I suppose I should put something down on electronic paper for this Badger game thing that's either Saturday or Sunday, but I must confess, despite my coming back from a rage cloud of shame I'm still not really feeling the writing, you know? It's pretty simple - the Gophers are the more talented team, Bo Ryan the better coach, and the Badgers have home court. Advantage: Wisconsin. This is the Gophers big chance to reassert that they're no joke and the Northwestern game was an aberration. Of course, the Kohl Center is probably one of the worst places to try to do this.
Two things stand out to me about the Badger offense: 1) they generally dump the ball in to one of the big guys who wait for a double team and then kick it out to a shooter or Mike Bruesewitz to chuck up a three and 2) it's the same offense as every year - no matter who the personnel is the offense never changes, I guess to Bo Ryan's credit since he has success almost every year and simply has an eye for recruiting kids who fit what he likes to do, whether they're on the national radar or not.
Breaking this down further, the biggest issue I see for Wisconsin on offense this year is that they've gone from Devin Harris to Kammron Taylor to Trevon Hughes to Jordan Taylor to Ben Brust and Traevon Jackson. Brust, simply put, is not a true point guard and at this point in his career Jackson simply isn't a very good player. For a team that generally relies on it's point guard to run the offense as heavily as Wisconsin has in the past this is bad news. When the Badgers' best players have been non-guards in the past they've been able to make it work pretty well, but that's when they had guys like Alando Tucker and Brian Butch to run the offense through. With Sam Dekker not quite ready for that load as a freshman their main offensive conduit, and thanks to poor shooting (including 10% from 3 and 39% from the free throw line) he's actually one of their least efficient players.
Their other issue is they continue to be reliant on the 3-point shot (39% of their attempts come from behind the line, 52nd most in the country) but are hitting only 35% this year, which is still above the national average but is the Badgers lowest percentage since 2006. The shooting woes also carry over to the free throw line, where Wisconsin is making merely 61% of their shots, their worst going back beyond 2003 (which is where it takes too much work to keep finding their FT% so I stopped). In my opinion they're still running the same offense and running it just as effectively (once again, they never ever ever turn the ball over), however this year they just don't have the personnel to do it as effectively and that's why, despite the impressive win @Indiana, this just isn't nearly as dangerous a Badger team as we're accustomed to seeing.
They're still a very solid defensive team, and are still a team that rebounds well and takes care of the basketball. The Gophers won't turn them over, but will likely turn it over at least 15 times themselves. Minnesota's saving grace much of the year has been their incredible ability to get offensive rebounds, but Wisconsin is a better rebounding team on both ends than most and this will likely be the biggest key to the game. Unfortunately, I can't shake the feeling that we're off the rails here. I think the poor play in the second half of the Northwestern game, and specifically the poor coaching, is something that needed to be addressed and fixed, but listening to Tubby's post game comments and his laying the blame on his players makes me think they're much less likely to respond with an outstanding effort. Calling out your team is one thing, but singly out individual players to the media is no way to make things work. Blaming your players instead of coaching them rarely works. I guess what I'm saying is that it's over. Enjoy limping to a 7 seed and getting bounced in the first round.
Wisconsin 65, Minnesota 55.