Three Statistics That Favor Wisconsin Over Notre Dame

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 25th, 2016

January 12, 2016, was a low point for Wisconsin basketball. Not only did the Badgers lose to a sub-par Northwestern squad on the road, but they also appeared to have dug themselves into a dangerous and perhaps irrevocable hole with a 1-4 record in the Big Ten. Nobody then would have expected that team to have a legitimate chance of making the Elite Eight two months later. Ken Pomeroy’s model predicts a one-point win for the #7 seed in its regional semifinal versus #6 Notre Dame tonight. The oddsmakers in Vegas, however, originally pegged Notre Dame as a one-point favorite, although that appears to have moved toward Wisconsin as well since then. Here are three statistics that indicate that KenPom is accurate in considering Wisconsin tonight’s favorite.

Bronson Koenig should have plenty of good looks from beyond the arc against a porous Irish defense. (AP)

Bronson Koenig should have plenty of good looks from beyond the arc against a porous Irish defense. (AP)

  • Opponents shot 38.7 percent from three against the Irish during ACC conference play. Notre Dame ranked 12th of 15 ACC teams in this defensive category this season, so poor perimeter defense will be an issue against a hot Bronson Koenig, who went 6-of-12 from behind the arc against Xavier last weekend. As a team, the Badgers shot 38 percent from three-point range during conference play, and Koenig’s long-range efforts have been complemented effectively by Vitto Brown‘s 40 percent shooting. Demetrius Jackson and Steve Vasturia will have their hands full in keeping up with Wisconsin’s hot-shooting backcourt.

  • Notre Dame gave up 1.11 points per possession during ACC competition. Poor defense stretches beyond the perimeter for the Irish. Mike Brey prefers to play some zone, a look that could confuse the Badgers because only a couple of Big Ten teams – Northwestern and Michigan – consistently do so. However, Ethan Happ’s high basketball IQ and excellent footwork in the paint will help Wisconsin break it. The freshman has averaged 14 points per game over the past four contests and has been the unbreakable foundation to the Wisconsin offense, helping the Badgers overcome Nigel Hayes’ recent slump. Hayes has averaged just nine points per game since the end of the Big Ten regular season.
  • Nigel Hayes is shooting a mere 16 percent over the last three games. He also hasn’t made a single three-point shot in his last 17 attempts. If Hayes’ terrible shooting continues for another night, the Badgers’ run will likely end tonight in Philadelphia. However, it is unlikely that an experienced forward returning from consecutive Final Four appearances will finish this NCAA Tournament with a complete dud. Hayes will need to revert back to his typical form (15.9 PPG for the season), but if he does, the Irish don’t have the big men to cover both he and Happ inside. Zach Auguste will likely be matched up against the latter, leaving VJ Beachem to guard Hayes. Beachem is a wing who prefers to stay on the perimeter, so expect Hayes to work inside to take advantage of his size mismatch there. Hayes can use what Stephen F. Austin did to the Irish as a blueprint, because Thomas Walkup toyed with Beachem and Auguste on the blocks, getting to the free throw line seven times and scoring 21 points. Hayes has a similar physique to Walkup and should be able to dominate the game with his back to the basket.
Deepak Jayanti (270 Posts)

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