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Iowa-Wisconsin Preview

AP - Sports

If Iowa wants to contend for the Big Ten title, it needs to deal with three of the current top 5 teams in the country. Wisconsin, meanwhile, will have to slow the Hawkeyes' potent offense - and a former teammate - to match the best start in school history.

The No. 4 Badgers welcome transfer Jarrod Uthoff back to Madison on Sunday night when they host 22nd-ranked Iowa looking to move to 15-0 for the first time in 100 years.

"You're playing the fourth-ranked team in the country, who is undefeated, on the road in a hostile environment," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said.

"That will identify who we are."

The Hawkeyes (12-2, 1-0) put their Big Ten-best 87.1 scoring average on the line against a Wisconsin defense that has held opponents to 59.8 per game, which trails only league-leading and third-ranked Ohio State.

"They have a great offense," Badgers point guard Traevon Jackson told the school's official website. "They take away a lot of (defensive) help with so many curls and cuts. They make you guard one-on-one. It will be a good test. They're really a good team."

The intriguing matchups go both ways.

Wisconsin (14-0, 1-0) is second in the Big Ten with a 39.2 percent mark from 3-point range, while Iowa is holding opponents to a league-low 36.1 percent overall and 27.2 from beyond the arc.

Whether Iowa can sustain its impressive numbers on both ends of the floor against ranked teams remains to be seen. The Hawkeyes let double-digit leads slip away against the two currently ranked teams they've played: No. 11 Villanova and No. 13 Iowa State.

In addition, they went 0-7 against ranked opponents a season ago - likely the main reason they were passed over by the NCAA tournament committee.

All of those ranked opponents were Big Ten foes, though Wisconsin wasn't one of them. The Hawkeyes have won three of four against the Badgers, the lone loss coming by four points in double overtime last season at the Kohl Center.

"We've played consistently well in those games," McCaffery said. "We've run a little bit - and they're running a little more this year - and we've worked into their style of play and tried to figure out how our style of play can be effective in that environment."

The Badgers opened conference play with a convincing 76-49 win at Northwestern on Thursday. They led 40-14 at halftime and turned the ball over only four times after posting a season best with two turnovers in their previous game against Prairie View A&M.

Nigel Hayes scored a career-high 19 points off the bench to lead the Badgers, while leading scorer Sam Dekker added 15. Hayes, a 6-foot-7 freshman, is averaging 15.3 points in his last three games after scoring no more than eight in his first 11.

"One of the biggest reasons he's able to do that, besides his frame, is that he's intelligent," coach Bo Ryan said. "Very smart. Picks up things very quickly and he's so perceptive on the court."

Uthoff has also picked things up quickly in his first season in Iowa City. At 10.9 points per game, he's one of three Hawkeyes scoring in double figures. He had 11 in a 67-57 Big Ten-opening home win over Nebraska on Wednesday.

His coach doesn't expect any special attention he gets from the Kohl Center crowd to impact his game or Iowa's performance.

"They're going to yell at him, but they can't come out and defend him," McCaffery told the school's official website. "I am more concerned about how we handle their runs and how their crowd gets into the game than how they yell at Jarrod Uthoff."

The Badgers have won four straight home games against ranked opponents, while the Hawkeyes have dropped seven straight on the road versus Top 25 teams since beating then-No. 11 Wisconsin in Madison on Dec. 31, 2011.

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