After a late season nonconference series, the Wisconsin women’s hockey team heads on the road to face struggling Minnesota State, who still has yet to record a conference win.Badgers’ freshman forward Annie Pankowski, who notched her second career hat trick this past weekend against Clarkson, will face the team that gave her the first one. Pankowski led the Badgers (19-4-3 overall, 14-4-2 WCHA) with four goals in the previous series against the Mavericks in mid-November.The Badgers outscored Minnesota State (2-21-1, 0-17-1) 16-2 in their last series at LaBahn Arena and want to continue to improve down the final stretch.“Now you have eight games left, and the main thing is to maintain what you’ve done the past three weeks and try to make some improvements in some areas where you need to improve and get yourselves ready for the playoffs,” Wisconsin head coach Mark Johnson said.Despite Minnesota State having a difficult season, Wisconsin cannot take them lightly.“I think if we start to worry about the opponent and what they are doing, or worrying about individual play, that could throw us off,” sophomore Sydney McKibbon said. “But if we stick to our game, we will be fine.”The familiarity of playing a conference opponent again helps the Badgers come out confident and strong.“We obviously know them better because we played them before and we know their style,” freshman Maddie Rolfes said. “We know what to expect, so we can go in harder and not timid because we know how they play.”A winless conference season thus far could make the Mavericks come out fired-up for the third-ranked Badgers, but Wisconsin will try not to let an upset-minded team throw them off.“Focusing on ourselves and looking at them as if we are playing Minnesota or Clarkson, or anyone else,” McKibbon said. “They are no different and we have to come out ready to play Friday night.”This last stretch of games, no matter who the opponent, will be vital in getting the Badgers prepared for a potential playoff run. For Wisconsin the goal is to win all of the games, but the most important aspect is improving in all areas to make a complete team.The puck drops at 7 p.m. Friday night for the series opener in Mankato, and 3 p.m. Saturday to close out the series.
OFFSEASON PREVIEWS:Lakers | Knicks | Bulls | Pelicans | MavericksOver in the Eastern Conference, the Bucks, Raptors, 76ers and Pacers have known where they stand for quite some time. The rest of the East fell into place Wednesday night with the Pistons claiming the final playoff spot just behind the Nets and Magic.Below are the final NBA standings along with playoff matchups and start dates for each round.When do the 2019 NBA playoffs start?The last day of the NBA regular season is Wednesday, April 10. The 2019 NBA playoffs begin three days later on Saturday, April 13.The conference semifinals will begin April 29-30 (possible move up to April 27-28), and the conference finals will begin May 14-15 (possible move up to May 12-13). The 2019 NBA Finals will begin May 30 and end no later than June 16.NBA standings: Eastern ConferenceSeedTeamRecordGames back1.Bucks***60-22—2.Raptors**58-2423.76ers*51-3194.Celtics*49-33115.Pacers*48-34126.Nets*42-40187.Magic**42-40188.Pistons*41-4119*clinched playoff berth**clinched division***clinched conference NBA standings: Western ConferenceSeedTeamRecordGames back1.Warriors***57-25—2.Nuggets**54-2833.Trail Blazers*53-2944.Rockets**53-2945.Jazz*50-3276.Thunder*49-3387.Spurs*48-3498.Clippers*48-349*clinched playoff berth**clinched division***clinched conferenceNBA playoff picture: First-round matchupsEastern Conference(1) Bucks vs. (8) PistonsDateMatchupTime (TV channel)April 14Game 1 at Milwaukee7 p.m. ET (TNT)April 17Game 2 at Milwaukee8 p.m. ET (NBA TV)April 20Game 3 at Detroit8 p.m. ET (ESPN)April 22Game 4 at Detroit8 p.m. ET (TNT)*April 24Game 5 at MilwaukeeTBD*April 26Game 6 at DetroitTBD*April 28Game 7 at MilwaukeeTBD(*if necessary)(2) Raptors vs. (7) MagicDateMatchupTime (TV channel)April 13Game 1 at Toronto5 p.m. ET (ESPN)April 16Game 2 at Toronto8 p.m. ET (TNT)April 19Game 3 at Orlando7 p.m. ET (ESPN)April 21Game 4 at Orlando7 p.m. ET (TNT)*April 23Game 5 at TorontoTBD*April 25Game 6 at OrlandoTBD*April 27Game 7 at TorontoTBD (TNT)(*if necessary)(3) 76ers vs. (6) NetsDateMatchupTime (TV channel)April 13Game 1 at Philadelphia2:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)April 15Game 2 at Philadelphia8 p.m. ET (TNT)April 18Game 3 at Brooklyn8 p.m. ET (TNT)April 20Game 4 at Brooklyn3 p.m. ET (TNT)*April 23Game 5 at PhiladelphiaTBD*April 25Game 6 at BrooklynTBD*April 27Game 7 at PhiladelphiaTBD (TNT)(*if necessary)(4) Celtics vs. (5) PacersDateMatchupTime (TV channel)April 14Game 1 at Boston1 p.m. ET (TNT)April 17Game 2 at Boston7 p.m. ET (TNT)April 19Game 3 at Indiana8:30 p.m. ET (ABC)April 21Game 4 at Indiana1 p.m. ET (ABC)*April 24Game 5 at BostonTBD*April 26Game 6 at IndianaTBD*April 28Game 7 at BostonTBD(*if necessary)Western Conference(1) Warriors vs. (8) ClippersDateMatchupTime (TV channel)April 13Game 1 at Golden State8 p.m. ET (ABC)April 15Game 2 at Golden State10:30 p.m. ET (TNT)April 18Game 3 at Los Angeles10:30 p.m. ET (TNT)April 21Game 4 at Los Angeles3:30 p.m. ET (ABC)*April 24Game 5 at Golden StateTBD*April 26Game 6 at Los AngelesTBD*April 28Game 7 at Golden StateTBD(*if necessary)(2) Nuggets vs. (7) SpursDateMatchupTime (TV channel)April 13Game 1 at Denver 10:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)April 16Game 2 at Denver9 p.m. ET (NBA TV)April 18Game 3 at San Antonio9 p.m. ET (NBA TV)April 20Game 4 at San Antonio5:30 p.m. ET (TNT)*April 23Game 5 at DenverTBD*April 25Game 6 at San AntonioTBD*April 27Game 7 at DenverTBD (TNT)(*if necessary)(3) Trail Blazers vs. (6) ThunderDateMatchupTime (TV channel)April 14Game 1 at Portland3:30 p.m. ET (ABC)April 16Game 2 at Portland10:30 p.m. ET (TNT)April 19Game 3 at Oklahoma City9:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)April 21Game 4 at Oklahoma City9:30 p.m. ET (TNT)*April 23Game 5 at PortlandTBD*April 25Game 6 at Oklahoma CityTBD*April 27Game 7 at PortlandTBD (TNT)(*if necessary) The 2019 NBA playoffs are here. While tankers are hoping to land Duke star Zion Williamson with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, playoff contenders are ready to fight for the Larry O’Brien trophy.On the final day of the 2018-19 NBA regular season, the Nuggets secured the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference behind the Warriors with an improbable win over the Timberwolves. The Trail Blazers bumped the Rockets down to No. 4 with their own stunning comeback against the Kings. The bottom half of the West field in order: Jazz, Thunder, Spurs and Clippers. (4) Rockets vs. (5) JazzDateMatchupTime (TV channel)April 14Game 1 at Houston9:30 p.m. ET (TNT)April 17Game 2 at Houston9:30 p.m. ET (TNT)April 20Game 3 at Utah10:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)April 22Game 4 at Utah10:30 p.m. ET (TNT)*April 24Game 5 at HoustonTBD*April 26Game 6 at UtahTBD*April 28Game 7 at HoustonTBD(*if necessary)Updated odds to win the 2019 NBA championshipTeamOddsWarriors1/2Bucks6/1Rockets6/1Raptors12/1Celtics20/176ers20/1Thunder40/1Nuggets50/1Jazz50/1Spurs80/1Trail Blazers200/1Clippers300/1Pacers300/1Magic300/1Nets500/1Pistons500/1(Championship odds via sportsline.com)