Illinois’ Point Guard Conundrum Continues

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on December 17th, 2014

Remember when the Illini had three guards who could man the offense with no trouble from 2003-05? Luther Head, Deron Williams and Dee Brown could set up the offense without any confusion, move the ball around with confidence, and pull up for a three without any issues if the shot clock was winding down. Yep, that was about 10 years ago. Since the trio left Champaign, though, Illinois has struggled to find a consistent point guard comfortable with both distributing the ball and creating his own shot. Chester Frazier didn’t really have a consistent jumper. Demetri McCamey was versatile on the offense but he couldn’t consistently involve his teammates. Brandon Paul was a combo guard, and while Tracy Abrams commanded respect from his teammates, he just didn’t have enough quickness to utilize his offensive moves and still carry a consistent assist rate. With Abrams now gone, there was a glimmer of hope that incoming transfer Ahmad Starks could be the efficient point guard to finally lead an offense that could launch the program back into the Big Ten elite. But after the first month of the season, the situation appears as bad as the last few seasons in that regard.

Ahmad Starks hasn't been able to exceed Tracy Abrams' performance from last season so far this year.

Ahmad Starks hasn’t been able to exceed Tracy Abrams’ performance from last season so far this year.

Starks’ game has several positives: He is quick to get around screens and has a much better looking three-point shot than Abrams. While a 35 percent mark from three isn’t all that impressive, his average is more a result of poor shot selection than mechanics. He also hasn’t been able to connect with his teammates during the second half of important games. Let’s take the latest loss to Oregon as an example. Even though Illinois assisted on 17 of its successful field goals, the offense looked completely clueless when it mattered. If the ball went inside to the low post, it never came back out. There was no lateral movement. If Starks couldn’t break his defender down, he dumped it over to Malcolm Hill who did the same – scoring only six points. The same goes for Aaron Cosby and Kendrick Nunn. Illini shot a respectable 37 percent from beyond the arc but taking 19 shots from there is concerning. There is no point guard who can set up plays that require ball movement and could actually result in a decent-looking shot in the waning minutes. Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Denzel Valentine Contributing More than Intangibles for Michigan State

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on December 12th, 2014

After a month of watching non-conference games and nodding our heads at the sloppiness of the action, it is time to evaluate whether certain players will have a significant impact through the remainder of the season. We knew that Michigan State would need to find a leader on the offensive end, but after the departures of Adreian Payne, Gary Harris and Keith Appling, there were no clear candidates for that role. And while Branden Dawson is a monster on the glass, his jumpers are still cringe-worthy. Travis Trice, on the other hand, has a nice jumper but has trouble create space off the dribble to create his own shot. Denzel Valentine’s name, though, was mostly buried within all the preseason analysis because it was tough to view him as anything more than a glue guy. There was no doubt that he would play a key role for the Spartans this season, but his impact was supposed to be felt with the intangibles — things like hustle, grit and defense. But after averaging 14.6 PPG, 5.6 RPG and 4.0 APG through Michigan State’s first 10 games, Valentine has shown that he’s capable of more than being just a nice defender and occasional spot-up shooter. Rather, he is the best scoring option Tom Izzo has, and his burgeoning offensive game could turn the Spartans into a legitimate contender to win the conference.

It is more than clear that Michigan State's main scoring option is Denzel Valentine. (Eric Gay, AP)

It is more than clear that Michigan State’s main scoring option is Denzel Valentine. (Eric Gay, AP)

While it might be surprising that the junior has been more offensively assertive this season, there were signs over his first two years that he always had the ability to step up. Every Spartan fan will recall Appling’s more than occasional disappearing act during key games, and when he folded, Valentine was the off-guard who usually picked up the pieces by handling the ball during key possessions. Between the departed trio’s shot rates (19-29%), Valentine wasn’t likely to get many looks, but the floodgates have opened this year. The combo guard scored 25 points against both Marquette and Notre Dame, as his shot rate has increased from 17% to over 23% of available looks while he’s on the floor. No other Spartan seemed to want to take a shot during the second half against the Irish, and Valentine obliged by seemingly pulling the trigger on every possession. This is not to say that those were forced shots, either; they were good shots coming off screens, pulling up from from the elbow as he moved to the right.  Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

How Wisconsin Can Use Sam Dekker Better Offensively

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on December 4th, 2014

Even though Wisconsin forward Sam Dekker grew to 6’9″ during the summer and brought two full years of experience into his junior season, there remained concerns about his assertiveness during big games. He is extremely talented with a quick trigger and excellent form on his jumper, but Dekker seems to consistently struggle against superior competition and has a tendency to go through long stretches of the game when you wonder if he is even on the court. Last night’s loss to Duke was no different: In 24 minutes of action, Dekker shot only 2-of-5 from the field and scored five points. More concerning than his low scoring output was his sheer number of shot attempts — how could a player with so much talent take only five shots? While it is easy to blame him for laziness in hanging around the three-point line on the offensive end, it may be worth discussing if Wisconsin’s offense instead needs to better structured around him. A closer examination of last night’s game hints how his specific skill set within the offensive scheme is being ineffectively used.

Bo Ryan needs to find more ways to keep Sam Dekker engaged in the half-court offense (Jim Polzin, Wisconsin State Journal)

Bo Ryan needs to find more ways to keep Sam Dekker engaged in the half-court offense (Jim Polzin, Wisconsin State Journal)

The heralded Badgers offense that averaged upwards of 1.1 points per possession last season is packed with scoring talent. Frank Kaminsky is as good as advertised (17 points) and Bo Ryan makes a conscious effort to give the big guy the ball for many of the team’s possessions. Senior guard Traevon Jackson has consistently proven that he can control the offense in the half-court and is not afraid to take a big shot during crunch time (25 points). Ryan called isolation plays for Kaminsky in the low post during the second half, and when double-teamed, he kicked the ball out for Jackson to penetrate the lane. This two-man combination worked well for much of the game, but it stifled the offense over the last six minutes when Duke finished off the Badgers. It is easy to blame Dekker for not actively wanting the ball, but every time he had it, he had no choice but to dump it back into the low post or swing it from one side to the other. Expecting him to take the ball into a one-on-one situation at the top of the key is unfair and could also disturb the overall offensive rhythm. Keeping this in mind, Ryan should consider supplementing his offense by running specific plays for Dekker in the half-court.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

John Groce May Finally Have His Flexible Backcourt

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on November 25th, 2014

Four games up and four games down for the Illini. Yes, we know it is early but it is really tough not to wonder if this is the best backcourt John Groce has had during his time in Champaign. He was hired from Ohio after a surprising run to the Sweet 16 when the Bobcats’ offense, led by D.J.Cooper, burst through the first two rounds in March by running a high-powered offense with multiple ball-handlers and shooters. Groce’s first two seasons have been sub-part at Illinois but his track record shows that his offensive system can raise havoc, given the right type of talent. That talent includes ball-handling skills from at least three positions on the floor. After three straight games of scoring 100 games, albeit against weaker competition, the Illini offense looks very promising because of five combo guards who can be dangerous with the rock. The rotation includes Ahmad Starks, Aaron Cosby, Rayvonte Rice, Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn. Five of them have been playing at least 20 minutes game and they provide Groce with multiple options.

John Groce has five wings that should be fun to watch this season.

John Groce has five wings that should be fun to watch this season.

Both incoming transfers, Starks and Cosby, shot at least 40% from beyond the arc in their prior lives away from Champaign. Shooting skill doesn’t hurt but it is their ball-handling ability that’s more impressive. Tracy Abrams’ loss for the season could have hurt the Illini because he had a good understanding of the offense after two seasons but Starks and Cosby aren’t too far behind. Let’s not forget that they sat out a whole season after the transfer to Illini and practiced with the team, waiting and chomping at an opportunity to showcase their skills in front of the Orange Krush. Remember last season when Rice was terrific during the first 10 games because he was fully prepared after training with the team? Same goes for Starks and Cosby. Speaking of Rice, he doesn’t have to worry about carrying the offense this season because he is surrounded by shooters. Instead, he can play the wing position and take advantage of backdoor cuts and fast-break opportunities. He was a volume scorer last season which hurt his rhythm during key stretches of the conference season – that doesn’t need to happen this year because Groce can save him for crunch time.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

RTC Big Ten Preseason Rankings: #4 to #1

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on November 14th, 2014

RTC finishes our preseason Big Ten rankings today with spots #4 through #1. The bottom tier of teams, #14 to #10, released earlier this week, and the mid-tier teams, also released earlier this week, provide depth to the conference. But it’s these four squads in the top tier that will likely be fighting to win the conference title and lock down high seeds in the NCAA Tournament.

4. Ohio State

  • What they do well: A little bit of everything, is that too vague? There is nothing that sticks out as special about these Buckeyes, but they will play the solid all-around basketball of Thad Matta. Shannon Scott will push the tempo and control the offense while D’Angelo Russell could be the offensive spark that it needs this season. Overall, the Buckeyes will minimize mistakes and play good defense.
  • What they don’t do well: Score during crunch time. The Buckeyes had trouble finding key buckets during the last two minutes of games last season and unless Russell becomes a true go-to guy, they will have the same issues again.

    Mark could be a key contributor in the frontcourt for Ohio State this season. (thelantern.com)

    Mark Loving could be a key contributor in the frontcourt for Ohio State this season. (thelantern.com)

  • Get to know: Mark Loving. Russell will be the highlight during the non-conference season but Loving could be the super sophomore that helps this team get off to a good start and compete for the conference crown. He has the ability to rebound and stretch the floor from the four position.
  • Why they’ll finish 4th: They don’t have enough talent to leapfrog into the top three, but they should win 10 to 12 Big Ten games this year.
  • Why they’ll finish higher: If Russell, Scott and Loving can each average 12 PPG or more, the Buckeyes can push themselves into a real contending spot. Loving’s contributions will very important because Matta’s team has struggled to find consistent offense over the past two seasons. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Don’t Discount John Beilein’s Ability to Recharge the Michigan Offense

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on November 12th, 2014

Four years ago, John Beilein’s crew nearly took down Duke in the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 32 with Darius Morris and Tim Hardaway Jr. leading the way. The following year without Morris, Beilein inserted a precocious freshman named Trey Burke into the lineup and led the Wolverines to the top of the Big Ten. The following year he added three more freshmen into the starting lineup and improved to the point of a National Championship game appearance. Last year, when everybody thought the run was finally done and Beilein couldn’t keep up with lost personnel, the Wolverines were an implausible three-pointer away from a return trip to the Final Four. For the past four seasons, Michigan’s offense has ranked among the top 25 teams in the nation in offensive efficiency. Producing at least 1.1 points per possession over such a long period of time doesn’t occur by chance — it happens because of an open-minded approach to adjusting the offense to players’ strengths and controlled experimentation with the available personnel. While the Wolverines do not appear to be a Final Four favorite this season, discounting their chances to challenge Wisconsin for the league title is probably not a good idea.

The following are three reasons why Michigan should have an elite offense again this year:

Never underestimate John Beilein's ability to design an extremely potent offense.

Never underestimate John Beilein’s ability to design an extremely potent offense. (Getty)

  1. The Wolverines have plenty of long-range shooters. It shouldn’t be a news flash to Big Ten fans that Beilein’s teams consistently move the ball to find long-range shots — 35 percent of their field goal attempts last season came from beyond the arc. Last year alone, they hoisted a robust 700 threes between their top six scorers. Ball-handlers dribbling off screens and kicking the ball to to the corners is a signature play within Beilein’s offense. Burke ran it to find Stauskas two years ago. Stauskas ran the same play last year with Glenn Robinson and Derrick Walton. Walton will take over that baton this year and he will not lack for shooters. A Michigan small-ball lineup would include Spike Albrecht, Zak Irvin Caris Levert and Walton — all of these players shot at least 38 percent from distance a year ago. There will be plenty of shots from long-range and luckily the Wolverines have a bunch of guys who shoot pretty jumpers.
  2. Irvin could be an effective version of Hardaway. Irvin and Hardaway are both 6’6” and can pull up on a dime off the dribble to shoot a jumper. The knock against Hardaway was his poor shot selection, but the jury is still out on Irvin’s efficiency because he didn’t play enough minutes last season. If the sophomore doesn’t force shots, he has the talent to become a very good scorer in this league. He is big enough at the wing position to grab a couple of offensive boards per game and keep the defenses guessing. Beilein will definitely try to use him on pick-and-rolls with Walton because both of them are effective from the mid-range. If Irvin works well within the construct of Belein’s game plan, he could be a super sophomore.
  3. Robinson’s departure could lead to better overall efficiency. Robinson was extremely talented but was also consistently flat-footed and didn’t try to attack the basket enough. Instead, he often crippled the Wolverines’ offensive flow by hoisting ill-advised shots from the corner when he easily could have used the back-door cut instead. And despite shooting 147 three-pointers, he made only 31 percent of them, the worst such mark on the squad. Take those shots and distribute them across players such as Walton and Levert, each of whom tends to make better offensive decisions with the ball, and now you have an offense that could actually be more efficient than last season’s top-ranked group.
Share this story

Addition by Subtraction: Tracy Abrams’ Injury Could Propel Illinois to the NCAA Tournament

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on November 11th, 2014

Watching a senior point guard go down with a season-ending injury before his final year is always painful. Years of experience accumulate into something of a valuable commodity. Senior guards going up against younger hot-shots during conference season is a perennial story to watch year in and year out. IllinoisTracy Abrams could have been that that guard but his absence this season may actually help Illinois settle on a more effective rotation because Abrams’ minutes can be passed onto incoming transfer guards, Ahmad Starks and Aaron Cosby. While John Groce could rely on Abrams to run the team because he can trust his senior guard after two full seasons in Champaign, his offense should benefit with quicker, potentially more talented, guards such as the incoming transfers. The concept of “addition by subtraction” matters for teams that are on the cusp of making it into the NCAA Tournament with a few minor tweaks to the personnel. Illinois was a bubble team last year and Abrams’ loss combined with the infusion of new talent may just be enough to push them into the top five or six teams in conference.

Tracy Abrams' loss may actually help the Illini this season.  (Stephen Haas, Lee News Service)

Tracy Abrams’ loss may actually help the Illini this season.
(Stephen Haas, Lee News Service)

Before understanding how Abrams’ loss helps this season, it is crucial to understand the Illini’s key weakness from last season: long-range shooting. They shot 30.4% from the long-range, ranking tenth in the conference. Shooting from beyond the arc is not Abrams’ strength but that didn’t prevent him from hoisting 111 attempts and only making 27% of them. Pulling up from from the top of the key during crucial possessions in the second half was one of the worst traits of his game. He quickly gave up pushing the ball into the paint which resulted in a horrible free-throw rate — the Illini ranked dead last in the league averaging only 30.6% of free throw attempts per field goal attempts. Groce could count on Abrams to be calm during crunch time but his shot selection was questionable at best. Take these negatives out of the equation and add two excellent shooters, Starks and Cosby. Both Starks and Cosby shot 40% from beyond the arc at Oregon State and Seton Hall respectively and they will certainly boost the Illini offense that is desperate for outside shooting.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Welcome, Maryland: Evaluating the Terps’ First B1G Schedule

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on November 3rd, 2014

When Nebraska moved from the Big 12 to the Big Ten in 2011, its first basketball schedule was no walk in the park, rating as the toughest among the 12 teams according to KenPom. The Big Ten goes through an extensive process to set a roughly equivalent league schedule for its teams, but it would not be hard to believe that the league might haze the newcomers with especially challenging schedules during their first seasons on board. Ongoing debates about which school or league has the best home court advantage is a huge part of college sports and it is likely that the schedule-makers designed a slate of games to see if Nebraska could handle the rigors of the Big Ten season (the answer to that question depends on how you view a 4-14 mark). Big Ten hoops fans will need to get used to playing Maryland in College Park in the same way that the Terps will have to become accustomed to trips to Iowa City, Minneapolis and Lincoln, but let’s take a gander into the Terrapins’ Big Ten schedule to see if the league will be giving them a fair welcome this year.

Mark Turgeon's Terps could get off to a rocky start in the Big Ten.

Mark Turgeon’s Terps could get off to a rocky start in the Big Ten. (Getty)

Mark Turgeon’s squad debuts conference play at Michigan State on December 30. Look no further than the first Big Ten game — the schedulers ask Maryland to venture into the Breslin Center, arguably the toughest building in the entire league! To round up the Terps’ first month of conference play, Maryland must play road games at Illinois, Purdue, Indiana and Ohio State, and Pomeroy projects Maryland to lose every one of those four January road games. The trips to East Lansing and Columbus will certainly be no picnics, as the Spartans and the Buckeyes have more than enough talent on hand to compete for the league title again. A game against a hungry Illinois squad, led by third-year coach John Groce trying to get his program back to the NCAAs, will not be an easy task either. Purdue and Indiana look to be young and inexperienced teams, but they have good talent and will be desperate for early Big Ten wins to build a case for the postseason.  If Maryland comes out of the first month of 2015 with more than one road victory among that group, Turgeon should feel pretty good about his team’s performance.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big Ten M5: 11.03.14 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on November 3rd, 2014

morning5_bigten

  1. Can you believe that this upcoming year is Tom Izzo‘s 20th season in the Big Ten? Time certainly flies, doesn’t it? After this season he will become the third most-tenured coach in the nation after Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim. The Detroit Free Press recently asked the Michigan State head coach about the unexpected journey from when he first took the job in the mid-1990s to today. Regardless of when he retires from the game, Izzo will without question be one of the top four or five coaches in the history of Big Ten hoops. It is unlikely that he will get to his seventh Final Four this year without a true scoring threat on the roster, but it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to bet on him returning to the promised land before he retires in the next decade or so.
  2. Leadership is absolutely essential on a Final Four contender, and Michigan had two excellent ones over the past two seasons: Trey Burke during its run to the national championship game in 2012-13 and Nik Stauskas during its Elite Eight run last year. One of the reasons why the Wolverines aren’t likely to be a contender this season is their clear lack of leadership, but head coach John Beilein doesn’t seem to be worried about that too much. Junior wing Caris LeVert should carry most of the offensive load this year but he has long way to go before he can prove leadership similar to Stauskas or Burke. When asked about his ability to lead, LeVert said, “I think naturally, I’m kind of wanting to lead by example more, but the coaches have been pushing me and my teammates as well, to kind of talk more and be more vocal, on the court as well as off the court.”
  3. Indiana sophomore wing Devin Davis was seriously injured over the weekend in an accident involving a vehicle near Assembly Hall. According to his family, Davis is recovering very well, which should be positive news for Tom Crean’s squad. The following is the official statement: “As all parents can understand, the last 40+ hours have been difficult for us and for all of those who care about our son. Devin’s condition is improving and we know that there is a road to recovery ahead.” Davis only averaged 2.5 PPG last year and wasn’t expected to have a tremendous impact for the Hoosiers this season, but an event like this could have an adverse effect on the overall morale of a young team two weeks before the season tips off. His recovery is in all of our thoughts.
  4. With only two weeks left until season tip-off, scrimmages are useful for coaches to figure out their rotations. While Ohio State has a lot of question marks on offense with the departure of LaQuinton Ross, freshman D’Angelo Russell has provided some hope for the Buckeyes’ fans after his most recent performance. In addition to his scoring, he also comforted Thad Matta with his passing because he needs more ball-handlers to complement Shannon Scott. Speaking of Scott, he too had a good performance and should be one of the best guards in the Big Ten as a senior because he can push the pace faster than Aaron Craft.
  5. Continuing with the theme of scrimmages, Maryland‘s exhibition win on Saturday night provided more information about what to expect from the Terps in their first Big Ten season. The new-look team shot a whole bunch of perimeter jumpers — making 14 of 27 threes — which could be a consistent theme with this squad. Dez Wells in particular will need to be more consistent offensively if the Terps expect to have any shot of competing for an NCAA Tournament bid this season. He he shot a dismal 30.4 percent from deep last year, but he can do more damage in taking his man off the dribble than merely settling for deep jumpers.
Share this story

Will Wisconsin Make It Back to the Final Four? An Argument For No…

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on October 21st, 2014

Last week, the Big Ten microsite’s Alex Moscoso (@alexpmoscoso) tackled the key question posed here, and answered in the affirmative. Today Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) tackles the same question, ultimately finding a different result. 

If you saw the movie “Draft Day” over the summer, you would have noticed something odd about the NFL. In addition to horrible acting by Kevin Costner as the general manager of the Cleveland Browns, the #1 overall pick in the movie’s NFL Draft was a quarterback from Wisconsin. Any real college football fan would laugh out loud at the practicality of that occurrence because, clearly, Wisconsin football is known for its aerial strengths over the years, right? A couple of years ago, the same could have been said about Wisconsin basketball in the postseason: Never bet on the Badgers making any noise past the Sweet Sixteen. Sure, we can always count on a Bo Ryan team finishing in the top four during conference play, but can we really trust the Badgers to carry the Big Ten brand in March? Could they put up enough points when they hit a shooting slump? Time and time again, we’ve watched highly-seeded Badgers go cold from the field against mid-majors (Cornell in 2010 and Butler in 2011 come to mind) or not have an offensive closer to seal the deal in the final minutes (Syracuse in 2012).

Despite having a talented front-court, it is still tough to bet on Ryan's team to make it back to the Final Four.

Despite having a talented frontcourt, it is still tough to bet on Ryan’s team to make it back to the Final Four.

Is this year’s team really all that different just because the Badgers broke through to the Final Four last year? Sure, Bo Ryan has Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker ready to make shots from all over the floor, but something still just doesn’t feel right in betting on the Badgers to get back to the season’s final weekend. Here are three reasons why it is still not a good idea to gamble on Wisconsin in the postseason:

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Can Michigan State Get to the Final Four Without an Elite Point Guard?

Posted by Deepak Jayanti (@dee_b1g) on April 9th, 2014

About six months ago, when we kicked off RTC’s Big Ten microsite for the 2013-14 season, one of the first articles written was a discussion about Michigan State’s reliance on Keith Appling. “If Appling is effective, then the Spartans are arguably the best in the country, and without him, they lack the leadership to make the Final Four.” Fast-forward six months from that piece, and we saw Appling average two points per game during four games in the NCAA Tournament (that is not a typo). Tom Izzo’s offense looked completely lost during the final 10 minutes of its Elite Eight loss against Connecticut, and they were headed down a similar path against Virginia  before Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson muscled their way to a victory. This particular discussion is not about why Appling was so ineffective because it is likely that he was still hurting from his wrist injury and just could never get back to 100 percent. Instead, the last two weeks proves the importance of Izzo’s dependence on effective point guard play, because every one of his Final Four teams relied heavily on a true point guard who could lead the team during crunch time.

Tom Izzo's teams are at their best with an effective point guard.

Tom Izzo’s teams are at their best with an effective point guard. (Getty)

Let’s start with the late 1990s when Izzo raised Michigan State basketball to a whole new level on the national stage by taking them to three straight Final Fours. There was a guy named Mateen Cleaves who had a pretty good handle on running the point, essentially acting as an extension of Izzo on the court. Even after Cleaves graduated, Charlie Bell handled the point guard duties effectively in the half-court, while the emergence of Jason Richardson on the wing improved the overall offense. Following that three-year stretch of playing on the last weekend, Izzo couldn’t get them back to the Final Four even though he recruited some excellent guards – Chris Hill and Maurice Ager were excellent scorers, but they couldn’t command the offense because of their skill sets better suited for calling their own numbers. Then came Drew Neitzel, a true point guard who was comfortable dishing the ball and letting the talented wings produce the bulk of the offense. Without Neitzel, Hill and Alan Anderson would have been the first set of seniors that would have graduated under Izzo without making a Final Four (until this year of course). Consider the next two Final Four appearances by the Spartans and another effective point guard, Kalin Lucas, dominated on both ends of the floor. Lucas was hurt during the NCAA Tournament for one of those runs, but Korie Lucious was able to step in effectively to cover the point guard position.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

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. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story