Wolverines face tall task in tilt with Badgers

Chicago, IL (SportsNetwork.com) - The top-seeded Wisconsin Badgers make their first appearance in the 2015 Big Ten Conference Tournament in Friday's quarterfinal round, as they take on the ninth-seeded Michigan Wolverines at the United Center.

The winner will advance to the semifinals on Saturday to tangle with either Penn State or Purdue.

Michigan opened its tournament run in Thursday's second round, beating up on No. 8 seed Illinois in a 73-55 final. The win improved the Wolverines' record this season to 16-15, and their official mark in the Big Ten Tournament to 12-15. Officially the Maize and Blue don't have any titles to their credit, although they did win the inaugural event back in 1998 only to later have it vacated. Michigan lost to rival Michigan State in last year's title tilt, 69-55.

Wisconsin is in the midst of its best campaign ever, as the team earned its 18th regular-season title by winning 16 of its 18 Big Ten bouts. The Badgers, who are led by Big Ten Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky (18.4 ppg, 8.1 rpg) and Big Ten Coach of the Year Bo Ryan, have won three in a row and 13 of their last 14 overall. UW is two games over .500 all-time in the Big Ten Tournament (18-16), has won two trophies, the last in 2008. The Badgers have reached the championship game a total of five times.

These two teams met only once during the regular season, with Wisconsin slipping by in overtime, 69-64, in Ann Arbor on Jan. 24. Still, Michigan owns an 88-71 advantage in the all-time series, but the Badgers have won 14 of the last 16 meetings. Michigan is 0-2 versus Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament.

Solid play at both ends of the court helped Michigan get past Illinois on Thursday, as the Wolverines made good on nearly 50 percent of their total shots, while limiting the Illini to 37.3 percent. Illinois really struggled from distance, making only 1-of-13 3-point tries in the game. Aubrey Dawkins paced Michigan with 18 points, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman tacked on 15 to go with eight rebounds, Zak Irvin had 14 points and Max Biefeldt 10 more for the Wolverines, who are hoping to find consistent contributors in the wake of both Caris LeVert (14.9 ppg) and Derrick Walton, Jr. (10.7 ppg) being sidelined due to injury.

Wisconsin has excelled in just about every aspect of the game during its record-setting season, the team putting up 71.7 ppg while allowing just 55.7 ppg, the latter figure ranking the squad No. 1 in the Big Ten, and No. 7 nationally. The Badgers feature a trio of double-digit scorers, led by the supremely-talented Kaminsky. Help comes from the guys like Sam Dekker (13.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg) and Nigel Hayes (12.0 ppg, 6.4 rpg). With a +6.1 rebounding margin, Wisconsin cleans the glass with the best the Big Ten has to offer, and it also leads the league in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.6). Simply put, there are very few weaknesses to this club.