Wisconsin Faces Another Test Against St. Louis

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 26th, 2013

With two quality victories in the bank already against St. John’s and Florida, Wisconsin will look to put another significant win on their resume Tuesday night in Cancun against a 5-0 St. Louis team. While the Billikens are not ranked in the Top 25 yet, they are the defending Atlantic 10 Tournament champions and a team with good experience at a number of key positions. This game could have been projected as a rock fight of the 45-43 variety in years past, but what makes this one particularly interesting is that Wisconsin is averaging 80.2 PPG despite not really playing terribly fast (67.3 possessions per game, 258th nationally). The Badgers are making things happen by simply shooting the lights out in the early going, notching a 45.2 percent output from three, and a 57.9% eFG. St. Louis is stingy in giving up the three-ball, however, and this highlights what will be one of the more intriguing Feast Week match-ups in the B1G.

Frank Kaminsky looks to stay hot against a quality St. Louis team.  (Getty)

Frank Kaminsky looks to stay hot against a quality St. Louis team. (Getty)

Wisconsin has been lights-out shooting the ball this season, but St. Louis has just as impressive numbers defensively. The Billikens are holding opponents to a minuscule 20.3 percent from behind the arc, and they also check in with a 41.8% defensive eFG. Both statistics rank in the top 20 nationally. For the most part, they play a hard-nosed man-to-man with athletic guards that will challenge the shooters and not give allow many open looks. Mike McCall Jr. and Jordair Jett fly around the perimeter making things difficult, and then collectively, the Billikens don’t give out too many second chances after a miss. SLU ranks 44th in the country (26.7%) in letting teams retrieve their misses. To summarize, St. Louis is good at forcing teams into tough threes, then grabbing the defensive rebounds off those misses that often lead to great looks from kickouts. Wisconsin only gets 28.6 percent of their offensive rebounds as it is, so chances are they won’t get many second chance opportunities Tuesday night.

Wisconsin has an advantage over most of the other teams in terms of outside shooting because they do a tremendous job of working the ball around and getting really good looks from three. No disrespect to the SIU-Edwardsvilles of the world, but the five teams St. Louis has played aren’t going to be as patient as the Badgers will be. If they stay within their offense, they’ll still get the shots they’re accustomed to. Frank Kaminsky has been on a tear lately, so it will be important for Wisconsin to not settle for only outside shots, looking to get Kaminsky and Sam Dekker some touches in the paint. Based on how St. Louis matches up, this could be a potential breakout game for Nigel Hayes. Hayes has the size (6’7″, 250 lbs.) to counteract SLU post players Dwayne Evans (6’6″, 230 lbs) and Grandy Glaze (6’6″, 235 lbs). If this becomes a physical shoving match in the paint, Hayes might be more effective playing heavier minutes than going with the normal three guard attack that Wisconsin usually employs.

All told this game might worry Bo Ryan a little bit. After playing two quality teams in the first week, Wisconsin has had momentary slips against some of the lesser squads. St. Louis is going to be a mirror image of some of the physical defenses they will no doubt see once B1G conference play starts, so how they do here could foretell what is going to happen with the Badgers in the coming months.

Brendan Brody (307 Posts)

Brendan Brody is in his fourth season covering the Big Ten for RTC. Email him at brendan.brody@gmail.com, or follow him on twitter @berndon4.

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