Preview: Wisconsin Comment Count

Ace February 8th, 2013 at 5:15 PM


WHAT Michigan at Wisconsin
WHERE Kohl Center, Madison, Wisconsin
WHEN Noon Eastern, Saturday
LINE Michigan –2 (Kenpom)

Right: Bo Ryan feels no remorse for ruining the game of basketball.


Michigan is playing to retake the #1 spot in the polls on Saturday, but to do so they must win at Wisconsin for the first time since 1999, when I was 12 and Y2K was a thing. Yeah, it's been a while.

Wisconsin plays the same ungodly slow tempo—dead last even in a slow conference—that you're used to seeing from Bo Ryan squads, but without the ruthless offensive efficiency of his recent teams—they're just eighth in the conference in that category, though they're holding down first in defensive efficiency.

Their highest-usage player is 6'6" forward Ryan Evans, a guy who's never been a stellar shooter but has fallen off a cliff this year, putting up a 43/9/43 2P/3P/FT split this year. That's, well, bad. On the good side, Evans is a very good rebounder, doesn't turn the ball over, and gets to the line frequently (though, again, 43% free-throw shooter).

While Evans takes more shots, the real scoring threats on Wisconsin come in the form of starting center Jared Berggren—a 55% shooter inside the arc who can step out and hit the occasional three—and freshman sensation Sam Dekker, who comes off the bench and hits 51% of his twos and 41% of his threes. Berggren is also a force on the defensive end, while Dekker is easily the most talented player on the team.

6'1" guard Ben Brust provides most of the volume for Wisconsin's outside shooting—he's attempted 123 three-pointers this year, nearly double any other Badger, and is hitting them at a 39% clip. He's also a surprisingly good defensive rebounder and one of two main distrubutors for the Badgers on offense. The other is 6'2" guard Traevon Jackson, who is struggling: a 52:43 assist-to-turnover ratio isn't so good, and neither is shooting 39% from two and 28% from three.

Rounding out the starting five is 6'6" forward Mike Bruesewitz, extremely low-usage player and bane of copy editors everywhere. He shoots a remarkably efficient 66% inside the arc—again, in very low, often garbage-bucket usage—and a less stellar 30% from outside. 

Wisconsin only goes seven or eight deep. Aside from Dekker, 5'11" guard George Marshall gets the most PT off the bench—he takes cares of the basketball and is a solid outside shooter. 6'11" big man Frank Kaminsky should see a few minutes—he's the best outside shooter among Wisconsin's bigs, but also a major downgrade on the boards.


Wisconsin currently stands at 16-7 overall, 7-3 in the Big Ten, with a signature road win at Indiana and KP100 victories over Minnesota, Illinois (twice), Iowa, Cal, and Arkansas. Aside from the Indiana game, however, they've struggled against top-tier opponents, and that includes losses at the Kohl Center against #23 Virginia and #15 Michigan State. 


Four factors, conference only.

  eFG% Turnover % Off. Reb. % FTA/FGA
Offense 45.5 (8) 15.1 (2) 31.1 (7) 31.4 (6)
Defense 42.7 (1) 16.4 (10) 27.6 (1) 27.6 (5)

The numbers paint a pretty clear picture here. Wisconsin is a mediocre (at best, really) offensive team, but their issues are mitigated somewhat by never turning the ball over. On the other side of the court, they're a shutdown unit, allowing the fewest attempted threes and the lowest three-point percentage in the conference while also ceding just a 43.5 2P% against. Like Michigan, they don't force many turnovers but are extremely proficient at keeping opponents from getting second-chance shots.


LONG TWOS ARE THE DEVIL'S WORK. Wisconsin is going to try to grind the game out, force Michigan into late shot-clock situations, and limit them to one shot per possession. Given Wisconsin's ability to rebound defensively, Michigan is going to have to make sure their initial shot is a quality one—chuck up a bad one, and you're probably not getting another chance. This would be a bad game for Trey Burke heroball, especially given the extremely limited number of possession there should be in this game.

Let Evans do his thing. Hack if necessary. Wisconsin is a pretty crappy offensive team in large part because their highest-usage player is doing a pretty terrible job of efficiently getting the ball in the basket. If Ryan Evans wants to play his own game of heroball, by all means, go for it. It helps that if he beats his man, hacking him puts a 43% shooter on the free-throw line. Michigan would much, much prefer Evans is the focal point for Wisconsin instead of Dekker or Berggren. 

Work the pick and roll. Wisconsin doesn't give up many looks from outside at all, so Michigan has to find a way to get to the basket. The P&R was much-improved against Ohio State and appears back to being rather unstoppable; in this game, it has both the benefit of getting guys to the hoop and hopefully drawing Berggren—a great shot-blocker—away from the paint.


Michigan by 2

Wisconsin's defense is scary, especially since they rarely cede the outside shot. However, they really don't have much going on offense, and Michigan has... Michigan's offense. This game will almost certainly take years off your life, but I think the good guys pull it out in the end.


UMHoops preview. Maize & Brew preview. I did a preview Q&A with MadTown Badgers, as well (yes, there's some confusion there as to where I work, but I'm a big fan of MnB too). You can find my answers to their questions here, and below the jump, check out what Andy Coppens has to say about Wisconsin's chances.


MGOBLOG: Serious Question: Do you enjoy watching Wisconsin play basketball? How is this possible?

MADTOWN: I may even be in the minority of Badger fans in this one, but yes I do enjoy watching Wisconsin basketball. See, I grew up in Green Bay and as a formative youth that meant getting to watch Wisconsin-Green Bay under Dick Bennett and his son Tony Bennett (now the UVa head coach). It also meant an education in fundamental and defensive basketball from an early age. So, personally I see the beauty in playing the game the way Bo Ryan does. Now, the one thing I will say that is negative is that there has been a lack of athletic players to enhance the system and that does frustrate me. If you look at the GB teams of the early to mid-90's they were athletic enough to play the swing offense and make things happen if need be - this team isn't.

Although it appears that George Marshall and Sam Dekker are poised to change that a bit and that can only be a positive in my book. I guess I just don't get everyone's obsession with running the ball up and down the court and thinking that's good basketball. I respect a team like Indiana who can do that, but also makes it because they play solid on the defensive end (last year apart of course). To each there own, but give me a team that can beat you with their defense alone and I'll show you a team that's built to win and win a lot consistently. 

MGOBLOG: What in the world happened to Ryan Evans?

MADTOWN: Ahh, cue the Red Hot Chili Peppers, huh? Seriously, it's been like riding a damn roller coaster with him. All I have to say is look out if Evans is scoring in double figures - we've only lost once all year when that's happened. Scary thought right? As for what's happened to Evans this year… Well, I think a lot of it is mental and by that I mean I think he let his success last season get to his head and he's been trying to do too much for this team when he doesn't need to. He's most effective if he's not dribbling and trying to hit a pull up jumper or trying to take someone from the top of the key - and he's tried both far too often this year. Oh, and could you guys see fit to not foul the guy, like ever on Saturday? We'd all like to not gouge our eyes out, thanks!

MGOBLOG: Where would you rank Sam Dekker among Big Ten freshmen this year?

MADTOWN: You know, that's a really tough question simply because of the lack of a leash that Bo Ryan gives any freshman. He's averaging 8.7ppg and shooting 42% from deep, not too shabby. 

I will say this - the fact that Dekker is the first man off the bench usually is a sign of just how good Bo thinks he can be and how much of a difference maker he is. If he's on just about any other team in the Big Ten he's starting. As for ranking him, I'd say he's probably about the 5th or 6th best in the conference behind the likes of Stauskas, Robinson, Garry Harris, Yogi Ferrell, and McGary - but you could make the argument he'd have even better numbers if he's playing for a different coach with a different philosophy on freshman. I don't think there's any denying he's going to be star in this league and sooner than later at that. 

MGOBLOG: Where do you think Wisconsin has a chance to exploit a perceived Michigan weakness? 

MADTOWN: Looking at this game you have to like the fact that Wisconsin doesn't give their opponents much of a chance to capitalize on mistakes as they don't turn the ball over much and they are one of the best transition teams on the defensive end of things too. However, for me the one thing that has the red light going off in a good way is the horrible 3pt defense that Michigan has put out on the court this season. 

Wisconsin jacks up a ton of three's and while they aren't all going down the way we may all like them to (34%) - they are going up against the team that allows the 2nd most attempted 3 pointers against them in the conference. If UW hits 38 or 40% instead and can play even marginally solid defense against your athletic group that's trouble for UofM. 

MGOBLOG: On the flip side, what's your biggest worry when it comes to Wisconsin's ability to slow down Michigan? 

MADTOWN: As for the flip side of all of this, I sort of already mentioned it in the fact that you guys are pretty damn athletic and can do a great job of slashing to the basket. Lately the Badgers bigs and to an extent their point guards have had trouble staying out of foul trouble. That worries me because this isn't a very deep team - going 7 or 8 deep at most in Big Ten play. Not only that but the matchup of Ryan Evans vs. Glenn Robinson III has trouble written all over it on the defensive end of the floor for Evans. He isn't the best at guarding a slashing kind of player and that's what Robinson can be at times.

MGOBLOG: Prediction. Go.

MADTOWN: Well, I like you took a ton of crap for picking Wisconsin to beat Indiana, but numbers and trends don't lie. Same thing in this one for me. You may have the better athletes and you may be able to pick yourselves up out of a hole better than the Badgers, but there's only been one team all season that has really dictated the tempo on Wisconsin and I don't see Michigan doing that at the Kohl Center. Make it 14 years without a W for the UofM on this one - Badgers 65, Michigan 59 in a tight one that comes down to free throws and somehow UW steps up to the plate for once.


Sac Fly

February 8th, 2013 at 5:19 PM ^

I hate everything about Badger sports. Football and basketball are stuck in the 1960's, the hockey program is an NHL factory and they still can't win games.


February 8th, 2013 at 5:26 PM ^

This is going to be like being at the dentist while people in the room taunt you for needing your teeth cleaned in the first place.   I don't know if people around the country understand what it takes to win at Wisconsin, but I will appreciate the hell out of any victory that Michigan can walk away with tomorrow. 


February 8th, 2013 at 5:59 PM ^

This guy does realize that Wisconsin is shooting 57% from the line in conference play, right? Wishful thinking is fun!

Edit: Sorry, 59 percent!


February 9th, 2013 at 9:49 AM ^

Wisconsin fouls relentlessly at home, just like Purdue to the point the refs just stop calling it. We need to do the same and adjust to that fact. We can't play our normal clean ball with this team.

Naked Bootlegger

February 8th, 2013 at 6:00 PM ^

My undergrad UW students bought me a Wisconsin shirt at the end of a semester when I was a TA at UW since I would always come to class in my Michigan garb.  That was back in the Amaker years, though, so I took a lot of heat during the hoops season.   I still have the Wisconsin shirt and will wear it during workouts at the Shell (to better assimilate with the masses and not get harrassed).

Phil Brickma

February 8th, 2013 at 5:55 PM ^

I'm having a hard time reading this because I can't get past that picture of Bo Ryan. It is terrifying. It's like he is taking a deep breath and stealing children's souls. And the souls fuel his lust for ginger big men. This is proof there is pure evil in the world.

Naked Bootlegger

February 8th, 2013 at 5:56 PM ^

Wisconsin has had some great B1G point guards in recent years.    Not this year.   I don't see anyone on Bucky's roster being able to check Trey effectively.    On the flip side, Bo Ryan's teams always play good *team* defense.   Sigh.   I'm hoping Trey dribble penetration and kick outs to Stauskas, Hardaway, and GRIII are effective tomorrow.  

A 10 point deficit equals a 16 point deficit against a non-Wisconsin opponent, so we can't afford to get down early. 

Also, Mitch McGary will get 5 steals. 

Michigan wins 64-55 and seals another #1 ranking.


February 8th, 2013 at 8:17 PM ^

having to play Michigan & Indiana only once each.

Despite incurring a bad loss*/service break at Iowa and dropping a home game vs MSU, UW is only one game behind in the B1G and has as favorable of a remaining schedule as anyone.

2012-13 Big Ten STANDINGS

#3 Michigan 8-2 -- 21-2 MSU,IU UW,MSU
#1 Indiana 8-2 -- 20-3 OSU OSU,MSU,MN,UM
#12 Michigan State 8-2 -- 19-4 UM,IU,UW OSU,UM
#10 Ohio State 7-3 1 17-5 IU,MSU UW,IU
Wisconsin 7-3 1 16-7 UM,OSU MN,MSU


*A bad loss in the B1G title chase.  Certainly not a bad loss otherwise.

snarling wolverine

February 8th, 2013 at 6:24 PM ^

In fairness to Bo Ryan, it was actually Dick Bennett who started the brutally-slow brand of basketball over there.  He was the coach when they and Sparty played that horrible Final Four game in 2000.

Ryan has, however, continued his predecessor's boring legacy quite well.



February 8th, 2013 at 7:13 PM ^


Wisky guy seems to think our 3P defense is bad because people take a lot of 3s against us as he mentioned that in both articles. Kenpom has certainly been talking up the idea that minimizing 3P attempts is more important defensively than the % your opponents take. The stats also back up the idea that people take a lot of 3s on us as Kenpom has us with the highest 3PA/FGA ratio in the B1G. 

But if you actually look at individual games we have had a lot of 3s jacked up against us by teams that were losing by large margins like NW (x2), Purdue, Iowa and Illinois. I mean NW took almost half of their shots from 3 in the first game but it was because they were behind by 20 points 10 minutes into the game. The games that were more competitive were generally the ones where teams took fewer 3P shots. It seems like he may be looking a stat and concluding that our defense is poor when people take a lot of 3s when it may just be people jacking up a ton of 3s because they are down 15 or 20 points rather than because they are good shots. We aren't a great defensive team by any means but I don't think that our perimeter D is clearly weaker than our interior D which is what I read his comments to be saying.

Blue boy johnson

February 8th, 2013 at 7:44 PM ^

I don't like the excessively slow tempo played by Wisconsin, but I can't hate on them too much. Because of that damn show "the journey", I am starting to like every team in the BIG. Damn the Big Ten Network for exposing me to likeable people on other campuses. Unfortunately that damn show even has me admiring Thad Matta.


Avant's Hands

February 8th, 2013 at 7:43 PM ^

One thing we have to be prepared for is that there is going to be one Badger that has his game of the year against us. It seems to happen every game at this point. I feel like McGary's ability to rebound is going to be a major pivot in this game.


February 8th, 2013 at 11:15 PM ^

I understand the notion of Bruesewitz being low usage but for those not familiar with 'Scansin basketball, be prepared to be annoyed with him tomorrow. He's a pretty good basketball player and does a lot of nitty gritty things on the floor. Plus as mentioned in the write-up, he can score and does it pretty well when he does. Think of him almost as a Zach Novak-type player but from the viewpoint of an opposing fan!


February 8th, 2013 at 9:33 PM ^

Coach Beilein said something about losing "1000-something" if we played the zone all game but I think that's exactly what we need in this game. Yes, we'll give up some easy baskets but the wisky offense is very mediocre and the zone will force the game into a tempo more suitable for us. If this game does not get into the 60's I don't think we win. With the zone I think we could win going away (for the record I prefer the man-to-man D but not against Wisky).


February 9th, 2013 at 1:12 AM ^

In the spirit of Deadspin's Drew Magary vis-a-vis Mr. Easterbrook, would it be appropriate to refer to Wisky's best big man as Berggggggren?  I would certainly approve.


February 9th, 2013 at 1:29 AM ^

This will be a pit fight, very physical game we can look forward too. Michigan can get aggressive defensively with their beloved man coverage and hope for the occasional turnover. On offense the Wolverines must improve their rebounding, and the only way to get better at something is to compete against someone who is better than you. Even a painful loss could be a good learning experience for the team.

Wisconsin 66 - Michigan 65