Monday, December 27, 2010

Game Preview: Minnesota Gophers vs. Wisconsin Badgers

You pretty much know what to expect out the Wisconsin Badgers, the Minnesota Gophers opening Big Te opponent, every year:  a slow pace, a lot of white guys, an efficient offense that takes care of the basketball, a stifling man-to-man defense, and a great rebounding team.  This year is no different:
  1. Pace:  344th nationally (out of 345)
  2. Offensive efficiency:  11th
  3. Defensive efficiency:  31st
  4. Offensive rebounding percentage:  13th
  5. Defensive rebounding percentage:  33rd
  6. Turnover percentage:  3rd
  7. White guys in the starting lineup:  4
So you're not going to see anything we haven't seen year-after-year from Bo and his stupid Badgers in terms of how they operate.  The biggest difference this year is that instead of having a pretty solid all-around team with balanced scoring, they pretty clearly have two guys that are going to dictate how well this team plays.  And joy of all joys, they're both from Minnesota:  Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor.

The two traitors have scored 49% of Wisconsin's points this year, are the team's top two scorers by a wide margin (Leuer - 19.8 ppg, Taylor - 15.4, next guy is Keaton Nankivil at 7.6), and rank #1 and #3 in both rebounding and assists, with each the leader of one.  They're also #1 and #2 in steals, Leuer leads in blocked shots, and they have made the most three-pointers on the team while shooting very high percentages (Leuer = 50%, Taylor 41%).  They really do everything, and they do it well.  Leuer has the kind of inside/ouside game that Ralph wishes he had, but adds in some legit toughness in the paint, while Taylor is tough to guard off the bounce, but can also play the role of catch-and-shoot jump shooter if needed.  If it was just one-on-one matchups I think Al Nolen could handle Taylor and a combo of Ralph and Trevor Mbakwe could check Leuer, but it's not, and that's the problem.

Wisconsin may have two main scorers, but the rest of the guys play solid roles and play them very well.  The Badgers never, ever turn the ball over (average just 9 per game and are third best in the country percentage-wise).  Which means they play that slow, deliberate pace and style and are very patient, waiting until they get an open look without making many bad decisions.  They are also very good shooters when they do get those looks, hitting 38.2% from three (56th in the country) and 50.5% from two (75th). 

Leuer and Taylor shoot high percentages, as I mentioned earlier, but they aren't the only ones who can shoot.  The other gangly white big guys - Nankivil, Jared Berggren, and Mike Bruesewitz - are mostly there to grab rebounds and clog up the lane, but all three hit at least 42% from three when they shoot them.  Meaning Gopher big men are going to be pulled out of the lane by Wisconsin's motion offense, which will help open up the middle for Taylor to drive and Leuer to operate. 

So, to sum up, Wisconsin won't turn the ball over, and won't take bad shots.  They shoot the ball very well as a team, so the Gophers - whose weakness this year has been guarding the perimeter - are going to have to go all out to stop them.  Which will then open up the middle for Wisconsin's best players to do their thing.  And, at the same time, the Gophers play against a defense that is very good at forcing opponents to take bad shots rather than forcing turnovers.  Expect a lot of the "passing the ball around the perimeter until there are 10 seconds left on the shot clock and then giving it to a guard to force up a shot" offense. 

I know Tubby owns Bo and this team has won in the Kohl Center before, but I'm having trouble seeing any way this one isn't a blowout.

Wisconsin 72, Minnesota 55.


rencito said...

I predicted nearly an identical result: Badgers 70 Minnesota 50. Unless the Gophers suddenly start playing defense with some intensity and create some turnovers, which we know the Badgers don't do, this could get ugly.

PickEm said...

Gophers by 6 and Williams is your player of the game.