Wisconsin-North Carolina Preview With Badger of Honor


Keeping It Heel spoke with Badger of Honor’s Jim Oxley to preview Wisconsin-North Carolina tonight in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

Earlier this week, Keeping It Heel reviewed Wisconsin’s season up to this point with Badger of Honor and Jim Oxley. Today, Keeping It Heel asked Badger of Honor about the game tonight. Keeping It Heel’s questions are in bold, and Badger of Honor’s answers are right below!

Q: Big news for Wisconsin — Traveon Jackson is coming back to play against UNC. What impact will he have for the Badgers?

A: That’s a great question that’s pretty tough to answer. At the very least, he’ll provide an emotional spark for this team. He’s a senior, and he’s expressed very clearly over the past few weeks that he wanted to put the Badgers uniform back on for at least one more game, and he’s getting his chance.
Whether or not he’ll be a factor on the scoreboard, however, is another question altogether. Traevon has missed 19 straight games, so he’s going to be rusty. When healthy, he was probably the best off-the-dribble player on this Wisconsin squad. He drives the lane well, and he and Bronson Koenig were playing great together, with Traevon driving and kicking it out to Bronson from distance. Jackson has also been Wisconsin’s go-to guy in late-game situations. Last year against Kentucky in the Final Four, it was Jackson who put the Badgers ahead in the final seconds before that Harrison buzzer-beating three murdered our championship hopes and dreams.
Long story short, Jackson will likely see limited minutes, but could have an impact on the Badgers emotionally in this game.

Q: Could you see Jackson’s return messing up the Badgers chemistry and potentially hurting them against UNC?

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North Carolina Tar Heels

A: That’s always a possibility for injured players coming back after long periods of absence. The Badgers could work too hard to get him shots and open looks, and wind up making unneeded mistakes. Jackson could also be risking re-injury if he isn’t truly ready to return, although the team’s doctors have given him the OK.
The Badgers have had a good thing going while Jackson was out, as Bronson Koenig has really come into his own at the point. Some have suggested that Traevon’s return could mess with Koenig’s head, but I’m of the opinion Bronson is made of tougher stuff than that, and is welcome to the senior’s return.
It’s important to note that coach Bo Ryan probably won’t let a “Traevon experiment” go too far. If Jackson gets into the game and isn’t contributing, Ryan’s not going to keep him in the game just for the heck of it.

Q: What is one thing Wisconsin absolutely must do against UNC if they want to win?

A: Rebound. When Wisconsin struggles on the boards, they struggle in games. We saw that in the Big Ten championship against Michigan State and again in the NCAA Tournament round of 32 against Oregon. Unfortunately for the Badgers, the Tar Heels are a great rebounding team. Wisconsin will need to work hard cleaning up the glass and keep Brice Johnson boxed out if they want to raise their chances of winning this game.

Q: Who do you think the most important player is for Wisconsin against UNC?

A: While many might answer this question with the big man himself – Frank Kaminsky – I’m going to say Nigel Hayes. Kaminsky is the best player on this team, and possibly in the country, but Hayes will be the deciding factor in this game.
Hayes is just as versatile as Kaminsky, and utilizes a few more post moves than the 7-footer. Hayes’ turnaround jumper has been on early in the tournament, and he’s been stroking it from distance. He presents a major problem for defenses, and should have a big game Thursday night.

Q: What is your prediction for Thursday night’s game?

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A: As you’d expect, the Sweet Sixteen match up will be Wisconsin’s toughest yet in the tournament. Everyone in the country just saw Joseph Young put up 30 points on this Wisconsin defense, and Tar Heel fans are probably salivating over what Marcus Paige is going to do.North Carolina’s rebounding prowess should scare the Badgers, as well. Still, Wisconsin will be riding high on the news of the return of Traevon Jackson, and with Frank Kaminsky, Nigel Hayes and Sam Dekker prowling the lane, should be able to take advantage of a smaller North Carolina team. Wisconsin pulls away late in a close game, but earns the 76-72 victory.

Makes sure you go check out Badger of Honor and follow them on Twitter tonight for coverage of the big game!