Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Game Preview: Gophers vs. Badgers

Life has changed quite a bit for the Badgers since the Gophers waxed that ass.  If you recall the Badgers started the season 16-0, and with wins over St. Louis, St. John's, Florida, Virginia, Marquette, and Iowa were looking like a dominant force.  Since then, however, the Badgers have gone just 3-5 and in doing so have shown their major weakness:  defense.  Seems strange to say that about a Wisconsin team, and the numbers (44th overall in defensive efficiency) look merely like a down year for a Bo Ryan team and not a disaster, but if you focus on conference play only they rank 6th in the Big Ten.  A Wisconsin team just the 6th best defensive team in the Big Ten?  Strange, but true.

Now most of what I wrote in the preview for the last game still stands, but since then Big Ten guards have really exposed that defense.  Yogi Ferrell scored 25, Caris Levert went off for 20, Dre Mathieu had 18, and Drew Crawford 30.  Rayvonte Rice had 24 when they beat the Illini and Keith Appling was out with an injury in Wisconsin's big win over Michigan State.  Driving guards can have huge success against the Badgers, so it will be key that both Dres drive the lane as much as possible, both in the halfcourt as well as whenever transition opportunities arise. Of course we also can't forget that the Badgers don't really have much of an interior defensive presence, a big reason why driving the lane works so well, and Mo Walker destroyed them last game so that should be a focal point as well.  The points will be there, if the Gophers take them.

And they'll need to score plenty, because Wisconsin is still an offensive machine, and a decent sized part of why the Gophers beat the Badgers last time was Wisconsin missed a ton of open shots, hitting just 5-20 from 3.  Given that they shoot a robust 37% on the season, it's doubtful the Gophers will get that lucky again.  The Badgers aren't just good at shooting threes, they also take a ton of them (40% of attempts, 43rd in NCAA), and nearly everybody can make them.  Of their top 8 minutes guys only Nigel Hayes doesn't shoot it, with the other 7 guys all having attempted at least 30 three-pointers this season.  They have five guys with 50+ attempts (Gophers have 3, for reference) and they all shoot well.  Dekker hits 33%, Brust and Traveon Jackson both 38%, Gasser 43% and Kaminsky 41%.  The Badgers have cooled down since conference play started, hitting just 34%, but they're still scary.

I suppose I could try to write more but there isn't really much of a point.  The Gophers flat out aren't going to be able to stop Wisconsin, and the Badgers shouldn't be able to stop Minnesota either.  One team will grab a couple extra loose balls, one team will make an extra stop, or one team will miss a few open shots the other doesn't.  It's going to be a close one, but Kohl gives a little extra edge to Stupidsconsin.

Badgers 78, Gophers 76

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