Defense has always been a hallmark of Wisconsin’s formula for success. By keeping scores low and turnovers to a minimum, the Badgers are able to win games year after year. But this season, Bo Ryan’s team has struggled to defend other top teams. The problem isn’t turnovers or a lack of offense; rather, as BTN.com’s Big Ten Geeks writes, the Badgers have struggled with defensive rebounding and fouling too much. Wisconsin has done well against opponents it physically out-matches — the Badgers defeated Southeastern Louisiana, Cornell and Presbyterian by an average of 39 points each — but the team has struggled against opponents that can earn easy second-chance points. Wisconsin was out-rebounded by 18 against Florida and two against Creighton, while Florida got to the free throw line six more times than the Badgers, and Creighton got there 10 more times. Florida and Creighton are both very good teams, so losses in those games aren’t terrible for the Badgers’ postseason resume, but their defensive rebounding and fouling issues could lead to more trouble down the road.
No matter how Wisconsin defends, though, the Badgers will continue to struggle if they give teams extra possessions and frequently puts them on the line. Losing to Top 25 teams this early in the season may not matter all that much, but if this becomes a pattern, it could spell trouble for the Badgers down the road. We all know how tough the Big Ten is this year, so Wisconsin won’t have as many chances to beat up on weaker teams once it gets into league play in January. The Badgers must use the rest of the non-conference slate to prepare for the coming uptick in competition, starting with consecutive games against Virginia and California, then later, a game against Marquette. That should give us a better understanding of where this Wisconsin team is headed.