Looking to Rebound: Minnesota Takes on Wisconsin, Louisville to Battle Georgetown

By Debbie B.

For NCAA hoops this week, the top story is a toss up between #1 Duke losing to #25 Miami on Wednesday, 90-63 or #5 Louisville dropping to unranked Villanova on Tuesday, 73-64. With these upsets, look for a shakeup in the AP Top 25 on Monday.

Will #2 Michigan (18-1, 5-1) take the top ranking or will one of the tied No. 3 teams take the jump: #3 Kansas (17-1, 5-0) or #3 Syracuse (18-1, 6-0)?

And because things happen in threes, there’s also Thursday’s upset of UCLA over #6 Arizona. For the Bruins, it was the first time since 2001 they had defeated such a highly-ranked opponent.

But fortunately for college hoops, things change quickly and on Saturday teams will try to put their losses and slumps behind them. There are no games between ranked teams but there’s no shortage of good ones for the day.

Here’s a look at two: Wisconsin (13-6, 4-2) vs. #12 Minnesota (15-4, 3-3) and Louisville (16-3, 4-2) vs. Georgetown (13-4, 3-3).

Wisconsin vs. Minnesota

Gophers coach Tubby Smith

After a  4-0 Big Ten start, Wisconsin was the belle of the conference, which included a Jan. 15 road win against the Indiana Hoosiers .

The Badgers haven’t won since then.

Struggling at the free throw line (7 for 18) contributed to their Tuesday loss against Michigan State. The team is now the proud owner of the conference’s worst free throw percentage.

They will try to snap their losing streak against a team suffering from a three-game skid.

Minnesota coach Tubby Smith is not happy and he’s taken it out on his players, recently saying, “When you’re losing, people point the finger. That’s the way it starts, instead of being, ‘My fault.’ Then, you look at the refs. You look at the coach. Somebody’s not doing something. That’s what losers do.”

The team really imploded in their most recent loss against Northwestern on Wednesday. They shot a season-worst 33.3 percent and went 7 for 17 in free throws; they committed 15 turnovers with seven by Andre Hollins.

For Wisconsin, they also hit a season-worst this week, shooting 29.6 percent against the Spartans.

Their bright spot is defense with its conference-low of giving up 55.4 points per game. Against their last 19 opponents at home, opponents have not scored greater than 60 points.

In the team’s last meeting on Feb. 28. 2012, the Badgers won 52-45 at home and contained Minnesota to 23.9 percent in shooting.

Wisconsin shot only 30.8 percent from the field that day but held the Gophers to 23.9 percent. It was the Badgers’ third straight win in the series and on Saturday, they’ll make it No. 4 (-3.5, 125 0/u).

Louisville vs. Georgetown

Louisville guard Peyton Siva

Louisville has lost two consecutive games with one hurting more than the other (see Villanova). They have struggled at the end of their games and at the free throw line (50 percentile).

It’s not time to panic yet–no three-game losing streak for this team since January 2010–but facing Georgetown on the road is going to be tough: The Cardinals haven’t won since  2009.

Both teams will bring top 10 rankings for defensive efficiency but Louisville is more effective when forcing turnovers and obtaining steals. They sit as No. 2 nationally for steal percentage and turnovers-forced percentage. This may bode well against Georgetown who gets a little loose with balls.

For the Hoyas, they’ll enter the game confident after defeating #24 Notre Dame 63-47 on Monday.

They’ll also bring Otto Porter, who has scored 19 points or more in four consecutive games. He’s not a three-point shooter but can hit behind the arc at 45 percent.

For the Cardinals, they’ll look to Russ Smith to get points on the board; he leads in scoring (18.7 point average) with the face of the team, Peyton Siva, leading in assists (6.1).

History will be on Georgetown’s side this season as they are 2-1 vs. Top 25 teams; their sole loss came against then No. 1 Indiana in OT on Nov. 20. They play well at home (9-1) but not this week with a Louisville win (-5, 120.5 o/u).