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.

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Big Ten Tournament Storylines: Quarterfinal Friday

Posted by Brendan Brody on March 11th, 2016

We’re now down to eight teams remaining in the Big Ten Tournament after a wild Thursday resulted in significant upsets to Iowa and Wisconsin. Today the top four seeds will take the floor at Bankers Life Fieldhouse hoping to avoid the same fate that befell the #5 and #6 seeds. As we head into the quarterfinals, here are four storylines to watch during the tournament’s third day in Indianapolis.

Malcolm Hill and the Illini will have to hope that the slipper still fits against Purdue Purdue on Friday. (USA Today Images)

Malcolm Hill and his Illini will have to hope that the slipper still fits against Purdue Purdue on Friday. (USA Today Images)

  1. Can Illinois Keep It Going?: Even with Iowa finishing the season with a whimper, #12 Illinois’ win over the Hawkeyes on Thursday might be the biggest Big Ten upset since Rutgers beat Wisconsin last season. An impressive game from Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn along with continued strong play from freshman Jalen Coleman-Lands could get the Illini into the tournament semifinals. Remember that John Groce’s unit — thanks to 52 points from Hill and Dunn — has already beaten Purdue once this year.  Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten Weekend in Review

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 20th, 2016

Because of the Martin Luther King holiday, this week’s weekend wrap-up post includes the rare Monday Big Ten game. In what was the third weekend of Big Ten play, it’s fitting that three-pointers played a large role in many of the outcomes. Northwestern and Illinois suffered losses where they shot too many while Maryland and Iowa made double-digit shots from deep as they cruised to home wins. The rest of the best and worst from the weekend follows below:

Andrew White notched a double-double with 21 points and 13 rebounds Saturday for Nebraska. (Getty)

Andrew White notched a double-double with 21 points and 13 rebounds Saturday for Nebraska. (Getty)

Player of the Weekend: Andrew White III has had better shooting efforts than what he put forth Saturday for Nebraska in their win at Illinois, but this game may have been his best all-around effort. The junior continued to show that he’s more than just a shooter in going for a season-high 13 rebounds, and also dishing out a season-high three assists. White and Shavon Shields outscored Illinois’ potent duo of Malcolm Hill and Kendrick Nunn 35-32, but more importantly White III keyed the 42-24 advantage for the Cornhuskers on the boards as they evened their conference record at 3-3 in winning their third game in a row.

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Big Ten Weekend Look Ahead: 12.04.15 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on December 4th, 2015

The weekend after the Big Ten/ACC Challenge is probably one of the weakest slates of the year. After coming out of all the Feast Week tournaments followed by playing formidable competition in the challenge, most teams are looking to take it easy with opponents from low-major conferences this weekend. And with the Big Ten season arriving soon enough, it’s hard to blame them. At this point in the season, coaches just want to give their guys a break and pick up a few easy wins. It makes for a fairly boring first weekend of December in the Big Ten, but here is a preview of the best games of this quiet weekend.

A.J. Hammons and Purdue have the toughest matchup this weekend against New Mexico. (Brian Spurlock/USA Today)

A.J. Hammons and Purdue have the toughest matchup this weekend against New Mexico. (Brian Spurlock/USA Today)

  • Temple at Wisconsin (Saturday, 12:30 ET PM, CBS). This matchup with 3-3 Temple (which was picked to finish sixth in the American) doesn’t excite at first blush, but it represents the Big Ten game this weekend with the highest thrill score (according to KenPom), so perhaps the Owls have an extra gear in store for their trip to Madison. The Badgers surprised everyone on Wednesday when they went into the Carrier Dome and upset Syracuse, so maintaining momentum through this weekend will be crucial for Bo Ryan’s crew. If Bronson Koenig can prove to be more consistent in his production, the Badgers still have a great shot at making a 15th straight NCAA Tournament. Temple, a team that has already taken down a B1G squad earlier this season (Minnesota), has a formidable defense that is capable of slowing down good offenses. That defense could be even tougher on an offense that’s been as ineffective as Wisconsin’s (46.3% eFG) this season. If the Badgers have an off shooting afternoon, then a second home loss is definitely in play here.

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Big Ten M5: 12.04.15 Edition

Posted by Patrick Engel on December 4th, 2015

morning5_bigten

  1. Riding a string of three straight losses, the wheels have predictably started to fall off at Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights got even worse news when head coach Eddie Jordan announced forward Deshawn Freeman will miss the next two weeks with a sore knee. It’s a tough blow for a team facing upcoming games against Seton Hall, George Washington and mid-major darling Monmouth in the next 17 days. The junior leads Rutgers in scoring (13.1 PPG) and field goal percentage (54.4 percent) while ranking second in rebounding (5.3 RPG).
  2. While the Big Ten tied or won its seventh straight Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Wednesday, Indiana’s abhorrent lack of defense was one of the Challenge’s biggest storylines. In a 94-74 loss to Duke, the Hoosiers allowed 1.52 points per possession while three Duke players posted an offensive rating of 160.0 or higher, per KenPom.com. The Blue Devils didn’t merely take advantage of a handful of bad matchups; they throttled a team that didn’t display much effort on defense all night. Since the start of last season, the Hoosiers have allowed at least 1.2 points per possession six separate times, and also allowed a terrible Alcorn State team to score 70 points against them on Monday.
  3. Perhaps the biggest win of the Challenge was Wisconsin’s 66-58 road victory at Syracuse. The Badgers’ offense isn’t nearly as efficient or high-scoring as it was the last two seasons, but freshman Ethan Happ’s 18-point, 15-rebound night is exactly what Bo Ryan’s team needs: a legitimate third scoring option to take some of the pressure off of Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes. Depth has been an issue as Wisconsin reboots its system this season, so Happ needs more performances like he had in the Carrier Dome. If Brevin Pritzl is ruled out for the season, the bench could be even shorter. He’s only played in just four minutes this season due to complications from a broken foot suffered in August and should learn his fate on Friday after undergoing additional tests.
  4. Despite its issues in the frontcourt, Michigan has shot the three-pointer well again this season. The Wolverines shoot 43.0 percent from three as a team, but Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton, Jr., and Duncan Robinson’s shooting numbers are the most impressive part. Robinson and Walton are each shooting over 60 percent from deep and have combined for 34 made threes on 55 attempts (62 percent). In Robinson’s last three games, he has made 14-of-20 three-point attempts. That makes LeVert’s own impressive 52 percent mark from beyond the arc seem rather insignificant. While these numbers won’t last all season, Michigan has proven it is capable of shooting its way to victory on any given night.
  5. We detailed Iowa’s depth on Wednesday, but Jarrod Uthoff’s fantastic start to the year shouldn’t be lost in the Hawkeyes’ deeper-than-expected offense. Uthoff ranks third in scoring in the Big Ten with 17.7 PPG, is second in blocked shots with 2.6 per game and is one of three players in the conference posting averages of at least 17 points and six rebounds per game (Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine and Ohio State’s Marc Loving are the others). His 8.1 percent turnover rate also ranks fifth in the conference. Don’t sleep on Uthoff — he’s playing like a shoo-in for First Team All-Big Ten.
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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. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big Ten Weekend Look Ahead: 11.20.15 Edition

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 20th, 2015

By the second weekend of the season, most power conference teams have moved past playing cupcakes from one-bid leagues — although some of those cupcakes ultimately got the last laugh — and are now moving up in competition. Stiffer tests begin in earnest for two Big Ten squads tonight, as Wisconsin and Michigan take part in marquee match-ups against Big East opponents and wo more B1G teams face challenging mid-majors on Saturday. Here are the four games to watch involving Big Ten teams this weekend.

Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig scored a combined 29 points in last year's thriller against Georgetown (Daivd Banks-USA Today Sports).

Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig scored a combined 29 points in last year’s thriller against Georgetown (Photo: David Banks, USA Today Sports).

  1. Georgetown vs. Wisconsin (Friday, 5:00 PM ET, ESPN). Oddly enough, this game isn’t part of the slate of Gavitt Tipoff Games but instead a part of the 2K Classic event taking place in Madison Square Garden over the weekend. It’s also a rematch of a classic from last season, when the Hoyas — behind a 29-point effort from D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera — nearly upset the second-ranked Badgers in the Battle 4 Atlantis. These teams look to be more evenly matched this year, with Smith-Rivera perhaps looking to finish what he started a year ago in the Bahamas. Both squads have already suffered unexpected home losses to teams they have no business losing to (Wisconsin to Western Illinois; Georgetown to Radford), so the loser here will find itself in an early hole in its pursuit of a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
  2. Xavier at Michigan (Friday, 9:00 PM ET, BTN).  The Wolverines will host the Musketeers tonight in the final game of the Gavitt Tipoff Games. Caris Levert‘s team has looked resurgent in its first two outings, beating its two opponents by a combined 54 points in an effort to erase memories of an injury-plagued and disappointing 2014-15 season. Michigan will face its first real test when Trevon Bluiett’s Musketeers invade the Crisler Center. It’ll be a mismatch of styles — the Wolverines are a quintessential jump-shooting team while Xavier thrives off attacks of the rim and getting to the free throw line —  so whichever team sets the tone early will earn a distinct advantage. Read the rest of this entry »
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Introducing the RTC Preseason All-Big Ten Second Team

Posted by Patrick Engel on November 12th, 2015

It’s the eve of the start of the college basketball season and we’re well into our preseason awards lists. We’ve already released our third team all-conference selections and our projected league standings (#14-#8 and #7-#1), so now it’s time to unveil our All-Big Ten second team. Here are the next five best players in the league, as voted on by our three-man staff.

A healthy Caris LeVert is poised for a big senior season (Gregory Shamus, Getty).

A healthy Caris LeVert is poised for a big senior season (Gregory Shamus, Getty).

  • Bronson Koenig (JR, Guard, Wisconsin). Koenig stepped into the starting point guard spot for the Badgers last January after Traeveon Jackson suffered an untimely foot injury. The sophomore started the remaining 24 games, averaging 11.5 points per contest and producing an offensive rating (120.7), turnover percentage (11.3%) and three-point percentage (40.5%) that were all better than those of Jackson. As a junior, Koenig is primed for an even bigger year in his first full season as the starting point guard.
  • Caris LeVert (SR, Guard, Michigan). LeVert led the Wolverines in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks through 18 games last year before suffering a season-ending foot injury. Michigan struggled to keep its head above water when he was healthy (11-7), but the team plummeted after his injury (5-9). Much like last season, the Wolverines have a deep and talented backcourt but an unproven and young frontcourt. John Beilein’s club should be better with Derrick Walton Jr. healthy and an improved Zak Irvin in the lineup, but LeVert will once again be this team’s leader. He can score many different ways and his length makes him a sturdy perimeter defender.

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Meet the Badgers: Who Will Step in for Departed Legends?

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 11th, 2015

Here’s what we think we know about the Wisconsin Badgers: We know that Nigel Hayes improved tremendously as a sophomore after a solid freshman campaign. The big forward developed a more well-rounded offensive game and became one of the better interior players in the Big Ten. We also know that point guard Bronson Koenig proved more than capable of running the show when starter Traveon Jackson missed 19 midseason games due to injury. Those two are poised to become two of the best players in the league. We also know that this season might be Bo Ryan’s last on the sidelines in Madison, although, then again, it might not be. In summation, we really don’t know all that much beyond those few things in the wake of Wisconsin’s historic run to the National Championship game. The questions about Ryan’s status will be answered in due time, but who specifically will be the replacements for all the players that are gone?

Nigel Hayes needs some help in the form of newcomers for Wisconsin to pick up where they left off in 2014-15 (Getty).

Nigel Hayes needs some help in the form of newcomers for Wisconsin to pick up where it left off in 2014-15. (Getty)

Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, Josh Gasser, Traveon Jackson, and Duje Dukan. Four seniors and a junior who played a rather large part in the Badgers’ 66-12 overall record during the last two seasons. That means there’s a whole lot of playing time and shots to be had. Ethan Happ may get the first crack at attempting to replace Kaminsky’s spot in the lineup. The redshirt freshman has used the education he learned on the scout team to become a much more polished player. In the team’s recent scrimmage against Wisconsin River-Falls, Happ notched a double-double in 19 minutes, going 7-of-9 from the field. He could become the top option in the post with Kaminsky now playing in Charlotte. Read the rest of this entry »

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RTC Big Ten Preview: The Top Tier (#7 – #1)

Posted by Alex Moscoso on November 11th, 2015

We continue our Big Ten microsite predictions and superlatives with the second half of our preseason standings. We presented our preseason standings with teams #14 – #8 on the microsite yesterday; today, we unveil the top half. These are the teams that we as a group believe will finish near or atop the league when all the dust settles and will result in the likely conference representatives in the NCAA Tournament.  Enjoy!

It's Jarrod Uthoff's turn to lead the Hawkeyes to another NCAA Tournament.

It’s Jarrod Uthoff’s turn to lead the Hawkeyes to another NCAA Tournament.

  • 7. Iowa: With Aaron White now graduated, all eyes turn to senior Jarrod Uthoff to take the baton and lead the Hawkeyes to a third consecutive NCAA Tournament— something this program hasn’t accomplished since the early 1990s. With players like Adam Woodbury, Peter Jok and an experienced backcourt to work with, Uthoff will have a supporting cast with enough talent to get it done.
  • 6. Michigan: The Wolverines are a talent-laden team with a number of players similar to Caris LeVert who fit perfectly into John Beilein’s prolific three-point offense. Both he and Derrick Walton were sidelined with injuries for the majority of last season, which gave the rest of the young roster experience to draw from this year. Now fully healthy, Michigan is set up for a comeback campaign pushing toward the top of the Big Ten.

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Big Ten Storylines Heading Into Next Season

Posted by Brendan Brody on April 17th, 2015

There are still some dominoes to fall in terms of Big Ten roster turnover in coming weeks but we already have a pretty good idea of how the league will look next year. Here are a few things to ponder as Big Ten fans brace themselves for seven months without any games with which to occupy their time.

Melo Trimble could be a first team All-American next season for Maryland. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Melo Trimble could be a first team All-American next season for Maryland. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

  • Return to Multiple Conference Championship Contenders: Wisconsin essentially went wire-to-wire this season, going from the unanimous preseason favorite to winning both the conference regular season and postseason titles. Next season should be a bit more like the 2013-14 campaign with several teams with a realistic shot to win the league. Maryland is rightfully getting a good deal of love in the preseason “way-to-early” top 25 lists. The Terps will return two of their top three players in Melo Trimble and Jake Layman and will add a bruiser down low in freshman Diamond Stone. Indiana (assuming both Yogi Ferrell and James Blackmon Jr. return to Bloomington), and Michigan State could also very well start the season in the top 15 nationally. Thomas Bryant will give the Hoosiers someone to keep defenses honest inside, while Sparty adds Eron Harris, Devonta Davis, and Caleb Swanigan to a nucleus of eight players who were contributors on a Final Four squad. These three should all challenge for the top spot in Big Ten play next season.
  • Wisconsin Rebuild: It will be fun to observe how Bo Ryan replaces the multiple talented pieces that he is losing from a group that went to back-to-back Final Fours. He has certainly earned the benefit of the doubt so as to figure that players like Vitto Brown and Zak Showalter will break out with more playing time next season. Getting key starters Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig back is also a pretty decent starting point. How far will the Badgers actually fall, and how long will it take for the newcomers to make an impact?

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A Final Look at Wisconsin’s Two-Year Run

Posted by Alex Moscoso on April 16th, 2015

It’s been more than a week since the final buzzer went off at Lucas Oil Stadium, signaling the end of the National Championship game, another Duke national title, and the last moments of an incredible two-year run from the unlikeliest of powerhouses, Wisconsin. This year’s squad of goofy and affable but supremely talented Badgers had come up just a little short in the biggest game of their lives. With a nine-point lead, 13:23 left on the clock, and two of Duke’s best players, Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow, on the bench due to foul trouble, Wisconsin was certainly as close as any Big Ten team has been in 15 years to winning the crown. But there would be no story book ending. Instead, things played out as they usually do in college basketball, as the team with more talent eventually took control and won the game. Even if not on this night, Bo Ryan’s program throughout his 14 seasons in Madison has consistently bucked that trend, winning a bunch more games than what his roster suggested was possible.

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

Wisconsin has accomplished much in the last two years, including a change in the perception of its program and coach. (Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

This group of Badgers was no different. Sure, they boasted the National Player of the Year in Frank Kaminsky, but the senior was a shining example of expectations exceeded — going from an unheralded high school recruit to the shiniest of college basketball stars. But in the end, the Blue Devils surged on the back of a little-used but nevertheless talented freshman, Grayson Allen. The bouncy guard effectively ended the narrative many casual fans hoped would win the day — that of a pristine basketball environment of yesteryear with in-state kids playing all four years for their home university, versus the more itinerant one-and-done culture of today. This thinking vastly oversimplifies the makeup of both these teams and programs, of course, but it is a common sentiment in college basketball and it is one of the reasons the Badgers attracted so many new fans in their run to the Final Four.

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