Wisconsin’s Offensive Flaws Becoming Evident in Early Season

Posted by Patrick Engel on November 22nd, 2015

Wisconsin’s loss of star veterans Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker and Josh Gasser has been well-documented. The trio accounted for 54 percent of the Badgers’ scoring last season and were essential cogs in the program’s consecutive Final Four trips. Wisconsin opened the season at No. 17 in the Associated Press preseason poll, and the primary reason for that ranking was faith in the coaching abilities of Bo Ryan – over a long and successful career, betting against the venerable head coach has proven to be a mistake. But only four games into this season, Wisconsin is just 2-2 after a loss to Georgetown on Friday night and appears to be no better than a middle-of-the-pack Big Ten team. Here’s a closer look at a few of their issues.

Nigel Hayes is playing well, but Wisconsin's offense has seen some early-season struggles (Getty).

Nigel Hayes is playing well, but Wisconsin’s offense has seen some early-season struggles (Getty).

  1. Fewer impact shooters. Last season, four of the five Wisconsin players who attempted at least 100 threes on the year shot at least 38 percent from deep. This season, Wisconsin’s top four players in three-point attempts are shooting a collective 35 percent from behind the arc, and only five players on the roster have made a three-pointer. Yes, this represents a small sample size, but it’s fair to already state that these Badgers cannot shoot the ball as well as last year’s edition. Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes are likely to shoot well from deep, but Hayes isn’t a high-volume shooter — he takes 3.3 three-pointers per game, up from 2.5 a season ago. Elsewhere, center Vitto Brown isn’t nearly the mid-range or three-point shooter that Kaminsky was. In Friday’s loss to Georgetown, Brown missed both of his wide-open jumpers — one from the elbow after Hayes drove and kicked the ball back to him; another after setting a ball screen and receiving the pass. Hayes is having a fine season so far – 16.0 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 4.0 APG – and Wisconsin is limiting its turnovers and fouls. But through the first week of the season, it doesn’t appear that Ryan has the personnel required to effectively run the offense that won a Big Ten title last season.
  2. A short bench and lack of scoring depth. Wisconsin got a total of two points in 35 minutes from its bench against Georgetown, and the four bench players who logged minutes had never played in a college game prior to this season. Furthermore, Wisconsin has not found a viable third scorer behind Koenig (16.5 PPG) and Hayes. Redshirt freshman Ethan Happ (10.3 PPG) appears to be the best candidate, but he’s not going to make many jump shots. Somebody needs to start scoring, though, in order to prevent opposing defenses from focusing too much on Koenig and Hayes.
  3. Get Hayes in the best mindset. Hayes is already playing at a high level but the Badgers’ offense is at its best when the junior big man plays aggressively. He’s playing a lot more at the three this season, and when freshman Khalil Iverson – who averages a team-high 23 minutes off the bench – enters the game, Hayes shifts over to the four. The lineup featuring Iverson and Hayes on the floor produced some of Wisconsin’s most effective plays against Georgetown. Iverson’s two points came off an offensive rebound; that play came a minute after Hayes put Wisconsin on the board with a his own putback dunk off a missed layup. Hayes also got to the line eight times, and it appears that he may have an easier time finding an aggressive mindset when he’s stationed in the power forward slot.
Patrick Engel (33 Posts)

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