Arguably the best quarterfinal-round matchup in the 2013 Big Ten Conference Tournament takes place on Friday afternoon, as the fifth-seeded Michigan Wolverines do battle with the fourth-seeded Wisconsin Badgers, the winner advancing to Saturday's semifinals to take on the survivor of the Illinois/Indiana matchup.
Michigan has had a tremendous season, logging a 26-6 overall record, which included a 12-6 league ledger. The Wolverines have won three of their last four games, including an 83-66 thrashing of Penn State in the opening round of this event on Thursday. The victory improved UM's record all-time in the Big Ten tourney to 9-13, and while the team did win the inaugural conference tournament crown back in 1998, it was later vacated by the NCAA.
Wisconsin was credited with a 21-10 overall record this season, which included the same 12-6 league ledger as Michigan. The Badgers managed to knock off Penn State in their regular-season finale last Sunday, 63-60, putting the brakes on a brief two-game skid. UW is 15-13 all-time in the Big Ten Tournament, and the team has a pair of championships to its credit, the most recent of which occurred in 2008.
Michigan owns an 87-68 lead in the all-time series with Wisconsin, but it was the Badgers who prevailed in the only meeting between the two this season, 65-62 in overtime in Madison back on Feb. 9.
Michigan is fortunate to have the Big Ten Player of the Year on its roster, as Trey Burke was simply sensational in averaging 19.2 points and 6.8 assists per outing. Tim Hardaway, Jr. (14.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg) also had a stellar campaign, and Glenn Robinson III (10.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg) was highly productive in earning All- Freshman Team honors. Not to be left out, Nik Stauskas (11.6 ppg, .460 3-point FG percentage) helped form what is arguably the best backcourt trio in the nation -- and all stats mentioned represent regular-season games only. Burke scored 21 points to lead five players in double figures, as Michigan upended Penn State in Thursday's opening round, exacting some revenge for a loss suffered to the Nittany Lions on Feb. 27. The Wolverines shot 46 percent from the floor while their counterpart shot 48.3 percent, but a 19-5 edge in points from the foul line certainly played in integral role in helping the Maize and Blue advance.
The Badgers own the Big Ten's top defense (56.0 ppg), and they rank ninth nationally in that department. UW, which is led by Big Ten Coach of the Year Bo Ryan, doesn't light it up at the offensive end (66.1 ppg), and it relies almost exclusively on four rather modest scorers in All-Big Ten Second-Teamer Jared Berggren (11.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 63 blocks), Honorable Mention selection Ben Brust (11.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 76 assists), Ryan Evans (10.1 ppg, 7.5 rpg) and All- Freshman Team member Sam Dekker (9.7 ppg). UW is as solid as they come in terms of rebounding (+4.3 margin), while also taking very good care of the basketball (only 9.6 turnovers per tilt).