shooting overall. Jordan Hulls led the Hoosiers with 20 points, while Cody Zeller (19 points, 10 rebounds) and Christian Watford (14 points, 10 rebounds) both recorded double-doubles. In a conference dominated by strong defense, IU possesses the best offense, putting up 77.5 ppg on 49.1 percent field goal efficiency. Zeller has impressed in his freshman campaign, leading the team in scoring (15.4 ppg), field goal percentage (.635), rebounding (6.4 rpg) and blocks (1.3 bpg). Watford, Hulls and Victor Oladipo round out the balanced offensive attack, as each averages between 11.1 and 11.8 ppg.
Indiana got some bad news after the Penn State game, as guard Verdell Jones III suffered a serious knee injury and is expected to miss the remainder of the season. Jones, who started 103 of the 117 games he has played at IU, was averaging 7.5 points and 3.2 assists per game for the Hoosiers this year.
Wisconsin's calling card this season has once again been its incredible defense, which allows opponents to shoot just 37.7 percent from the field and 27.6 percent from the three-point line, while putting up a mere 51.9 ppg, which is the lowest yield of any team at the Division I level. The Badgers' stout defense has been able to mask their less-than-stellar offense, which ranks near the bottom of the league in both scoring (63.8 ppg) and field goal percentage (.424). Despite its offensive woes, UW still has an All-Big Ten First Team honoree on its side in Jordan Taylor, who tallies 14.6 ppg, 4.1 apg, 3.8 rpg, 1.6 three-pointers and a steal per game. Ryan Evans (10.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg) and Jared Berggren (10.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg) also do their part. The Badgers have a cohesive first unit, as they have had the same starting lineup for each of their 31 games this year.