|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.
THE SECTION WHERE I PREDICT THE SAME THING KENPOM DOES
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.
[HIT THE JUMP, yo]
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.