Good Wins: @ Virginia Tech, @ Michigan, Illinois, Ohio State
Bad Losses: @ Iowa.
1. Ball Control: Watching Wisconsin’s methodical offense can be like watching the overweight contestants sweat on “The Biggest Loser”–it’s not pretty. But, just like the pound-dropping humans, the wear-you-down-until-you’re-too-bored-to-play-defense offense works. Wisconsin turns the ball over just 16.6 percent of the time, 10th best in the country. The Badgers also force turnovers, which allows Wisconsin to eat away at the clock on the offensive end. Wisconsin is at its best when it scores late in the shot clock.
2. Defensive Rebounding: It seems like a simple request: When the opponent misses a shot, box out and grab the rebound. Wisconsin does this seventh best in the country, allowing offensive rebounds just a quarter of the time. Already armed with a solid defense, making sure opponents don’t get extra chances to score is key. Moreover, this allows the Badgers to play basketball like they do football: eat up the clock by pounding the rock, errr… (wrong sport)… getting the perfect shot no matter how low the shot clock might be.
1. Size: Jon Leuer is the only player on the team taller than 6-foot-8. Leuer, a 6-10 sophomore, is the post player for the Badgers. To make up for the weakness, Wisconsin’s motion offense, which is like a revolving door, gets mismatches in the post, many times using its guards to score on opposing guards while opposing big men are forced to guard Wisconsin’s big men on the perimeter. However, at some point, the lack of size will hurt on defense when opponents pound the rock into the paint.
2. Depth: The Badgers do play nine, but at least two of those players don’t get many minutes. That means the Badgers are really a seven-man team, which can catch up to a squad come March. Couple that with the fact juniors Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon and seniors Joe Krabbenhoft and Marcus Landry have been in a similar situation for three and four years, respectively, and the team’s legs are tired.
Scheduling: While the record isn’t gaudy this season (Wisconsin won almost as many Big Ten games last season – 16 – as it has won all of this season thus far), the schedule provided the Badgers with many challenging games. Connecticut, Marquette, Texas, Virginia Tech and San Diego are the top teams Wisconsin played out of conference. Add to that list two games against Purdue and Illinois and one against Michigan State, and Wisconsin is as battle-tested as any team not playing in the Big East.
Second Round. It’s all about matchups, right? A team that can get Wisconsin out of its systematic, methodical rhythm will win. (Think Arizona’s win against Wisconsin in a 2006 8 vs. 9 game; in the 68-possession game, which was a high number for the Badgers that season, Arizona controlled the pace and won easily, 94-75). If Wisconsin can keep the game in the 60s, the Badgers will be able to beat one opponent. Asking to survive the first weekend is a big wish however. Wisconsin, after all, has lost eight games this season when leading in the final six minutes.