Big Ten Morning Five: 02.04.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on February 4th, 2012

  1. Breathe easy, Michigan State fans — it looks like senior captain Draymond Green will be able to go on Sunday against rival Michigan. The Spartans are coming off a one-point loss at Illinois this week (Green left the floor with a knee injury with just under four minutes remaining and did not return), and dropped a one-point contest in Ann Arbor on January 17. It’s a must-win for the Spartans if they want any chance at a share of the Big Ten title, and it seems improbable that they’d be able to do it without Green. In addition to unquestionably being the heart and soul of the group, Green also currently ranks in the top 15 among Big Ten players in nine categories.
  2. Good news for Big Ten basketball fans: Game tickets are in extremely high demand. Bad news: They’re in such high demand that scalpers have gone to lengths to reproduce counterfeit tickets. According to Bob Baptist of the Columbus Dispatch, Ohio State officials have warned fans that there are a number of counterfeit tickets circulating, particularly for Ohio State’s February 11 game against Michigan State and late-February game against Wisconsin (both are sold out).
  3. In much more uplifting conference news, four Big Ten players were honored as an NCAA Division I Academic All-District selection by the College Sports Information Directors of America. Michigan’s Zack Novak, Ohio State’s Aaron Craft and Northwestern’s Drew Crawford were recipients out of District 5, and Wisconsin’s Jared Berggren was a recipient out of District 6. Craft is second in the conference in assists and first in steals, Crawford is averaging 17.4 points per game, Novak averages 33.6 minutes per game and Berggren is averaging 10.5 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.
  4. They say it’s not how you start, but how you finish. If that’s the case, Indiana has some work to do on both. The Hoosiers fell victim to a disastrous beginning and end of their game against Michigan this week, resulting in yet another Big Ten road loss for Tom Crean. Michigan led by as much as 20 before Indiana snapped out of it and eventually narrowed the margin to two. But Michigan controlled the late stages of the game, as well, resulting in the double-digit margin of victory. One thing is for sure: If Indiana is to start closing road games, a fully efficient 40 minutes will be necessary.
  5. There was an important change at the top of the Minnesota athletic department this week, as Joel Maturi announced his retirement as athletic director. But fifth-year Golden Gophers basketball coach Tubby Smith told the Star Tribune that he doesn’t expect the shift at the top to affect his job status as head coach. “Oh, I’ll be back here,” Smith told the paper. “[University President] Dr. [Eric] Kaler and I have visited some early in the year. Certainly this is the right place for me and my family. … We’ve had our share of mis-steps and disappointments, losses, injuries and departures. All those things go into play when you start to make decisions, but I expect to be back here.” Smith, who won the national championship in his first year at Kentucky in 1997-98, is 96-56 in a somewhat tumultuous tenure at Minnesota. The Gophers are 16-6 this season, but have been without double-double machine Trevor Mbakwe since November 27.
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They Are Who We Thought They Were: Revisiting Indiana and Wisconsin

Posted by jnowak on February 3rd, 2012

Remember when there was talk of Indiana as a Final Four-caliber team? And that Wisconsin wouldn’t even have a chance at dancing its way to New Orleans because there was an outside chance the Badgers would miss the NCAA Tournament? In calendar terms, those days aren’t that far behind us. But in basketball days, they seem light years away. In a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately society, we tend to get really, really excited about the here and now. Wisconsin loses a string of three games with a couple rare losses at home mixed in, and pundits are wondering what the heck has gone wrong in Madison. Indiana sends shock waves across basketball with a few early-season major upsets and lights up the first half of its schedule, and there seemed to be no limit to what the Hoosiers could do.

Cody Zeller and the young Hoosiers have struggled on the road this year. (Andy Lyons/Getty)

Well, about a month after Indiana was 15-1 and Wisconsin dropped three in a row, both clubs have returned to their mean. That is to say, both clubs have either regressed or progressed to just about where we expected them to be at season’s tipoff. Indiana has taken a tremendous step forward under Tom Crean and is showing signs that it will be contending for Big Ten titles soon enough. The Hoosiers are an NCAA Tournament team. Wisconsin, meanwhile, is back to competing for Big Ten championships, frustrating opponents (particularly at the Kohl Center), and dictating pace in the Big Ten.

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Set Your TiVo: 02.03 – 02.05

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 3rd, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

There are lots of good games on Saturday, highlighted by the big one in Columbia. Overall it’s a very nice day of hoops despite only a handful of truly terrific games.

#4 Kansas @ #6 Missouri – 9:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN (*****)

KU Needs Taylor To Be Good Tyshawn on Saturday (credit: Missourian)

  • It doesn’t get much better than this. Two teams that don’t particularly like each other and a Border War rivalry with roots in the Civil War era. Missouri enters this game after surviving Texas in Austin on Monday. The Tigers have perhaps the best offense in the nation with incredible balance at the guard and wing positions. The question for Frank Haith and his team will be how effective Ricardo Ratliffe can be against Thomas Robinson inside. Ratliffe shoots almost exclusively in the paint and converts an astounding 75.1% of the time. However, Ratliffe will be going up against a front line of Robinson and Jeff Withey (3.1 BPG) in this one and needs to utilize his patented pick-and-roll more in this game. Ratliffe won’t have great success going one-on-one against either Robinson or Withey inside. Kansas’ defense ranks #4 in two-point percentage against but the Jayhawks are vulnerable to the three-ball. That’s where Missouri and snipers Marcus DenmonKim English and Michael Dixon can really take advantage of Bill Self’s team.
  • The Jayhawk offense is essentially a two-man operation. While players like Withey and Travis Releford contribute offensively, Kansas’ fortunes depend on Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor. Taylor has taken his game to another level over the last month, highlighted by the back to back 28-point efforts against Iowa State and Baylor. The Kansas senior hasn’t shot under 40% from the floor since January 4 but will be the focus of Haith’s perimeter defense. Taylor is prone to turnovers and you can bet the Missouri guards will be ball hawking him all night long. If Taylor has a good ball handling night, Kansas will be in very good position to grab a road win. Robinson will get his points but it’s up to Taylor to put the Jayhawks in a position to win this game.
  • It’s hard to pick against Missouri at home but if any team is going to win in Columbia, Kansas is the one. With ESPN in the house for the top two teams in the Big 12, this will be as charged an environment as you will see all year in college basketball. Despite Ratliffe’s stellar shooting percentage, Kansas should win the battle inside. The duo of Robinson and Withey is incredibly difficult to score against and Robinson is obviously a load on the offensive end as well. However, the friendly confines of Mizzou Arena and the Tigers’ perimeter attack and balance should be enough to put Missouri over the top.

#3 Ohio State @ #23 Wisconsin – 2:00 PM EST Saturday on ESPN (****)

  •  Ohio State can take command of the Big Ten with a win in this game. The Buckeyes hold a one game lead over Wisconsin in the loss column heading into Saturday’s matchup. If Ohio State has one weakness, it’s three-point shooting. Thad Matta is not going to beat Wisconsin, a team that shoots well over 20 threes a game, from outside. Matta has the best player on the floor in Jared Sullinger and he needs to use him early and often in order to set the tone. Ohio State is not going to turn Wisconsin over and fast break points will be at a minimum. The Buckeyes must execute their half court offense in order to win this game and the way to do that is through the big man in the middle.
  • The Badgers have righted the ship with six straight wins but will need a big game out of their supporting cast if they are going to make it a seventh. Jared Berggren in particular must contain Sullinger on the low block or else Aaron Craft can feed him all day long with no consequences. Offensively, Wisconsin will run everything through Jordan Taylor but guys like Josh Gasser and Ben Brust need to be hot from deep in order for the Badgers to pull off the win. Wisconsin will be limited to one shot per possession most of the time as it loves to run the shot clock down and shoot threes. Ohio State ranks fourth in defensive rebounding percentage, mostly thanks to Sullinger.
  • This game features the top two defensive teams in the nation in terms of efficiency. It’s likely to be a low scoring, low possession affair that comes down to the final minutes. Players like Ryan Evans for Wisconsin and Ohio State’s Lenzelle Smith could be the determining factors. The battle at the point guard position between Taylor and Craft will be phenomenal but the complementary players usually put a team over the top in matchups like these. We think that’s what will happen at the Kohl Center on Saturday.
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Checking In On… The Big Ten Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 31st, 2012

Bill Hupp is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference. Follow him on Twitter (@Bill_Hupp) for his thoughts on hoops, food, PR, various city river walks, and life.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Tom Izzo is a Big Ten Legend: The emotional Michigan native won his 400th career game this week when Tom Izzo guided the Spartans to a comfortable 68-52 home win over Minnesota. No matter who leaves, the guy simply gets the most out of his teams year in and year out by emphasizing selflessness, defense, rebounding and toughness. There’s a reason that Michigan State always seems to be playing its best ball by the time March rolls around.
  • Up Comes Frazier!: Raise your hand at home if you had Penn State’s Tim Frazier as a likely first-team All-Big Ten candidate in February. If you did, you are a basketball savant and should be writing this column [Ed. Note: Or you are a Penn State homer.]. The 6’2” junior dominated against Penn State’s soft non-conference schedule, but hasn’t slowed down in Big Ten play. In league games, he is leading the conference in scoring (18.7 PPG), assists (5.3 APG), and steals (2.5. SPG). Admittedly, wins have been hard to come by for the Nittany Lions this season, but Frazier has been a bright spot in Happy Valley.
  • Welcome Back, Wisco: With Bo Ryan still at the helm, nobody thought Wisconsin would be down for long, and while it hasn’t always been pretty, the Badgers ran their current winning streak to five games after they downed Indiana at the Kohl Center this week. During this streak, they ground out tough road wins over Purdue and Illinois and claimed home victories over Nebraska, Northwestern and Indiana.

After a 3-2 start to conference play, Ohio State Has Won Its Last Four Games By A Combined 90 Points. (Al Messerschmidt/Getty)

Power Rankings

  1. Ohio State (19-3, 7-2) – Value City Arena isn’t the first Big Ten gym to come to mind when you think of fearsome places to play in the conference, but teams that have entered “The Grey” recently haven’t had much success. The students are passionate and the place is big and cavernous, more of a professional arena than a cozy college gymnasium. There’s a reason why the Buckeyes have won 38 straight at VCA and are winning their home Big Ten games in the nation’s best conference (according to the RPI) by an average of 24 points.
  2. Michigan State (17-4, 6-2) – Perhaps the most encouraging thing about Michigan State’s win over Minnesota was that it proved that point guard Keith Appling can go 1-8 from the field and score seven points … and the Spartans can still win by double digits. Freshman Branden Dawson continues to show flashes of brilliance, as he stepped up to score 16 points in Appling’s stead. Someone needs to provide a second scoring option to Draymond Green and if it can’t be Appling that day, it falls to Dawson or Valpo transfer Brandon Wood. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… The Big Ten Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 10th, 2012

Bill Hupp is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference. Follow him on Twitter @Bill_Hupp for his thoughts on hoops, food, Russian nesting dolls and life.

Reader’s Take 

 

The Week That Was:

  • OT Madness in Madison: It was just one of the most unusual endings to a basketball game in recent memory. Ryan Evans banked home a turn-around desperation heave from the right wing as time expired, and many thought the Michigan StateWisconsin game in Madison was heading to a second overtime tied at 63. It was waved off, however, after officials discovered the there was a 0.2-second disparity between the game clock on the basket and the one on the scoreboard. By rule, the officials used the clock on the basket, which expired with the ball in Evans’ fingertips. (The must-see full video is after the jump). Ball game over as Wisconsin’s woes continued under truly bizarre circumstances.
  • Bertrand to the Rescue: A subtle, underrated move by Illini coach Bruce Weber has Illinois at 3-1 and currently tied for second in the conference. Looking to shake up his lackluster team, Weber gave little-used sophomore wing Joseph Bertrand more minutes against Missouri. Bertrand responded by going 9-9 from the field for 19 points. In the last five games, Bertrand has averaged 15 points and 3.2 rebounds in 29.2 minutes, and has even started the past two. He poured in a career-high 25 points on 11-12 shooting to help the Illini survive Nebraska at home.
  • Road Warriors: First, Iowa took down Wisconsin at the Kohl Center. As a follow-up act, the Hawkeyes went up to The Barn this week and knocked off Minnesota. That’s no small feat for team who was blown out by Campbell earlier this season and whose leading scorer in conference play is 28th in scoring (Matt Gatens at 10.5 PPG). It’s doubtful Fran McCaffrey’s bunch will finish conference play with even a .500 record, but they have proven they can make shots and win on the road.

Who Will Stop Draymond Green And Michigan State? (Al Goldis/AP)

Power Rankings

  1. Ohio State (15-2, 3-1) – When you consider that Ohio State plays in the nation’s top-ranked conference (according to the RPI), it’s pretty insane that the Buckeyes have won three of their Big Ten games by an average of 31 points. They aren’t just beating lesser opponents; they are destroying them. It’s a clear indication of why the Buckeyes are considered by many the class of the conference and one of the favorites to win it all in New Orleans. Another reason is that OSU is ranked in the top 3 in 16 of the Big 10’s 21 statistical categories. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Big Ten Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 23rd, 2011

Bill Hupp is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference. Follow him on Twitter (@Bill_Hupp) for his thoughts on hoops, food, Russian nesting dolls and life.

Reader’s Take 

 

The Week That Was

  • Bo Knows Defense: There are several tenets that a Bo Ryan-led team will always posses: It will slow the tempo down and limit the number of possessions in a game; Wisconsin’s big guys will be able to knock down a three; they’ll limit turnovers and take care of the basketball; and they will guard you from start to finish. You can stay close in a lot of games when you are holding opponents to under 45 points per game. Unlike Missouri, Ryan’s defense isn’t predicated on quickness and forcing a lot of turnovers. Rather, they require you to stay patient on offense and make contested shots. Not a lot of teams can do that consistently in college basketball, which is why the Badgers rank in the top three in the country in scoring defense (first – 44.7 PPG), field goal percentage defense (second – 33.7%) and three point FG percentage defense (third – 23.7 %) – all this despite playing teams like Marquette, North Carolina and UNLV in their non-conference slate.
  • He Went to Jared: No matter how many other weapons Ohio State has on the floor, it really needs Jared Sullinger to man the middle. The super sophomore has missed a couple games in December with nagging injuries (back spasms and a sprained tendon in his left foot) and its clear the Buckeyes missed him. You just don’t replace a guy averaging nearly a double-double (16 PPG and 9.2 RPG). His presence on offense alone keeps the defense honest and opens up the floor for Aaron Craft, DeShaun Thomas and William Buford to get shots. In their only loss, Kansas All-American Thomas Robinson exploited this weakness to post 21 points and seven boards. It’s obvious that any team missing their first-team All-American will be worse, but just how much worse became readily apparent that day in Lawrence.
  • Fattening Up On Cupcakes: Super soft non-conference schedules have led to rather gaudy records for Minnesota, Illinois and Northwestern. But according to stats guru Ken Pomeroy, those squads are ranked 42nd, 55th and 58th in the country right now, respectively.  The best of those 34 collective wins was probably Illinois’ 82-75 home defeat of Gonzaga. Minnesota hasn’t played a true road game yet and their best win is by three points over Virginia Tech.  Northwestern has decent wins over Georgia Tech, LSU and Seton Hall – but they have lost their two most difficult games to Baylor and Creighton.  Each of these schools need strong showings in conference play to secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

Freshman Cousy Award Nominee Trey Burke Is Having A Standout Year That Many Didn't See Coming. (Angela J. Cesere/annarbor.com)

Power Rankings

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Badgers Winning Despite Taylor’s Struggles

Posted by zhayes9 on December 14th, 2011

Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist for Rush the Court. He attended last night’s Wisconsin @ Milwaukee game and filed this report.

Memo to Wisconsin fans: don’t worry about Jordan Taylor.

Despite hitting a dagger three with under a minute left, last night’s performance in the Badgers 60-54 win at Milwaukee (5-14 FG) was the latest in a long line of off-shooting nights for Taylor so far this season. The preseason All-American has yet to top 18 points in a single game, forcing role players such as Ben Brust, Jared Berggren and Ryan Evans to handle a larger chunk of the scoring load.

Taylor's shooting slump is bound to end very soon

But it’s the percentage decrease that’s truly frightening. His FG% has plummeted dramatically from 43% as a junior to 36% as a senior. Taylor’s three-point (43% to 33%) and free throw (83% to 70%) marksmanship has also dipped. Even his turnovers are higher than last season’s remarkable rate and the 0-10 FG night against UNLV was certainly an eye-opener.

Still, the Badgers sit firmly entrenched in the top 25 with a 9-2 record on the season. They were a handful of threes away from upsetting North Carolina on their home floor. They controlled tempo and easily dispatched of a top-25 caliber UNLV team. They pulled away and won by 17 against BYU. Every low-major Division I team on their schedule has been no match for Wisconsin.

That’s right, 9-2 and in the top 25 with their preseason All-American, the centerpiece of their offense and one of the single most important players in college basketball shooting a meager 36%.

That simply won’t last. Unless that minor ankle surgery over the summer is causing him ongoing problems or he’s hiding a new injury of some sort, Taylor’s shooting slump will end any day now. He’s way too good of a shooter, finisher and playmaker for his numbers to dip that suddenly. His 18.1 PPG and 43% mark from three last season didn’t happen by accident.

Although one could never tell Taylor is struggling by the way he constantly encourages teammates and plays with that easygoing, free-flowing pace, his emotional reaction after sinking that game-clinching three did suggest he was feeling some pressure. He knows he must step up and carry a team that, on some nights, has a very difficult time scoring on a consistent basis.

“I’m just trying to stay aggressive, stay confident,” Taylor said after the game. “I think I shot alright from the two areas I’ve been struggling most from three and free throws. I just couldn’t finish around the rim so it’s the same thing. It’s just a mental thing, mental toughness. Just got to hang in there and do a better job and be tougher about it.”

Berggren still has all the confidence in the world in his senior leader. I’m sure if you polled the rest of this year’s Badgers, they’d wholeheartedly agree.

“How can you not want a guy like that taking that shot?” Berggren said. “He showed at the end there, when it comes down to it, we all have confidence in him. I know he still has confidence to make that big shot and I think the majority of the time he’s going to come through for us and perform when we need him.”

The big question heading into this season was whether Wisconsin could find a secondary scoring option to relieve some of the pressure from Taylor. The silver lining from his slump is that other players have taken turns shouldering the load, whether it’s Brust making all seven of his threes against UNLV or Evans chipping in with 16 points and eight rebounds in the hard-fought win at Milwaukee.

Taylor will come around. There’s no reason to think otherwise. With their role players showing they’re capable of stepping up when called upon and another stalwart Badger defense stifling opponents, Wisconsin is once again a threat to finish near the top of the Big Ten.

Just wait until Jordan Taylor gets going.

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Set Your TiVo: 12.02.11 – 12.04.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 2nd, 2011

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

As we move into December, the first big Saturday of the year (highlighted by the battle in Lexington) is now upon us. Not to mention we get a nice preview of things to come on Friday evening.

#6 Florida @ #3 Syracuse – 7 PM EST Friday on ESPN (*****)

  • Syracuse has three distinct advantages in this game despite playing a top ten opponent. One is home court, two is height, and three is depth. The Orange have taller players at every position, one through five, and Jim Boeheim can go a legitimate ten deep into his bench. Against a Florida team that will be without forward Erik Murphy, Syracuse may be able to overwhelm the guard-heavy Gators. The key for the Orange will be defense. The 2-3 zone creates a fantastic match-up given Florida’s preferred style of offense, shooting lots of threes. If the Orange can be active and extend the perimeter of the zone, Florida will have a tough time.
  • The key for Florida is simple: make threes. To do that however, the Gators must establish Patric Young early and often. Playing without Murphy, Young is Florida’s only reliable post player. If he can’t get going, Syracuse won’t have to worry about extending the zone and leaving holes in the middle. If Young gets off to a fast start, the Orange will have to respect his presence by packing its defense in a bit more inside the arc. That will give Florida’s dynamic guards the opportunity to make shots. With Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario both shooting almost 50% from deep and two other Gators lurking as potential snipers, Syracuse doesn’t want to be forced to do that.

Can UF Establish Patric Young Inside To Give Its Shooters Room?

  • It’s always fun when a team that relies heavily on guards and the three point shot gets together with a team that plays almost exclusively zone. The Syracuse defense will tempt Florida to shoot the deep ball all night but Florida must work for open shots by establishing Young and some sort of an inside-out game. Keeping the zone off balance and moving the ball effectively are always keys to finding open shots. Defensively, Florida has to do better. Syracuse is much more efficient on that end of the floor while the Gators rank a pedestrian 52nd in the nation. Although three point shooting is the big key in this game, Florida’s defense could cost them in a tight game.
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Night Line: How Far Can Wisconsin’s Unique System Carry Them?

Posted by EJacoby on December 1st, 2011


Evan Jacoby is an RTC columnist. You can find him 
@evanJacoby on Twitter. Night Line will run on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s slate of games.

Every year, Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan finds a way to turn a collection of mostly unheralded individual players into an overachieving team, thanks to a well-designed playing style that values time of possession and situational playmaking. This season appears to be no different, and in fact might be the ultimate example of the perfect Wisconsin system. Bo’s Badgers suffered their first loss of the season on Wednesday night at No. 4 North Carolina, yet the team nearly pulled out a victory against a team it never stood a chance against, at least on paper. Once the ball tips off, Wisconsin dominates the pace of games, and this team does one thing better than any other – it limits their opponents’ possessions. This style almost took down UNC tonight, and it should lead to victories against nearly any other team.

They Lost to UNC, But Wisconsin's Defense Should Lead to Many Victories (AP/G. Broome)

This is Bo Ryan basketball; a slowed-down version of the game that may not be the most entertaining for casual fans to enjoy, but is fascinating for basketball purists to watch. A Wisconsin tilt this season averages out to a 60-possession game, which is the lowest pace in the country. They have the best defensive efficiency (83.5) and lowest turnover rate (8.1 per game) in the nation as well. They have a fearless leader in preseason All-America point guard Jordan Taylor, and he orchestrates the team on both ends of the floor. Even though the Badgers got outrebounded on Wednesday by 13 against North Carolina, and they hardly ever got to the free throw line (six attempts), limiting their opponent’s offensive opportunities gave them a reasonable chance to win in the final few minutes. Few teams that Wisconsin plays will be as gifted offensively as UNC, so they should be able to prevent more points against other teams by employing this style.

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North Carolina Looks to Bounce Back Against Wisconsin

Posted by KCarpenter on November 30th, 2011

After a tough loss to UNLV, North Carolina faces a tough match-up if it wants to bounce back: a slow, methodical, and lethal Wisconsin Badgers. Though Bo Ryan‘s team has yet to be truly tested, with the best win on its résumé a neutral court win over the Jimmer-less Brigham Young University, Wisconsin’s style seems tailor-made to challenge the Tar Heels.

The two teams are diametrically opposed in terms of pace with the Badgers plying at the slowest pace in Division I and North Carolina playing at the fifth quickest. North Carolina’s primary struggle against the Rebels was difficulty defending the three-point line; Wisconsin has shot 47.2% from beyond the arc on the season. The Badgers aren’t shy about shooting the long ball either, shooting 42.6% of all field goals from long range. North Carolina was exposed on Saturday as a team that wasn’t prepared to adequately defend the perimeter and if Roy Williams hasn’t corrected this issue, the Tar Heels are in for a long night.

Jordan Taylor Leads A Wisconsin Team With Few Weaknesses

Defensively, Wisconsin has been stout. For the past few years, Wisconsin has had a reputation as an incredible defensive club, and while the Badgers have been good, the defensive prowess of the team has been overrated because of an over reliance on “points per game” and “scoring margin.” Since 2009, Wisconsin has combined a sloth-like pace with brutally efficient offense  and good, but not great defense. Folks see the low final score and the impressive scoring margin and figure that the team locked down their opponent. In recent history, that’s not really been the case. This year, however, the defensive reputation has been earned albeit against an extremely weak schedule.

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