The “Save Your Season” Bowl: Key Questions for Ohio State-Wisconsin

Posted by Brendan Brody & Alex Moscoso on February 1st, 2014

The nosedive that Ohio State and Wisconsin have undergone in the last two weeks has been one of the biggest surprises in all of college basketball. Both teams have gone from the top five nationally to a combined 7-9 conference record. That’s part of what makes Saturday’s contest in Madison such a must-win for both squads. Forget the fact that this would have been a marquee NCAA seeding win two weeks ago. Now, both teams just need a win, period. Big Ten microsite columnists Brendan Brody and Alex Moscoso have decided to break down what these desperate teams need to do in order to start the process of getting things back on track Saturday.

Amir Williams needs to take advantage of Wisconsin's shaky post defense on Saturday. (Kirk Irwin, Getty).

Amir Williams needs to take advantage of Wisconsin’s shaky post defense on Saturday. (Kirk Irwin, Getty).

BB: Amir Williams has shot over 60 percent from the field for the majority of the season. Does Ohio State need to make a more concerted effort to get him the ball in the post and use his muscle against Frank Kaminsky?

AM: Absolutely. Wisconsin only has a block rate of 8.7 percent (268th in the nation) and they give up more shots at the rim than any other area of the court. The Badgers’ defense is more effective at denying looks on the perimeter where only 24.8 percent of their opponents’ shots are taken. Given this fact, going inside is the obvious and preferred choice for the Buckeyes. Williams is shooting 73.2 percent under the rim but is only sixth on the team in field goal attempts. He also has the highest eFG percentage on the team (61.9%) while Shannon Scott, Aaron Craft, and Sam Thompson — three players who all take more shots per game than the big man — have an eFG percentage below 50 percent. Thad Matta would be wise to figure out a way to get Williams involved even if it means diverting shots from players who are used to getting the ball. Lastly, getting Kaminsky to play more defense on the low block may rough him up a little and tire him out, which will take away from his offensive abilities.

AM: The reason Williams could have a field day down low is because of how bad Wisconsin has been defensively in its last four losses. The Badgers have allowed teams to shoot above 50 percent in all of them. How do they keep Ohio State out of the paint?

BB: They really just have to do a better job stopping penetration. Starting with the Indiana loss, when Yogi Ferrell could literally go wherever he wanted, the Badgers have been awful in their man-to-man sets. Luckily Traveon Jackson has a decent match-up in this game against either Shannon Scott and Aaron Craft, as neither of these point guards really do a great job breaking people down off the bounce. Ohio State doesn’t really look to run in the open court too much, so it can hope that the Buckeyes try and beat them from the perimeter, playing right into their hands. Kaminsky also has to avoid early foul trouble, and if he does, he can bother Williams with his length and ability to block shots.

BB: Switching to the other end of the court, Wisconsin is third nationally in offensive turnover percentage (12.9%). How does Ohio State defend them when they won’t get the steals that they’re accustomed to getting?

AM: While the Badgers are one of the nation’s best in securing the basketball, the Buckeyes are equally as prestigious at taking the ball away as evidenced by a turnover percentage of 22.7 percent (also third in the nation). And while they haven’t been playing quite to form in recent games, the Buckeyes’ defense is still elite with an adjusted defensive efficiency of 0.88 points per possession (fourth in the nation). Some of that is due to the turnovers they create, but a lot of it is due to the fact that they are holding their opponents to 26.9 percent shooting from the three point line (third in the nation). Three-point shooting is a large part of Wisconsin’s offense; almost 40 percent of the Badgers shots are from that distance, and they are hitting 37.3 percent of th0se as a team. If Ohio State can stifle them from deep, and rattle them enough to get even a few additional turnovers, they may be able to replicate Wisconsin’s poor shooting performance from the Northwestern game.

AM: Ideally rattling the Badgers will start with Aaron Craft being a pest defensively. He should cause Traveon Jackson problems, but how does Jackson help get the Badgers back on track offensively?

BB: Jackson has been kind of streaky all season. He needs to just try to limit his turnovers and run the offense at a higher level. When Wisconsin is at its best, everyone is touching the ball and the passing and cutting is a thing of beauty. They’ve become stagnate as of late, and its his job as the point guard to get things going again. He’ll be harassed and will probably turn the ball over more against Craft and Scott, but if he keeps his head and keeps everybody moving, the shots will start to fall due to getting better looks.

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