Big Ten Team Previews: Wisconsin Badgers

Posted by jnowak on November 6th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Big Ten microsite will be rolling out the featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the Wisconsin Badgers.

Where We Left Off: We last saw the Badgers finish off what seemed like just another typical season — steady as she goes. They started the season ranked in most polls around No. 15 in the country and stayed there for most of last year, climbing into the Top 10 at one point. They won a game in the Big Ten Tournament before losing to eventual champion Michigan State and won two more in the NCAA Tournament before dropping a one-point heartbreaker to Syracuse in the third round. Finishing fourth in the conference felt just about right for a Badgers squad that weathered some early-season struggles from All-American guard Jordan Taylor to end the year with a good showing in a tough conference.

With Mike Bruesewitz out for at least a month, the Badgers will have some holes to fill in the early going. (Greg M. Cooper/US Presswire)

Positives: Even with the losses of two upperclassmen (Mike Bruesewitz – albeit temporary — and Josh Gasser, but we’ll get to that in a moment), this may be the most experienced team in the Big Ten. It will be anchored by senior center/forward Jared Berggren, and he’ll get a hand from senior Ryan Evans and junior Zach Bohannan (who transferred from Air Force) and Ben Brust. Experience comes into play most on the defensive end, and defense is arguably the important aspect of the game in the Big Ten (the Badgers led the conference in scoring defense last year). Also, the more time familiar with Bo Ryan‘s system, the more easily these guys can jump right in and hope to contend in a rough-and-tumble conference this year. And with the help of the upperclassmen, freshman point guard George Marshall should have plenty of assistance in the important area of floor leadership.

Negatives: Right now, Wisconsin is more of a “have-not” than a “have.” They’ll be without the senior forward Bruesewitz, who suffered a freak leg injury in practice in early October, until sometime around the Creighton game on November 23 (which means he’ll miss the Florida game on November 14). Then, when junior guard Gasser tore his ACL in practice later last month, that took away a second certain starter for the Badgers who were already going to be fighting to be in the top tier of a loaded conference. The pair of Bruesewitz and Gasser have combined to start 115 games for the Badgers. Those are two talented, veteran players the Badgers will be hard-pressed to replace, at least in the early going.

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Pac-12′s Five Most Watchable Non-Conference Games – Why They’re Better

Posted by Connor Pelton on October 12th, 2012

On Wednesday, Kevin released his list of the five most important Pac-12 non-conference games of the season, and a few weeks back, I released my own rankings. This post will explain why my top five games are better than Kevin’s, but first, let’s see where his games fall on my list:

Here’s a Hint (credit: Wikipedia)

5. Florida @ Arizona (My Rank: 5)
4. California @ Wisconsin (2)
3. Stanford vs Missouri (28)
2. UCLA vs Georgetown (11)
1. USC vs Illinois (25)

And now, my top five:

5. Florida @ Arizona (December 15) - This is the one game we agree on, so there’s nothing to argue about here. This will likely be a battle of Top 15 teams when the Gators venture into the McKale Center, making it a must-see contest. It will be Florida’s second trip to the desert in the 2012 calendar year, the first being a two-game split in the NCAA Tournament last March. They’ll be looking for revenge after being upset at home last year by Sean Miller and company, 78-72 loss in overtime.

4. Oregon State vs Kansas (November 30) - Without question, this will be Oregon State’s biggest non-conference game in recent memory. And depending on how they do in the 2K Sports Classic earlier in the month, a win could mean a clean non-conference slate for the Beavers heading into Pac-12 play. In their way will be a raucous Sprint Center crowd, not to mention the combination of Elijah Johnson and Jeff Withey. This game doesn’t make Kevin’s list, instead it’s California-Wisconsin, a matchup we’ll break down in just a moment.

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Big Ten Summer Check In: Wisconsin Badgers

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on July 17th, 2012

Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan clearly does not care about preseason rankings. The regular season rankings don’t seem to bother him much either. Seemingly every year, his program is said to be having a tough time to keep up with the rest of the Big Ten because of departing players or numerous other reasons. But the Badgers recharge, they understand their talent, they play good defense, and they play within a system. Wisconsin fans have gotten used to this trend for years and it has resulted in consistent success in Madison. Michigan State and Ohio State can boast about their Final Four appearances, but Wisconsin’s consistency is its hallmark trait that has resulted in Big Ten championships and its own share of postseason success.

Bo Ryan will reload once again to remain competitive in the Big Ten.

Evaluating Last Year: The Badgers had their shot against top seeded Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen when the ball was in Jordan Taylor’s hands, their best player and most experienced veteran. Wisconsin fans couldn’t have asked for more than a shot to win that would have resulted in their second Elite Eight appearance in seven years. Ryan’s crew played their hearts out, as they challenged the 2-3 zone and hit 52% (14-27) from beyond the arc before falling short in a nail-biter. The chaotic last possession should not be used to judge their regular season by any means because the Badgers finished fourth in the B1G with a 12-6 record, just one game behind the co-champions. That level of performance along with another Sweet Sixteen appearance should definitely be considered a success for a team that could not find a consistent second scoring option after Jordan Taylor last year. Junior wing Ryan Evans averaged 11 points per game but couldn’t consistently deliver during the clutch when opposing teams double-teamed Taylor. Despite those limited scoring options, Wisconsin’s 2011-12 campaign was definitely a success.

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Weekend Wrap: Buckeyes to the Final Four; Spartans, Hoosiers, Badgers Fall

Posted by jnowak on March 25th, 2012

Four teams enter, one team leaves. The Big Ten had four representatives advance to the second weekend of NCAA Tournament play, but just Ohio State — considered by many to be the toast of the league for much of the season before Michigan State emerged as Big Ten Tournament champions and the conference’s lone #1 seed — will be suiting up in New Orleans next weekend. Here are a few thoughts from the weekend’s action:

Ohio State's Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Deshaun Thomas celebrate their team's win against Syracuse on Saturday. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

  • Tom Izzo was right — The esteemed Michigan State coach, who knows a thing or two about getting through March, has recognized all along that this is not his most talented team but it had as much capability as any other because of its intangible qualities. Because of this, Izzo has also said all along that the group’s margin for error was smaller than maybe ever before. That came to fruition against a red-hot Louisville group on Thursday, as the Spartans turned in one of the worst offensive performances of the tournament. The Cardinals never allowed the Spartans to get into a rhythm and it led to an early exit. If it’s any consolation, Michigan State has been eliminated by a Final Four team in six of the last eight seasons.
  • Does Ohio State have what it takes? — The Buckeyes are Bourbon Street-bound, but can they win two more games? They wouldn’t have to play the top team in the tournament (Kentucky) presumably until the national title game, and have shown that they can keep finding ways to win. They did it without Jared Sullinger for most of the first half Saturday, and William Buford and Deshaun Thomas were both pretty quiet. If everything clicks for this group, they can certainly hang with anybody.
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Tournament Thoughts From Third Round B1G Action

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 18th, 2012

Did somebody mention a potential letdown? Michigan‘s loss to Ohio on Friday night may have sent some signals across the tournament that the rest of the B1G teams may be vulnerable, but Saturday turned out to be great for the historical conference. Three Big Ten teams flexed their muscle to prove to the nation that they might not always be flashy in their winning ways, but they are definitely the toughest, both mentally and physically. Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio State faced adversity during their games, but they showed great composure to pull out with a huge wins as they advance to the Sweet 16. The following are a few thoughts from Saturday’s action.

Jared Sullinger and Ohio State earned their win against Gonzaga on Saturday.

Ohio State over Gonzaga (73-66)

Mark Few had the frontline to challenge Ohio State. Robert Sacre and Elias Harris have the physical tools to hang with Jared Sullinger and they certainly did that during the first half of the game. Gonzaga owned the glass during the first 20 minutes which resulted in a 52.9% offensive rebounding rate. Matta’s crew did a great job of hitting the boards in the second half which led to a bruising win. Sullinger scored on two key possessions during the final minutes from the post, and that’s exactly what Matta expects from his star player in the clutch. Aaron Craft and William Buford were committed to feeding the post.  When Ohio State is patient with their shots from beyond the arc and go through Sullinger consistently, they are a handful for rest of the teams in the tournament. The guards need to be persistent including Deshaun Thomas.  If Sullinger doesn’t get a good position the first time, the ball needs to come back out and Craft needs to find him again until he gets a good position in the post. Sullinger ended up with 18 points for the game and he earned every one of them. Aaron Craft was able to control the tempo during the second half by locking down Gonzaga’s Kevin Pangos. Craft assisted or scored on 44 of the 73 points during the game but as usual, his defense was a more important key to the victory. Pangos was stifled on the perimeter as he missed six out of the eight three-point attempts. Craft’s defense limited him to 3-13 from the field and just ten points. Thad Matta‘s Buckeyes took a few jabs throughout the game and punched back to make the Sweet 16.

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Rushed Reaction: #4 Wisconsin 60, #5 Vanderbilt 57

Posted by AMurawa on March 17th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Players making plays. Down the stretch, it seemed just about all of the star players in this game made significant plays. There was Festus Ezeli with a giant swat on one end followed up by a soft lay-in on the other. There was a great play by Jeff Taylor to bring Vanderbilt back within one possession. There was the John Jenkins dish to Ezeli to put the Commodores up a point just before Jordan Taylor answered with a dagger three-pointer. And then, down the stretch, Wisconsin ran down two straight long offensive rebounds, allowing them to take over a minute off the clock. Still, after Josh Gasser missed the front-end of a one-and-one, Jenkins had a pretty good look at a three with six seconds left, but it was not to be.
  2. Starting strong, finishing strong. Ryan Evans scored ten points right out of the gate, including eight in the first four minutes of the game, then disappeared for about 20 minutes after picking up his second foul with four minutes remaining in the first half. But, with the game in the balance, Evans soared above bigger Vanderbilt players to snatch a huge rebound following that missed Jenkins three in the closing seconds, then proceeded to hit a free throw to extend the Badger lead to three, which was the final margin.
  3. Balance. In a game like this, with solid fundamental defensive teams, no one player was able to stay hot for long, which led to balanced scoring all the way around. Five different Badgers scored in double figures, led by Jordan Taylor’s 14, but with players like Jarred Berggren, Mike Bruesewitz, and even freshman guard Ben Brust stepping up and making plays. Brust wound up with 11, all in the second half, including three big three-pointers.

Star of the GameFestus Ezeli, Vanderbilt. In a tight game that went down to the wire, Ezeli was the one unstoppable force in the game. Despite not starting, he wound up with 14 points and 11 rebounds and had a hand in three of the final four Commodore hoops (two baskets and one assist). While his career ends, Ezeli was the one athlete who stood out among a company of equals.

Sights & Sounds. While some portions of the Baylor and Colorado section did not fill up until halftime of this game, just about every other seat in this arena was filled early. And with two excellent bands, filling up the pregame, halftime and extended timeouts, the environment inside The Pit was every bit as electric as you would hope March basketball would be. As the game went down to a wire, all the neutral fans in the arena seemed to wind up just rooting for whoever was behind in the game, making for a loud and exciting conclusion.

Wildcard. For much of the final stretch in crunch time, Vanderbilt senior guard Brad Tinsley watched from the bench as freshman Kedren Johnson ran the point. While other lesser leaders might be hurt by such a perceived slight, Tinsley was there ready to give the youngster advice on leaving the timeouts. Call it a passing of the torch, as the quartet of Commodore seniors wraps up their careers with just one NCAA Tournament win to their names.

What’s Next? Wisconsin will face Syracuse in the Sweet 16 on Thursday night. While the Orange looked excellent in advancing to the Sweet 16, the ineligibility of sophomore center Fab Melo may leave them susceptible on the inside where the Badgers interior tandem Bruesewitz and Berggren can make an impact.

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Four Tournament Thoughts: Wisconsin vs Montana

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on March 15th, 2012

The 1st (or is it 2nd?  3rd?  Whatever…) round of the NCAA tournament tipped off today, and Wisconsin was the first Big Ten team to take the court to defend the conference’s honor. The Badgers were up to the task, defeating Montana 73-49.  Here’s how it went down:

Rob Wilson and the rest of the Badgers played a complete game against Montana (photo: Washington Post)

1. Jordan Taylor played like…Jordan Taylor - The Wisconsin point guard has been making  an extra effort this year to get his teammates involved, especially his mates in the frontcourt. But against Montana, Taylor was regularly open, and looked for his own shot.  He scored 17 points, but stayed impactful in every other facet of the game, tallying 8 boards and six assists along with the most important Taylor stat of all: no turnovers. That type of performance from their point guard is exactly what can carry the Badgers deep in the NCAA Tournament.

2. Ryan Evans was a solid number two - Taylor is the unquestioned star, but Wisconsin needs other scoring options to step up, and that’s exactly what Evans was able to do. The junior forward lead the team with 18 points and also had 8 rebounds. He found his way to the rim and while Montana doesn’t exactly posses the athleticism that future opponents will have it was still good to see him comfortable on the offensive end.

3. Badger big men played BIG - Jared Berrgren, normally a scorer for Wisconsin, defended the rim like Anthony Davis against the Grizzlies, rejecting 7 shots. Overall, the Badger defense made it tough on Montana, forcing them into 38% shooting for the game. Wisconsin also finished +13 on the glass, overall a good day for the men up front.

4. Vanderbilt had their hands full with Harvard, so that means… - Not sure exactly, given how volatile the NCAA Tournament can be. But it should give the Badgers a good dose of confidence, knowing that they played some good basketball, while Vandy had some shaky moments against their opponents. Perhaps more importantly, the Badgers scored 73 points, and breaking that 70 (or even 65) plateau was something that proved difficult for the team this season in Big Ten play. March is always a good time to be playing your best basketball, and getting ready for a Bo Ryan team is not easy when you’re unfamiliar with the way Wisconsin plays.

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Rushed Reaction: #4 Wisconsin 73, #13 Montana 49

Posted by AMurawa on March 15th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Three-point barrage. Wisconsin turned to their bread-and-butter early and often on Thursday, taking advantage of a porous Montana perimeter defense to hit six of their first nine attempts from deep and ten of 19 for the game. Jordan Taylor led the way with three threes, but six different Badgers hit at least one from deep against a Griz defense that couldn’t find its groove. Montana started in a zone, but when that got exposed, they switched back to their more customary man defense – to no positive effect.
  2. Ryan Evans wake-up call. Evans set the tone in the first half for the Badgers, scoring 14 points, grabbing six boards, and hitting six of his eight shots, including a three. And he made it look easy, hitting baseline jumpers and converting post moves inside. While he cooled considerably in the second half, Evans’ first half performance was a definite pick-me-up for a Badger team that turned the ball over and struggled defensively in the opening minutes of the game.
  3. Jared Berggren beast mode. Berggren is best known as a pick-and-pop big man for Bo Ryan’s team, but on Thursday he showed off his interior defensive skills, blocking seven Montana shots, besting his previous career best by three. Given that Berggren only played 24 minutes, that works out to a blocked shot on roughly one out of every three Montana two-point field goal attempts.

Star of the Game. Ryan Evans, Wisconsin. Evans wound up with 18 points and eight boards and was the spark early for the Badgers. While Jordan Taylor was often responsible for finding those good looks for Evans (Taylor wound up with six assists), credit Evans for knocking down his open looks.

Quotable. Jared Berggren, Wisconsin on his shotblocking performance. “There were a lot of situations where I ended up picking up the ball handler, normally a smaller guard attacking the rim.  Probably could have done a better job taking away the lane lines.  I let him get to the rim a little too easy sometimes, but I was lucky enough to get a finger tip on a few of them to alter the shot.”

Sights & Sounds. The Wisconsin band is legendary, and they did not disappoint, but give credit to a Montana band who also had a few good lines in attempting to heckle Badgers players. A sample, to Evans: “The 80s want their hair back.” Evans had the last laugh though.

Wildcard. Late in the first half, Montana was still within five points and showed every sign of being able to stick around for awhile. But then, over the last three minutes of the first half and the first seven of the second half, the Badgers turned off the water for the Griz and turned the last twelve minutes of the game into a mere formality. When Wisconsin enters lockdown mode like that defensively and is hitting threes at a greater than 50% rate, they’re darn near unbeatable.

What’s Next?  The Badgers will face the winner of our next game in Albuquerque between Vanderbilt and Harvard in a game that, regardless of opponent, could be a textbook example of fundamental basketball. Depending on the outcome of the second game the Badgers will be facing a team with a vastly different amount of NCAA Tournament experience although each prior NCAA Tournament experience for the Vanderbilt players has been short-lived.

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Big Ten Tournament Preview & Season Wrap-Up

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 8th, 2012

Bill Hupp is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference.

Conference Tournament Preview

After a thrilling regular season, it’s on to Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Despite being a three-seed, Ohio State has to be considered the favorite given how well they ended the regular season. If either Michigan State or OSU wins the Big Ten Tournament, they will get strong consideration for a one-seed. Teams like Wisconsin, Indiana and Purdue can all improve their NCAA Tournament seeds with strong showings this weekend.

Northwestern is the only clear bubble team in the conference, and as such is under the most pressure to string some wins together. If the Wilcats can beat Minnesota in the first round, they’ll face a Michigan team that they only lost to twice this season, though both losses came in overtime. Two wins in the Big Ten tournament should make them a virtual lock for their first-ever tournament birth, but it’s much easier said than done with this level of competition.

A Look Back

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Big Ten Morning Five: 02.17.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on February 17th, 2012

  1. Wednesday night’s 67-62 loss to Purdue may have been the nail in the coffin as far as Bruce Weber‘s job goes at Illinois, and it only seems more so when you hear the coach address the situation. Weber sounded defeated after the game, claiming responsibility for many of the team’s shortcomings and admitting he should have done some things differently to help the Fighting Illini better succeed. “The sad thing about the whole thing — and I guess it’s my fault — is instead of creating toughness and developing a team, I coached not to lose all year,” Weber said, according to the Decatur Herald-Review. “That’s really sad.”
  2. What a difference a year makes in Bloomington. As the Indianapolis Star‘s Bob Kravitz points out, it wasn’t long ago that 20-win seasons were the norm for the Indiana basketball program. Then Kelvin Sampson happened. Tom Crean was brought in to pick up the pieces and, all of a sudden, Hoosiers fans were stuck with 20-loss seasons instead. But after going 12-20 a season ago, the Hoosiers have reached that 20-win plateau and it seems finally safe to say that basketball is back in Bloomington.
  3. When you think of great freshmen in the Big Ten, the names that quickly come to mind are Cody Zeller, Trey Burke, and Branden Dawson. But Iowa‘s Aaron White has been as good as any newcomer this season, and seems to have quite the future ahead of him with the Hawkeyes. White is averaging 10.2 PPG and a team-best 5.2 RPG and, after he was only lightly recruited out of high school, is quickly making coach Fran McCaffery look very bright for bringing him on board.
  4. Earlier this week, we took a look at the Big Ten’s four legitimate title contenders and what their remaining schedules mean for their quest for the crown. On Thursday, AnnArbor.com‘s Nick Baumgardner examined the four most important players for those contenders. And if you think the list is a no-brainer, with guys like Big Ten Player of the Year candidates Jared Sullinger and Draymond Green, think again.
  5. Michigan State‘s do-everything senior Draymond Green likes to talk a big game, but he’s also shown that he can back it up. Green is one of just a handful of front-runners for Big Ten Player of the Year,  but says he sometimes wishes he was playing in the past. “They changed the rules,” Green told the Detroit Free Press, in reference to the difference between the game now and in the ’80s. Not just all the talking, but “you could chuck somebody and get away with it. You could slam somebody and get away with it.” Right now, Green will have to settle for letting his game do most of the talking.
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Big Ten Morning Five: 02.16.12 Edition

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on February 16th, 2012

  1. Not only was Indiana‘s 71-66 win over Northwestern a good one for the Hoosiers in terms of the Big Ten race and their NCAA profile, it was an important milestone for Tom Crean. After the first couple years of Crean’s tenure  at Indiana, he had a few 20-loss seasons on his resume, that that obviously was not good enough for the Indiana faithful. But Crean’s squad has turned the corner, and now boasts a 20-win season after their victory over the Wildcats. Not only should Hoosier fans be happy about the culture being changed back to a winning one, Indian also a much-needed win over Northwestern, who they were 1-6 against in their last seven against before last night.
  2. The game between Purdue and Illinois was a turning point of sorts for both schools, as each needed a win desperately, and it was the Boilermakers who not only got the victory, but grabbed it on the road. As the Illini continue to reel, Purdue has won two in a row after losing four out of their previous five. With a record of 17-9, 7-6 in the Big Ten, Purdue could very well be dancing in March if they keep up their winning ways. Also, grabbing a win in Champaign against a team that wanted it just as bad may show that Robbie Hummel and Co. may finally be coming together at the right time.
  3. It will be a battle tonight between Michigan State and Wisconsin, which has been one of the best basketball rivalries in the conference over the last few years. What has been a battle for the Badgers this season has been making shots. Wisconsin is the second-worst shooting team in the Big Ten this season at 42%, and if they want to try and win a conference championship, that number is going to have to go up. It will start with Jordan Taylor, Ryan Evans, and their teammates making a concerted effort to try and get to the basket and find better shots. If they are able to do that, and the #1 scoring defense in the conference can continue to hold opponents to 50 PPG, Wisconsin will be tough to beat.
  4. I know that if you are reading this site, you love college basketball. I’m going to assume if you are like me, you also like free food. Well, Pat Chambers cost his fans free food when he decided to have Penn State pull back on the reins in their most recent win against Nebraska. The Nittany Lions have a promotion going that states any time the team scores over 70 points at home, all the fans in attendance will win free Big Macs from McDonald’s. By Chambers direction, his squad only scored 67 points when they could have accounted for more had they tried. Not to let mouths in Happy Valley go hungry, Chambers stepped up and served 200 free Big Macs to fans who showed up at a local Mickey D’s.
  5. After a disappointing effort at home against Michigan State, Ohio State rebounded with a nice 78-68 win over Minnesota Tuesday night. Thad Motta clearly had his team playing much better basketball, and stars like William Buford (24 points) played much better than they did against Michigan State. Motta also used his bench much more liberally than he has all season, getting many players into the game early on against the Gophers. However, fans should not expect that trend to continue, as Ohio State is going to rely on their stars to try and capture a Big Ten crown.
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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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