Before the Michigan women’s basketball team’s game at Wisconsin this Saturday, the Wolverines might want to take a look in the mirror — that might be all that it takes to scout the Badgers.
Michigan at Wisconsin
Matchup: Michigan 17-7; Wisconsin 17-9
When: Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
Where: Kohl Center
TV: Big Ten Network
The similarities between the two teams, from team records to players to statistics, are hard to miss.
With a win, Michigan (8-5 Big Ten, 15-10 overall) would be tied for third with Wisconsin in the Big Ten.
The Badgers (9-4, 14-11), who are coming off of a 59-44 loss to Iowa, have struggled on the boards all year — they rank last in the Big Ten in rebounds per game (29.9). Michigan is right there with them, less than half a rebound per game ahead.
Part of the reason for both teams’ lack of efficiency on the glass is their size. Both teams feature only two players over the height of 6-foot-2.
But Wisconsin’s 6-foot-4 senior forward Lin Zastrow makes her presence felt in the post.
“(Zastrow) is good on both sides of the ball,” Michigan coach Kevin Borseth said after Michigan’s 75-59 victory over Wisconsin on Jan. 16. “I’ll tell you what, she is as good of a big kid in this conference. She scores on people, and she’s hard to score on.”
The Wolverines held Zastrow, who averages 14 points per contest, to just nine points in the first matchup between these two teams. That success was due in part to Michigan’s tough post defense by 6-foot-1 sophomore forward Rachel Sheffer, along with 6-foot-4 bench players Sam Arnold and Kate Thompson.
But what both teams lack in size, they make up for with team defense. The Badgers lead the Big Ten in scoring defense, allowing just 56.5 points per game, and the Wolverines aren’t far behind in third place (62.6).
“They are very good defensively,” Borseth said. “They are just an absolute lock-you-down, don’t-let-you-score type of team.”
And each team is at the top of the conference standings in turnover margins. The Wolverines, who lead the conference with a plus-3.15 average, are just .07 turnovers ahead of the second-place Badgers.
But Michigan holds the edge in offensive production — from both its starters and its bench players. That very well could be the Wolverines’ key to winning this game — Wisconsin is second-to-last in the conference in offensive production, and the Badger bench has been nearly non-existent as of late.
Another key factor is the loss of Wisconsin senior forward Tara Steinbauer — the team’s third-leading scorer — who left in the first half of Wednesday’s game against Iowa with a right leg injury. Wisconsin has confirmed that she is out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL. Her absence could be crucial for an already offensively-challenged Badger squad.
But regardless of the similarities between these two squads, the Wolverines know what is at stake with just three Big Ten games remaining.
“We have momentum right now,” junior guard Carmen Reynolds said after Michigan’s win over Indiana on Wednesday. “Hopefully, we will get the next three wins and … get a bid into the NCAA tournament.”