Final Four Fact Sheet: Wisconsin Badgers

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on April 2nd, 2015


Midway through a week before the most highly-anticipated Final Four in years, let’s do a reset on each of the four teams still standing. Today’s victims: Michigan State (published this morning) and Wisconsin.

How Wisconsin Got Here

West Region Champions. The West Region’s top unit began its NCAA Tournament run by downing #16 seed Coastal Carolina, then fighting off pesky #8 seed Oregon in the round of 32. Wisconsin headed out to Los Angeles the following weekend, where it overcame a seven-point deficit to beat #4 seed North Carolina before pouring in 1.33 points per possession against #2 seed Arizona to reach its second straight Final Four.

Wisconsin is the most efficient offensive team in a long time. (Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

Wisconsin is the most efficient offensive team in a long time. (Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

The Coach

Bo Ryan. Wisconsin has made the NCAA Tournament in each of Ryan’s 14 seasons in Madison and never once finished worse than fourth place in the Big Ten standings. He’s been an enormously successful head coach from the get-go, and yet until recently the prevailing narrative was that his ‘system’ – tailoring recruiting to fit his swing offense instead of the other way around – precluded any deep March runs. So much for that. The 67-year-old has now led the Badgers to back-to-back Final Fours, developed unheralded recruit Frank Kaminsky into a legitimate NBA prospect, enabled blue-chipper Sam Dekker to fully realize his talent, and put the Badgers in position to compete for its first National Championship since 1941.


Ryan’s swing offense is predicated on floor spacing, good perimeter ball movement, off-ball screening and cutting. It’s incredibly slow – the second-slowest in college basketball (21.7 seconds per possession) – and also incredibly effective. Wisconsin leads the country in adjusted offensive efficiency. The Badgers take 37.5 percent of their shots from behind the arc, the highest rate among Final Four teams, while earning trips to the free throw line at the second-lowest rate ahead of only Michigan State. On the other end, Wisconsin focuses on playing tough, half-court man-to-man defense without fouling.


  • Offense. This may seem too broad to be a singular ‘strength’, but anything less than that would be selling it short. Not only is Wisconsin the best offensive unit in college hoops this season, but its 127.5 adjusted offensive efficiency mark is the highest, by far, since the beginning of the KenPom era. Prior to Saturday’s Elite Eight contest, Arizona – one of the stingiest defensive teams in America – had allowed more than a point per possession only a handful of times this season, never once enabling an opponent to score more than 1.14 PPP. No matter: The Badgers shredded the Wildcats’ defense to the tune of 85 points on 1.33 PPP. Astonishing.
  • Turnovers. A major reason Wisconsin is so effective offensively is because it rarely turns the ball over. At just 12.3 miscues per 100 possessions, the Badgers boast the lowest offensive turnover rate in the country even with sophomore Bronson Koenig (2.4 APG, 0.9 TOPG) taking over at point guard for injured senior Traevon Jackson midway through the season. That should help against a Kentucky team that is adept at forcing mistakes (21.4% TO).
  • Defensive Rebounding. Wisconsin is the fourth-best defensive rebounding squad in college basketball (76.1% DReb), led by Kaminsky (8.0 RPG) and sophomore forward Nigel Hayes (6.3 RPG). This is a strong-suit that could become especially crucial in the Final Four, considering that Kentucky, Duke and Michigan State are all very good at crashing the offensive glass.
Forward Sam Dekker was exceptional against Arizona in the Elite Eight. (Harry How/Getty Images)

Sam Dekker was exceptional against Arizona in the Elite Eight. (Harry How/Getty Images)


  • Interior defensive strength and athleticism. Arizona shot nearly 60 percent from inside the arc on Saturday night, including numerous buckets by Kaleb Tarczewski, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Brandon Ashley that at times looked downright dominant. Although Wisconsin ranks fourth in the country in effective height, Kaminsky, Hayes, Duje Dukan and the rest do not possess great strength or (perhaps excluding Hayes) lateral quickness. That could spell trouble against the likes of Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein this weekend.
  • Penetrating ball-handler. The Badgers’ offense has been virtually flawless to this point so it’s hard to nail down a weakness. But if an exceptionally large and athletic team like Kentucky is able to limit Kaminsky and extend on Wisconsin’s perimeter shooters – even when outside shots open up – that could put Ryan’s group in a pickle. Whereas most other Final Four-caliber units have at least one or two ball-handlers capable of creating offense via dribble penetration, the Big Ten champs don’t really have that option with Jackson still on the mend.

Go-To Scorer

Frank Kaminsky (18.7 PPG, 8 RPG). In all likelihood, Kaminsky will win most of the National Player of the Year awards. He is a highly-skilled seven-footer with the ability to step out and knock down perimeter jumpers (41.5% 3FG), enabling him to average nearly 23.0 PPG thus far in the NCAA Tournament. The fact that he’s so fundamentally sound and can stretch defenses makes him the perfect centerpiece for Ryan’s swing offense.


Sam Dekker (13.9 PPG, 5.5 RPG). The 6’9” junior was near-legendary last weekend in Los Angeles, averaging 25.0 points and 7.5 rebounds per game and seemingly knocking down every shot he attempted – regardless of difficulty. Dekker might be Wisconsin’s most physically gifted player, capable of posting up, driving the baseline and knocking down mid- and long-range jumpers. Likewise, he can defend multiple positions and might wind up being the Badgers’ most important player on that end of the floor against Kentucky. His overall versatility will be crucial in Indianapolis.


Notre Dame’s high-efficiency, low-turnover offense gave Kentucky all kinds of problems last Saturday, so counting out Wisconsin – an even better offensive unit which turns the ball over at an even lower rate – would be a mistake. The Badgers are good enough to compete with and beat the Wildcats if their shots fall and they can contain Towns, Cauley-Stein and the others on their end. This is Ryan’s best team since he took over the program in 2001 and a National Championship this year is certainly not out of the question.

Tommy Lemoine (250 Posts)

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One response to “Final Four Fact Sheet: Wisconsin Badgers”

  1. Karl says:

    I conquer with Mr. Lemoine.

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