Three Lessons Wisconsin Should Leverage from the Michigan vs. Kentucky Game

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on April 5th, 2014

Wisconsin can’t score when needed in the postseason. Wisconsin can’t handle athletic teams in the postseason. Wisconsin tries to slow the game down too much, which doesn’t work in the postseason. In addition to not having great luck, the aforementioned reasons had conspired to keep Bo Ryan from a Final Four. But after the Badgers’ wins over powerhouses such as Arizona, Baylor and Oregon in the first two weekends of the NCAA Tournament, the Badgers have proved that they belong in the Final Four and can beat anybody. Having said that, a peaking Kentucky team took down the AAC and Big Ten champions on its way to North Texas, so they will pose issues for the Badgers. If it hopes to play on Monday night, Wisconsin could stand to leverage a few lessons from last Sunday’s Elite Eight thriller between Kentucky and Michigan.

The following are three areas where Wisconsin should have paid close attention to Kentucky’s win over Michigan.

Frank Kaminsky needs to take Julius Randle off the dribble.

Frank Kaminsky needs to take Julius Randle off the dribble. (AP)

  1. Force Julius Randle and Dakari Johnson to move laterally on defense. While these forwards can dominate the paint on the offensive end, they should be challenged on the defensive end. If both are on the court at the same time, one of them will have to defend Frank Kaminsky or Sam Dekker. During certain possessions when Michigan’s Glenn Robinson was aggressive with the ball, he comfortably drove into the lane, which forced Randle and Johnson to pick up a foul because the freshmen are not used to defending wings who can put the ball on the floor. Kaminsky has been masterful with his ball-handling over the past month and his main goal ought to be to put Randle into uncomfortable positions defensively. Pump-fakes off the pick-and-roll and driving the lane going to his right should be a play that will be easy for the Badgers to execute, but the key will be to stick to it consistently throughout the game. Robinson settled for the jumper too much and gave the Kentucky forwards a pass here, but this is an area of the half-court offense that Wisconsin can and should definitely try to exploit.
  2. Cover the defensive glass on the weak side. There is nothing more demoralizing about a defensive possession when you hold the opponent to a bad shot after 30 seconds, but the defender doesn’t box out his man on the weak side which leads to an easy putback via a thunderous dunk. Kentucky was all over the offensive glass against Michigan because Robinson and LeVert couldn’t box out the wings. While the Badgers aren’t a great rebounding team, they are known to be a bit more disciplined and they should be prepared for this aspect of Kentucky’s game. The Josh Gasser/Ben Brust combination will do its best to lock down the perimeter, but they need to hit the defensive glass on every possession and try to limit Kentucky to less than eight offensive rebounds. Brust is an excellent rebounder for a guard (4.5 RPG) but he will have a tough time keeping the Harrison twins from the glass. Team rebounding is absolutely key for the Badgers today.
  3. Don’t let James Young beat you from the perimeter. Randle overpowering Kaminsky or Dekker in the paint is expected to a certain extent because he is an NBA talent. If Andrew Harrison hits another three-pointer with a hand in his face, then you tip your cap to him and congratulate him for being so clutch. Putting aside a hot shooter during the second half, the Badgers needs to prevent Kentucky’s primary long-range scoring option, James Young, from beating them. As a team, the Wildcats only shoot 32 percent from beyond the arc, but Young is their main gunner and he never looks to put the ball on the floor. Because the scouting report on him is very clear, Gasser and Brust need to lock him down throughout the game. Getting beat by the Kentucky guards off the dribble is understandable because they rely on isolation plays, but the Badgers can’t afford to lose both inside and outside the arc. The Wolverines lost the game because they gave up too many looks from beyond the arc. Make Kentucky one-dimensional on offense and limit their opportunities in the paint to one shot – if Ryan’s squad can do this even for 30 minutes, anything can happen over the last few minutes of a Final Four game.
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