Badgers Begin Against Texas A&M CC

Keeping up with one of the nation's highest-scoring teams may be just what Wisconsin needs to begin the NCAA tournament.

With their offense struggling in recent weeks, the second-seeded Badgers hope to make the right adjustments in time for their opening-round matchup with No. 15 seed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Friday in the Midwest Regional at Chicago.

Oddsmakers have made Wisconsin -13 point spread favorites (College Basketball Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 132.5 total points (View College Basketball Sports Books). Our public betting information shows that 75% of bets for this game have been placed on Wisconsin -13 (View College Basketball Bet Percentages).

"When I heard we were playing (No. 3 seed) Texas A&M I was like 'Wow, that's a tough matchup right off the bat,'" Wisconsin star Alando Tucker said. "And then they said Corpus Christi and I'm like, 'Oh, OK.'"

The Badgers (29-5) finished the season averaging 70.1 points, third-highest in the Big Ten, but failed to reach that mark in five of their last six games. Twice during that span, the team failed to even score 50 points.

Wisconsin faces a Texas A&M-Corpus Christi team which scores 79.8 points per game to rank 10th in the country. The Islanders (26-6) are second nationally in field-goal shooting at 52.4 percent and they hit nearly 40 percent from 3-point range.

Though Corpus Christi is not expected to pose much of a threat - the team lost its three games against major-conference opponents by an average of 21.3 points - the Badgers could benefit from facing a team that focuses much more on offense than defense.

One key for Wisconsin, held below 37 percent from the field in four of its past six games, could be getting back to the free-throw line consistently. The Badgers attempted 310 more free throws than their opponents this season despite averaging 13.9 attempts in their last seven outings, nearly 10 fewer than their season average.

No Wisconsin player gets to the foul line more than Tucker, who was second in the conference with 226 attempts but shot just 65 percent. The Badgers were the second-worst foul shooting team in the Big Ten at 67.9 percent.

Of the their last 11 games, the Badgers have won eight, with the only losses coming in games when Tucker failed to score 20 points. The Big Ten player of the year was second in the conference with 19.9 points per game, leading Wisconsin to the winningest season and highest NCAA tournament seed in school history.

The team finished the regular season second in the Big Ten behind Ohio State and lost 66-49 to the Buckeyes in the conference tournament title game on Sunday at the United Center - the same arena where it will play Friday.

"We have a feel for how the atmosphere is going to be and that's one of the things when you go to the NCAA tournament you always want to get adjusted to where you are playing and your environment when you first get there," said Tucker, who is from a southwest suburb of Chicago.

Wisconsin will open the tournament without big man Brian Butch, who was averaging 8.8 points and a team-high 5.9 rebounds before dislocating his shoulder on Feb. 25. Badgers coach Bo Ryan said the 6-foot-11 Butch was rehabbing but would not comment on whether the team would be able to get him back during the tournament.

With Butch sidelined, Wisconsin likely needs senior and second-leading scorer Kammron Taylor to step up.

Taylor had an up-and-down season, scoring 12.6 points per game after averaging 14.2 as a junior. He has been struggling from the field recently, shooting 33.8 percent in the last six games and going 9-of-33 (27.3 percent) from 3-point range. Taylor leads the team in 3-pointers attempted (159) and made (62).

Tucker and Taylor are one of three sets of Big Ten teammates with at least 1,000 career points apiece.

"He's had periods and times when he's struggled, and he's always bounced back," Tucker said of his teammate. "And that's the kind of player he is."

Wisconsin is 16-11 all-time in the NCAA tournament, and is making its ninth straight appearance. The team was ousted in the first round last year, losing 94-75 to Arizona.

While the Badgers bring plenty of tournament experience, this is the first appearance for Corpus Christi in its eighth season in Division I.

The Islanders received the bid after winning the Southland Conference tournament by beating Northwestern State 81-78.

"You can never make up for the experience," coach Ronnie Arrow said of what this means for the team. "We have seven seniors on this team that have been the backbone the entire year. I am so proud of what these guys have done and where they are headed."

Chris Daniels, the Southland Conference player of the year and tournament MVP, averages team highs of 15.2 points and 6.6 rebounds.

The only team these squads both faced this season is Purdue. The Islanders lost 79-61 to the Boilermakers, while Wisconsin won 69-64.

The winner of Friday's game will face either UNLV or Georgia Tech on Sunday.

by: Marc Young - - Email Us

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