||Michigan vs Wisconsin
||2:30 PM Eastern
Ah, Wisconsin. Tempo-clubbing, basketball-imploding, infuriating-non-call-generating, desperation-three-point-chuck-heaving, Kenpom-enthralling Wisconsin. How your presence enfouls all that is good about Big Ten basketball this year. Chernobyl: the basketball team. And so forth.
The Badgers' calling card is defense, and how, but we'll discuss their abilities in that department in the Tempo Free section. On offense, they've got one of the most bizarre breakdowns I've seen in many years of clicking refresh on Kenpom. Senior power forward Ryan Evans is Wisconsin's highest-usage and lowest-efficiency player. As statistical anomalies go, that's pretty amazing. Evans absorbs 26% of Wisconsin shots despite shooting 42% from the floor; he also shoots 42% from the line. He gets to the line rather frequently, but since that's to Wisconsin's detriment it's not a particularly good representation of his game, which is midrange jumper after midrange jumper. He is an excellent rebounder and, like almost everyone on Wisconsin, turns the ball over rarely.
Three players provide what offensive firepower the Badgers have, most prominently center Jared Berggren. Berggren is yet another 6'10" upperclassman who has three-point range and can beast you on the inside. Berggren is more beast and less sniper than, say, John Leuer; they all come from the same mold. Berggren rebounds at both ends, blocks shots without fouling, and has an incredibly low TORate for a guy his size. The main flaw in his game is 25% shooting on 75 threes. He's terribly underrated.
You probably know Ben Brust, a perimeter-oriented shooting guard hitting 40% from three. He is much less effective inside the line (48%; very rare trips to the line), and Michigan should close him out ferociously.
The third offensive cogs doesn't even start: freshman Sam Dekker. He's getting barely over half of Wisconsin's minutes despite shooting 55%/43% on quality usage. He's not the rebounder Evans is and isn't the defender; he's a much, much better offensive option.
Point guard Traevon Jackson is a high-turnover player who shoots 41%/30%. Michigan might well encourage him to shoot; Mike Bruesewitz tells you all you need to know about him with his last name. He's there to D up, rebound, and put up a small number of high quality looks. Like Berggren, he takes threes when they present themselves despite hitting well under 30%.
Wisconsin had a weird finish to their season after that prayer by Brust. They lost in OT at Minnesota the next night, had consecutive whompings of Ohio State(!), Northwestern, and Nebraska, and then finished the year on a depressing slide. They lost to Purdue by 13 at home and at Michigan State by 15 in a game in which they put up a measly 43.
They finished the year with another desperation three, this one at Penn State. While Michigan had their own, worse struggles at Penn State, that ain't good. The Badgers finished the Big Ten season with the same 12-6 record Michigan did and won the tiebreaker for the fourth spot thanks to the Brust prayer and Michigan's lack of a return game.
Four factors, now conference-only (small sample, yes, but numbers are equally skewed by various cupcakes on the non-conference schedule):
||Off. Reb. %
The Badgers are a funhouse mirror version of Michigan. Both teams take care of the ball, force very few turnovers, never get to the line, and never put their opponents on the line.
The distortions come in defensive rebounding—Wisconsin is great and Michigan progressively worse—and eFG% at both ends of the floor. On offense Michigan is great, with Wisconsin scraping out a middling existence. On defense Wisconsin is great, with Michigan scraping out a less-than-middling existence.
Run two guys off the line only. Preventing three pointers is a skill that Wisconsin has and Michigan should try to emulate. Dekker and Brust should be closed down with extreme predjudice; everyone else you can chill on save backup PG George Marshall.
Get handsy on D. If you're putting Wisconsin on the line that's only a slight downgrade in expectation, one that should be offset by an increased ability to get those stop things. Obviously, Evans is the main issue for the Badgers here.
For pants sake don't hedge the pick and roll hard. Look man, if Traevon Jackson wants to pull up, let him pull up. Don't unbalance your defense and invite Jared Berggren to beast on Trey Burke. Just go under the damn screen. This will not happen.
Brust P&R is another matter, but even then Michigan has to stop pointlessly getting its big well outside the three-point line, whereupon disaster occurs.
Make your midrange jumpers. Wisconsin's defense is so good because they get away with subtle murder. Refs don't want the bad man to yell at them. But also they cut off good shots. Hoop Math shows that nearly half of shots Wisconsin faces are two point jumpers, AKA The Devil's shot. Points per shot on the three categories:
- RIM: 1.1
- TWOS: 0.7
- THREES: 0.9
Michigan got off more threes than Wisconsin usually allows in the first game. They hit only five of 18.
I don't have much hope that Michigan is going to break Wisconsin tendencies here, so the answer is Hardaway and Burke making their pull-ups. Pull-ups suck, but you can't get a blocking call on Wisconsin to save your life and Burke's floater is deadly. In the last game, Wisconsin continually sagged off Burke on the pick and roll; Burke hit 6 of 13 twos. That was almost good enough.
This is a terrible matchup for Stauskas, who may be Not Just A Shooter™ but has very little midrange game. In the first game he had five points on seven shots.
McGary: fight Berggren to a standstill on the boards. Self explanatory.
Do something, GRIII. Ditto.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
Michigan by 1.