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December 11, 2013

Preview: No. 4 UW vs. Milwaukee





MADISON, Wis. - The No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers are in the midst of their greatest climb towards the top of the Associated Press Top-25 Poll since March 5-11, 2007 and are currently the only team in Division 1 with 10 or more wins.

The Badgers are third in the country in the RPI rankings - ahead of Arizona (14), Syracuse (5), and Ohio State (20) who sit in front of Wisconsin in the AP poll. Wisconsin's five wins against the RPI top-50 is more than Arizona (2), Syracuse (1), and Ohio State (0) combined.

The Badgers' difficult schedule is even more apparent when comparing it to the rest of the Big Ten. Wisconsin's nonconference strength of schedule rank of 33, according to KenPom, ranks atop the Big Ten with Michigan St. (127), Northwestern (171), Penn State (187), and Minnesota (238) rounding out the top-five.

With Badger football on hold, Aaron Rodgers sidelined with a collarbone injury, the Bucks being the Bucks, and the Brewers on vacation, it's hard for Wisconsin fans - and fans across the nation for that matter - to not get caught up in the recognition and rankings that have come with the team's early season success; unless you're a part of this team.

"It's too early in the season to get caught up in that kind of stuff," Josh Gasser said bluntly of the team's number four ranking.

After the Badgers' 70-64 victory over in-state rival Marquette last week, Bo Ryan said of the team's hot start to the season, "I am going to approach practice on Monday, it is never mentioned, I never mention a number to the team. I am very thankful that I had a chance to coach a couple undefeated teams, only because it gave me experience working with the players. So it is early yet."

While it is early, two of the biggest surprises of the young college basketball season have come from the state of Wisconsin with one being the Badgers on the verge of just their second 11-0 start to a season in school history, and the second surprise being the play of the Milwaukee Panthers.

Last season, the Panthers went 8-24. This season, with just 11 games under their belt, the Panthers already have nine wins to just two losses.

Following a season-opening loss at Loyola of Chicago, the Panthers bounced back with a victory at Davidson. Wins against San Jose State, James Madison and Northern Illinois got the Panthers to 4-1. A loss at home to DePaul on Nov. 19 has been succeeded by five straight victories to get them to 9-2.

The Badgers defeated the Panthers 74-53 in last season's meeting between the two teams at the Kohl Center, with Ryan Evans leading the way for Bucky with 19 points. Milwaukee was without two of this season's top contributors in that meeting as both junior guard Steve McWhorter and sophomore forward Matt Tiby sat out after transferring from other programs.

McWhorter, a native of Racine, Wis., is averaging 8.4 points per game this season while Tiby is the team's leading scorer (14.7) and rebounder (6.8).

Wisconsin looks to move to 3-0 on the season against its in-state rivals, and it's not going to let its early season success allow them to look past the Panthers.

Game Info

When and Where: 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Kohl Center

TV/Web: Big Ten Digital Network (BTN.com)

Radio: 1310 AM, 101.5 FM

WISCONSIN BADGERS (10-0)

Coach: Bo Ryan, 301-113 in his 13th season at Wisconsin.

Probable starters (height, year, ppg.)

1 Ben Brust 6-1 Sr. 11.4

12 Traevon Jackson 6-2 Jr. 11.2

15 Sam Dekker 6-7 So. 14.4

21 Josh Gasser 6-3 Jr. 10.4

44 Frank Kaminsky 7-0 Jr. 14.8

Key reserves (height, year, ppg.)

10 Nigel Hayes 6-7 Fr. 4.0

13 Duje Dukan 6-9 Jr. 3.9

24 Bronson Koenig 6-3 Fr. 3.3

Quick hits: The Badgers have not swept their in-state rivals since the 2010-11 season, and have only done so in five of 12 tries under Ryan…From 1999-2001, Bo Ryan was the head coach at UW-Milwaukee.

MILWAUKEE PANTHERS (9-2)

Coach: Rob Jeter, 138-129 in his ninth season at UW-Milwaukee

Probable starters (height, year, ppg.)

1 Jordan Aaron 5-10 Sr. 13.5

3 Kyle Kelm 6-9 Sr. 12.8

25 Steve McWhorter 6-2 Jr. 8.4

31 Matt Tiby 6-8 So. 14.7

34 Austin Arians 6-6 So. 12.6

Key reserves (height, year, ppg.)

4 Malcolm Moore 6-7 Sr. 3.6

10 Thierno Niang 6-1 Sr. 3.5

23 J.J. Panoske 6-10 So. 5.6

Quick hits: The Panthers last opened 9-2 in 2002-03…Austin Arians and Kyle Kelm each scored 17 points for the Panthers in their 73-67 victory over Bradley on Saturday…Jeter and assistants Sharif Chambliss and Duffy Conroy are all former staff members under Bo Ryan…Milwaukee has gone to the free-throw line 287 times this season (26.1 times per game), 14th-best in the nation. They are shooting 74.9 percent from the charity stripe.

Why you should worry: Milwaukee, much like the Badgers, has a balanced offensive attack led by four players averaging double-figures through 11 games.

Why you shouldn't worry: The Badgers are 29-1 all-time, including 12-0 under Ryan, against the Panthers.

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



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