Hughes: Badgers are silencing Big Ten’s top talent

first_imgJust when you think you’ve figured out the pecking order in Big Ten men’s basketball, a peasant rises up and convincingly buries an elite.If you watched the Badgers’ last two games, you witnessed two perfect examples. Thursday, fourth-place Wisconsin got dispatched by eighth-place Iowa for the second time this year. Then, on Sunday, Wisconsin upset second-place and then-No. 9 Ohio State on its own floor.There are examples like this with basically every team in the conference this year. Your guess as to how the Big Ten tournament will play out is as good as mine.Michigan State, though looking like a champion, could nevertheless be upset on a neutral floor (the Spartans have lost to three different Big Ten teams this season on the road, and only one is currently in the top four of the standings). The winner of this tournament will likely exude some sort of critical ingredient over its four- or three-game tournament run that none of the others will have.This ingredient could be anything – a guard that scores at will, or a posse of free throw shooting machines, or a defense that doesn’t let you get to the rim.Who knows what the key ingredient will be. But one thing I do know is that the Badgers themselves are developing a pretty solid card to play. With an occasional exception, the Badgers have been able to contain most of the league’s top offensive threats.A tendency like that – to quiet a player not only the best on his team, but one of the league’s top talents – could be a ticket that can take them far in the conference tournament.Tournaments are, of course, (and please forgive the clich?) do-or-die time. And that kind of atmosphere brings out the best performances in any teams’ most talented players.To no one’s surprise, teams win when their best player is kicking names and taking ass – or something like that. Luckily, the Badgers haven’t let their names get kicked or asses taken by the Big Ten’s stars much this year.Indiana’s Cody Zeller was a ghost at the Kohl Center, scoring seven points and notching four personal fouls (credit to Jared Berggren). Illinois’ Brandon Paul scored 10 points on 3-for-11 shooting and didn’t have an assist to his name (credit to Josh Gasser).Northwestern’s John Shurna dissolved in the second half against the Badgers, scoring seven points and grabbing two rebounds. Purdue’s Robbie Hummel managed 13 points against Wisconsin, but on 5-of-17 shooting, and had only three rebounds despite playing at home.These are all top 10 scorers in Big Ten play, by the way.Continuing on: Iowa’s Matt Gatens (33 points) and Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger (24 points) each have had productive games against the Wisconsin defense but had rough days too. In their first meeting, Gatens went 2-for-9 and put up six points. In a rematch with Sullinger, the Badgers gave him an allowance of just eight points and six rebounds.There are three players in the top 10 that got the better of Wisconsin, however: Michigan State’s Draymond Green, Penn State’s Tim Frazier and Michigan’s Trey Burke. (For those that are counting, UW’s Jordan Taylor is the top 10 scorer I have not mentioned.)Should the Badgers run into those three players again in the tournament, there’s no telling what damage they’re liable to inflict. What we do know, though, is that Frazier has little, if any support, on his Nittany Lions squad, so his offensive outbursts don’t mean as much.Gatens has been subdued before – and when he tore the Badgers apart last Thursday, he was amid an incredible two-game shooting streak where he hit 12 consecutive three-pointers. He’s a consistent scorer, but the chances of him repeating a performance like that are slim.Green is the one to worry about. In two games, he put together 38 points and snagged 24 rebounds against the Badgers. Green and Sullinger are forces around the rim that Berggren struggled to contain earlier this season. (Green would also get my Big Ten Player of the Year vote as of this moment, along with many others.)Berggren made quite a leap in defending Sullinger on his second go-around, and when you consider his work on other conference bigs (like Illinois’ Meyers Leonard), it leads me to wonder if he can deliver a humbling experience to Green, an absolute double-double machine.Either way, the Badgers have shown a propensity to pipe down the kinds of players who are most likely to take over a game and make those around him play better. In tournament time – and just in any game, for that matter – that’s huge.Elliot is a senior majoring in journalism. What do you think of Wisconsin’s work against some of the Big Ten’s finest talent? Let him know at [email protected]last_img

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