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Behind enemy lines: Q&A with Bucky’s 5th Quarter ahead of Maryland-Wisconsin

Get to know the Badgers a little better ahead of Monday night’s game.

NCAA Basketball: Minnesota at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland basketball is seeing its sixth consecutive win Monday night as the Terps host Wisconsin at 8:30 p.m. ET on FS1. A victory would move the Terps to 6-1 in Big Ten play, a mark that seemed unreasonable just a couple weeks ago.

When these two teams last met, the Badgers eliminated Maryland from the Big Ten tournament at Madison Square Garden. But both squads look a lot better this season than last, and the conference records show it. To get to know Wisconsin a little better, we brought in Jake Kocorowski from our SB Nation friends at Bucky’s 5th Quarter. Feel free to follow Jake (@JakeKocoB5Q) or the site (@B5Q) on Twitter. Our corresponding Q&A is available here.

Testudo Times: Wisconsin comes in 11-5 with a 3-2 Big Ten record. How has the Badgers’ season compared with expectations?

Bucky’s 5th Quarter: Up until the home defeats against Minnesota and Purdue in January, the latter most recently on Friday, I would say the team had possibly exceeded expectations with a solid non-conference schedule (despite losses to Marquette and Western Kentucky in December). I think a return to the NCAA tournament were the expectations, with being in the top half of the conference also part of the equation.

Even with losing three of their last four, I think they’ll meet those expectations. There are still areas that this team needs to sure up if they want to stay near the top of the Big Ten and compete in an extremely deep conference this season.

TT: We joke about Ethan Happ being in college for a million years, but he’s playing at an All-American level as a senior. What’s made him such a dominant force?

B5Q: Happ really is a player that is unique in that he can create and execute smooth moves to score inside, can rebound and also dish out assists to his teammates. He is tied for the lead in the nation for double-doubles (11) while averaging 20 points, 10.5 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game.

So really, teams are placed in a “pick your poison” type situation, where you could defend Happ one-and-one and try your luck there, or you can double him and possibly allow the Badgers an open man to shoot from the perimeter.

Now, he can’t shoot from the outside and his free throw shooting is not great as well. If someone can defend him one-on-one, that changes the game, but he can be a nightmare for opponents.

TT: When we last saw Wisconsin in the Big Ten tournament, it was a pretty young team outside of Happ. How have those underclassmen (like Brad Davison and D’Mitrik Trice, who was injured last spring) developed this year?

B5Q: After returning from a foot injury that cost him all but 10 games last season, Trice still leads the Big Ten in three-point shooting (47.3 percent) despite cooling off from an early hot start. He really is the second-leading scorer for the team most nights as the backcourt scoring complement to Happ, but if he has a cold game, others need to step up.

Davison appears to be fully healthy with both arms fully functional, and he is one of those players that opposing teams (and fans) hate with the hustle, competitive nature—and for the sophomore specifically—his ability to get charges drawn. With Trice’s injury last year, Davison stepped up more at the point. Early on this year, it feels like he’s still transitioning in more of the off-guard role, but he does have that versatility now when called upon.

Others to watch for are sophomore forward Nate Reuvers, redshirt freshman guard Kobe King and redshirt sophomore forward Aleem Ford. All have potential and have flashed, but still awaiting the consistency to come forward. Reuvers is not a rebounding force but is averaging almost two blocks per game. He can score inside and out. The one who could have the most NBA potential, King hit double-digits in scoring for one Battle 4 Atlantis tournament game but really has not blown up on the stats sheets just yet. Ford does not necessarily have a presence on the boards, but when hot from the perimeter, he becomes another three-point weapons for the Badgers.

TT: What would a win or a loss mean for Wisconsin going forward?

B5Q: Wisconsin is in a tough stretch. It should have beat Purdue in overtime--and even after a dismal first half against Minnesota, was within two late before blowing it with poor turnovers.

A loss means the Badgers face No. 2 Michigan on Saturday with a 3-3 conference record, and though their schedule may appear easier after the Wolverines with games at Illinois and at home against Northwestern, having three to four losses early on isn’t necessarily ideal in a deep Big Ten.

A win goes a long way in confidence, both on the road, and in attempting to step up and beat one of the nation’s best teams this weekend. A loss could also maybe motivate Greg Gard’s bunch in a significant fashion for Saturday’s match-up as well, but there’s no doubt they want every Big Ten win they can.

TT: Complete this sentence: ________ will win because ________.

B5Q: Maryland will win because I believe the home court advantage will play a huge role, but also that the Terps will out-rebound Wisconsin. Maryland is currently fifth overall in rebound margin and also 11th in the nation in KenPom in offensive rebound percentage. Outside of Happ, I just don’t feel Wisconsin’s frontcourt has much of a presence in that area of the game. Against Purdue, the Badgers gave up 17 offensive boards and lost that battle 39-32 overall on Friday night. I think Anthony Cowan Jr., Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith provide some intriguing match-up troubles as well. If UW controls its turnovers, something it didn’t with 17 against the Boilermakers, it could be a tight one in College Park. I still give the edge to Maryland here.