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November 26, 2013

Preview: No. 10 UW vs Saint Louis





MADISON, Wis. - Wisconsin is on the brink of its best start to a season Bo Ryan's 13 seasons in Madison. In order to get to 7-0 on the season, the 10-th ranked Badgers will have to get through a tough test against the Saint Louis Billikens (5-0) at the Cancun Challenge on Tuesday night. Wisconsin hasn't started 7-0 since it began the 1993-94 season 11-0.

The Badgers are averaging 80.2 points per game in their first six outings, compared to averaging fewer than 68.0 in each of the previous six seasons, and are shooting a Big Ten-best 45.2 percent from 3-point range. With five players averaging double figures in points per game, led by Frank Kaminsky at 17.3, to say that the offense has been a weapon firing on all cylinders so far this season for Wisconsin would be a massive understatement.

Unfortunately for the Badgers, to say that their defense has yet to meet its expectations would also be a colossal understatement.

Wisconsin is giving up an average of 68.3 points per game and allowing its opponents to shoot a conference-high 47.3 percent from the field.

"Well whether I'm happy or not, the team's going down the same way: bussing to Chicago and flying directly," Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan said of the trip to Mexico. "Those were the six on the schedule. Three in a short burst here at the end. Record says what it is. We know Saint Louis is better."

And better they are.

After defeating Bowling Green 74-47 on Saturday, Saint Louis is a perfect 5-0 to begin the season and a win on Tuesday would give the Billikens their second 6-0 start in the past three seasons.

The key to the Billikens' success so far has been their defense as they have held their first five opponents to 58.2 ppg and a mere 39.4 percent shooting from the floor and just a painstakingly low 20.3 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.

In their matchup with Bowling Green on Saturday, the Billikens were able to hold the Falcons to just seven field goals in the first half and 33.3 percent shooting from the floor overall. Bowling Green was 1-of-8 from 3 and turned the ball over 18 times.

The Badgers are looking forward to the challenge (no pun intended) and plan on using the Cancun trip to become closer as a team and work on areas of weakness, much like the Canada trip this past August.

"It's not like it's a conference game where it means everything, but at the same time we have to show that we're improving and we're playing some really good teams [in Cancun] so it should be fun," Josh Gasser said at practice before the team left for Cancun.

Although the Badgers have earned a top-10 ranking and are pleased with their 6-0 record to start the season, Sam Dekker knows that this Wisconsin squad has not proved anything to anyone and he is going to make sure that no one on this team becomes complacent at this stage in the season.

"We feel like we should be the better team on the court every game," Dekker said, "But we have to stay hungry. We have a lot to prove and we're never going to be content."

On the other side of the Cancun Challenge bracket, West Virginia and Old Dominion will meet up at 5pm central time with the two winners facing off in the finals.

Game Info

When and Where: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya, Cancun

TV: CBS Sports Network

Radio: 1310 AM, 101.5 FM

WISCONSIN BADGERS (6-0)

Coach: Bo Ryan, 297-113 in his 13th season at Wisconsin.

Probable starters (height, year, ppg.)

1 Ben Brust 6-1 Sr. 12.5

12 Traevon Jackson 6-2 Jr. 11.7

15 Sam Dekker 6-7 So. 14.7

21 Josh Gasser 6-3 Jr. 10.7

44 Frank Kaminsky 7-0 Jr. 17.3

Key reserves (height, year, ppg.)

10 Nigel Hayes 6-7 Fr. 4.5

13 Duje Dukan 6-9 Jr. 4.5

24 Bronson Koenig 6-3 Fr. 4.4

Quick hits: The Badgers are ranked in the top-10 for the first time in over two seasons…Wisconsin is 2-2 all-time vs. Saint Louis with the most recent meeting coming at the UW Field House in the second round of the 1989 NIT. The Billikens won 73-68…Frank Kaminsky was named Big Ten player of the week after averaging 26 points in three games…The Badgers have made more free throws, 101, than their opponents have attempted, 84.

SAINT LOUIS BILLIKENS (5-0)

Coach: Jim Crew, 33-7 in his second season at Saint Louis.

Probable starters (height, year, ppg.)

1 Grandy Glaze 6-6 Jr. 8.2

5 Jordair Jett 6-1 Sr. 11.6

11 Mike McCall Jr. 6-0 Sr. 12.6

21 Dwayne Evans 6-6 Sr. 13.6

51 Rob Loe 6-11 Sr. 7.8

Key reserves (height, year, ppg.)

2 Austin McBroom 5-9 So. 8.8

30 Jake Barnett 6-5 Sr. 4.8

35 Reggie Adbeko 6-7 Fr. 3.3

Quick hits: Saint Louis head coach Jim Crews was a player under Bob Knight at Indiana from 1972-1976 and became one of Knight's assistants from 1977-1985…Saint Louis is holding opponents to 39.4 percent shooting, including 20.3 percent from 3-point range…Billikens' assistant coach Tanner Bronson was a freshman manager during the 2003-04 season for the Badgers during his time at the University of Wisconsin

Why you should worry: Wisconsin has never started a season 7-0 under Bo Ryan…Saint Louis went 5-1 last season against AP Top-25 teams.

Why you shouldn't worry: Saint Louis' opponents through the first five games have a combined record of 7-18 (.280)…Wisconsin is 7-2 against the spread in its last nine games against teams from the Atlantic 10. Tuesday night's spread is Wisconsin -2.5.

For more Wisconsin Badgers news, notes and discussion, follow Zack on Twitter.



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