Five Keys For Wisconsin Against North Carolina Tonight

Posted by Brendan Brody on March 26th, 2015


Lost in the anticipation of a Wisconsin vs. Arizona rematch in the Elite Eight is the fact that the Badgers still have to get there by beating a North Carolina unit that has played its best ball of the season since the calendar turned to March. While the Badgers are favored to win the game, it won’t be an walk in the park for a number of reasons. Here’s are five ways that Bo Ryan’s squad can keep things rolling against the Tar Heels in Los Angeles.

Bronson Koenig needs to help Wisconsin control the tempo if they want to beat North Carolina.  (AP)

Bronson Koenig needs to help Wisconsin control the tempo if they want to beat North Carolina. (AP)

  1. Control the Tempo: North Carolina likes to push the ball upcourt and get easy baskets in transition. They don’t necessarily do so by forcing a bunch of turnovers; rather, the Heels like to grab the ball off of either a make or a miss and run their patented secondary break. Wisconsin doesn’t get sped up too often but the Badgers still need to ensure that this remains a half-court game rather than a track meet. The days are gone when Wisconsin cannot keep up with the Tar Heels athletically, but it still doesn’t make sense to try to run with them. Half-court execution and good shot selection will win the day; the leadership and facilitation of Bronson Koenig and Traevon Jackson (assuming he plays) will be the keys here.
  2. Win the Battle of the Boards: Wisconsin ranks fourth in the nation in defensive rebounding while North Carolina comes in fifth on the offensive glass. Roy Williams may be without its leader in this department with Kennedy Meeks and his 12.9 percent offensive rebounding rate potentially sidelined with a knee injury, but backup Isaiah Hicks (11.3%) is no slouch here either. Without anyone who can shoot consistently from deep, the Tar Heels’ best offense on many possessions is just to hit the boards. If the Badgers control the glass tonight, they can force a bunch of one-possession trips from the Heels and effectively shut down their offense.
  3. Stop Marcus Paige: This chore will more than likely fall to Josh Gasser, as the senior is usually Wisconsin’s go-to defender on the perimeter. Paige won’t force things, so Gasser shouldn’t allow himself to be lulled to sleep if North Carolina’s leading scorer isn’t aggressive early. Rather, the junior star strikes when his team needs it most, often in the second half. He’s shooting 39.1 percent from three on the season, but he can make four or five bombs in a row if he gets a rhythm going. Wisconsin would be wise to limit his ability to score in transition and to ensure that he receives extra attention if he makes one or two.
  4. Be the Smarter Team: Although the Tar Heels are blessed with a great deal of talent, there’s a reason why this team lost 11 games. They can be very inconsistent, careless with the ball and susceptible to taking bad shots. Wisconsin’s best bet would be to play the same way it has played all season. They can’t afford to fould or turn the ball over. If they take care of those aspects of the game and build an early working margin, they should be in the driver’s seat the rest of the way. If they let Roy Williams’ squad hang around into the middle of the second half, however, things could get very interesting down the stretch.
  5. Get Something From the Bench: Duje Dukan and Zak Showalter have produced some good moments in both the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA Tournament the last two weeks. Dukan scored only 14 points in all of February, but he has managed 6.2 PPG and 2.6 RPG on 38.9 percent shooting from three over the last five games. North Carolina can comfortably play eight to 10 players even without Meeks available. Dukan, Showalter, and Vitto Brown therefore have to make an immediate impact when they enter the game, even if it’s only for a minute or two. The residual effect of having the starters play such heavy minutes against a team that likes to run might be felt more acutely in the next round, but Ryan won’t hesitate to burn through them tonight and let the chips fall where they may on Saturday. Too often in conference play this season, the bench didn’t contribute anything. That cannot happen tonight.
Brendan Brody (307 Posts)

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

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