Unbeaten Watch: Will Wisconsin’s Winning Streak End in Bloomington?

Posted by Jonathan Batuello & Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on January 14th, 2014

The unbeaten watch continues on Tuesday night as the Badgers visit Bloomington to handle Yogi Ferrell and company. No game is a gimme in the Big Ten and Bo Ryan’s teams have traditionally given fits to Tom Crean’s offense. Jonathan Batuello and Deepak Jayanti from the Big Ten microsite address two key questions about this week’s Tuesday night special.

Can Tom Crean's Hoosiers end the Badgers' winning streak? (AP).

Can Tom Crean’s Hoosiers end the Badgers’ winning streak? (AP).

When the Badgers visited Bloomington last year, they held a potent Hoosiers’ offense to just 59 points and dominated the game defensively. Can Indiana figure out a way to score against the Ben Brust/Josh Gasser/Traevon Jackson backcourt? If not, where will they find offense?

JB:  We’ve all heard about Tom Crean’s struggles against Wisconsin, but  it isn’t just his Indiana teams that Wisconsin has held down. The Badgers are going for their 13th straight win against the Hoosiers (the most for any program consecutively against them ever) and have held them to 60 or fewer points in eight of those 12 losses. It seems Bo Ryan’s defense causes fits for this squad and the trio of guards will certainly cause issues again (even with Yogi Ferrell having a great year). Wisconsin has held opponents to an effective field goal rate of 44.3 percent and Indiana isn’t superb shooting the ball anyway (50.5%). So, quite frankly, Indiana won’t be scoring a lot. To get some baskets against the Badgers’ defense, it will need to corral some offensive rebounds (it ranks in the top 10 with 12.8 offensive boards per game) and use its athleticism in transition. If it doesn’t do those two things, the Hoosiers will struggle to break 60 points once again this year.

DJ: The Hoosiers offense picks up 32.1 percent of its points through the three-pointer and that doesn’t bode well against Wisconsin’s defensively-minded backcourt. Between Jackson, Brust and Gasser, these are three guards who can defend Ferrell’s pull-up shots from beyond the perimeter. And if Ferrell’s offense is stymied, Crean will need Noah Vonleh or Jeremy Hollowell to figure out a way to score in the mid-range, no easy task. Vonleh will pick up points in the paint from offensive rebounds because Frank Kamisky or Sam Dekker are vulnerable against skilled size, but outside of the occasional tip-in, he is unlikely to be able to score in the post consistently. Expect Vonleh to turn the ball over if he tries to take Kaminsky off the dribble, because Jackson or Brust will come to help on the weak side immediately. Without any consistent scoring from these players, the Hoosiers are likely to break down on the defensive end and the game could get out of hand in favor of Wisconsin very quickly.

Iowa showed that the Wisconsin’s frontcourt is vulnerable in the paint. Can the Badgers handle Noah Vonleh in the paint?

JB: Noah Vonleh is the one place where Indiana has a clear advantage. The freshman has been a monster on the glass (9.3 RPG), and if he can continue to do that in this game, the Hoosiers will have a chance. Frank Kaminsky will really be pressed to have a good game because his abilities that come from stretching the floor and being nimble match with Vonleh’s strengths. Don’t be surprised to see Wisconsin rotating multiple players onto Vonleh and crashing the glass to force him to score on shots other than offensive putbacks. It also helps the Badgers that, after Vonleh in the frontcourt, Indiana’s strengths inside basically end. Jeremy Hollowell has been relegated to the bench with a DNP against Penn State, and Troy Williams and Hanner Mosquera-Perea aren’t good enough yet to work around even a mediocre defensive Wisconsin front line.

DJ: At the outset, there is no way Kaminsky can contain Vonleh one-on-one in the paint, but the Badgers’ backcourt will help close the gap on the defensive glass. The guard trio averages 13.0 RPG, which will help Kaminsky on the defensive glass because one guard can help Kaminsky double-team Vonleh in the paint. Ferrell and Hollowell do not tend to crash the offensive glass, so it is reasonable to expect their defenders to look to box out Vonleh in the paint when three-pointers are hoisted. Holding Vonleh to 12 boards on Tuesday night should be considered a success for the Badgers as long as the other Hoosiers don’t grab more than six rebounds as individuals. Last year, Ryan’s defense let Cody Zeller get his points in the paint and focused on limiting the Hoosiers’ guards, and it worked. Similarly, the Badgers could give Vonleh his time on the boards and force the young freshman to win the game in the paint while shattering the confidence of the Hoosiers’ perimeter offense.

Deepak Jayanti (270 Posts)

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