Illinois at Wisconsin
The last time Illinois beat Wisconsin, Barack Obama’s hair was still dark. The last time Illinois beat Wisconsin in Madison, the BP oil spill, the largest natural disaster in US history, was still more than 2 months from occuring. It’s been a while; specifically, 11 games, including 6 in Madison, dating back to February 9, 2010.
But, despite Illinois’s 0-6 conference record, this year may represent the team’s best chance to beat the Badgers in a long time. At 9-10 with 2-4 conference record, Wisconsin is enduring its worst season in two decades according to Sports-Reference’s SRS (this year’s 8.22 is the lowest since 1997-98’s 7.18). The Badgers, always a stronger team on defense than offense, are allowing opponents 65.6 points per game, the highest total for the team since 2005-06; under coach Bo Ryan, Wisconsin only allowed 65 points twice in 15 seasons.
A big part of Wisconsin’s struggles is a lack of star power, as Ethan Happ is the only known quantity among this year’s players. He’s done well, with 16.7 points and 8.4 rebounds per game, but the young help around him, from Brad Davison, Brevin Pritzl, and Khalil Iverson, have not lived up to their ability.
Perhaps a little good fortune will come for Illinois this time around. The team’s bad luck has been well documented everywhere and doesn’t need recapping, but the fact that it is not deserved is worth discussion. For instance, consider Trent Frazier; in the last 9 games he’s averaged 16.8 points and 2.6 assists and connected on 45 percent from the field. That’s the offense Illinois needs, and with a bit of karma maybe it will be what gets Illinois off the schneid.
Photo by Mike Pauza