Wednesday, March 20, 2013

March Madness Preview: Wisconsin Badgers

Don’t let anyone convince you the NCAA tournament selection committee lacks a sense of humor. After two(more) statement wins against top 10 teams Michigan and Indiana and falling just short against a third top ten win against Ohio State in the Big Ten title game the Badgers earned a 5 seed in the West Region of the 2013 NCAA tournament. The Badgers will play Ole Miss at 11:40am on Friday March 22. Should they win, a potential 2nd round (technically 3rd round I guess, thanks NCAA marketing geniuses) matchup with Kansa State would mark the third time in six season the Badgers would play Kansas St in their second game of the tournament, although this time as a pseudo home game for K State in Kansas City.

As a preview for what’s to come, the following breakdown will focus on what each player can do best to help the team win (Popeye’s spinach) and what aspect may trip them up (Achilles heel)


Jared Berggren
– Controlling the paint. Jared is a big part of the Badgers championship caliber defense. The school record holder in blocks, his ability to block and affect shots forces opposing teams to frequently settle for jump shots

– Foul trouble. A result of challenging nearly every shot in the paint, Bergs has a tendency to pick up fouls in quick succession and find time on the bench. Although Frank Kaminsky has been effective off the bench, he is not nearly the post defender Berggren is.

Ryan Evans
– Mid range jump shot. Evans mid-range jumper is so effective he now shoots them as free throws(only half joking). A certain QB playing in Green Bay would appreciate Evans game.

– Doing too much. Badgers have run into prolonged offensive droughts. As a senior Evans has shown the willingness to shoot the team out of their slump which occasionally leads to forced shots out of his comfort zone.

Mike Bruesewitz
– Hustle. Cliché? Yeah, but there’s a reason that moniker has stuck. Bruiser has made his reputation on snagging offensive rebounds and diving for loose balls. Although his hair style is probably a close second.
– Foul trouble. Similar to Berggren challenging shots, Bruesewitz will challenge opponents on the defensive end. He’s always a couple of block vs. charge calls away from being in trouble.

Ben Brust

– Scoring. Brust is the prototypical streaky shooter. When he’s on, he can hit from anywhere . Lately Brust has added a nice component to his game in curling around high screens and attacking the hoop.


– Lengthy defenders. At 6-1 Brust is on the smaller side for shooting guards. Against teams with taller, longer guards (Florida, Michigan State, Ohio State) Brust has struggled at times to find space getting off his shot. 

Traevon Jackson

– Big shot. Trae has shown he knack for taking and making game winning/tying shots. No team makes a deep run into the NCAA tournament without winning a close game; Jackson gives the Badgers a proven go to option at the end of games.

– Focus. Once or twice a game Jackson seems to throw a lazy pass across the top of the key and/or dribbles with no real purpose resulting in a turnover. Jackson must improve focus on ball security throughout the game.


Sam Dekker

– Instant offense. As evident during his 7 points in 1 minute against Indiana in the Big Ten tournament semifinal game, Dekker has the potential to explode on offense and score in a variety of ways. His outside shot has struggled lately(3-17 over last 5 games) but Dekker has still attacked  the rim attempting the most free throws on the team over the same stretch.

– Defense. Still adjusting to contribute Big Ten caliper defense, Dekker still has lapses defending ball screens and rotating on help defense. This probably cost Dekker 6th man of the year honors in the Big Ten.

George Marshall

– 3 point shooting. Marshall is 3rd on the team in 3pt shooting percentage. Rest assured his quick trigger off the bench will be needed at some point during the tournament if the Badgers hope to advance into the later rounds.

– Defense. As is the case for Dekker, Marshall’s D has not been as good as the starters.

 Frank Kaminsky

– Depth. Having a healthy Frank Kaminsky changes the Badgers significantly. He provides added front court depth should Berg, Bruiser or Evans experience foul trouble. It’s no surprise the Badgers had a mini slump mid-season (L @ Iowa, L v. Mich St. and L @ Ohio St.) when Frank was out with an eye injury.

– Defense. See Dekker and Marshall.

Bench Mob

– Unless freshman Zak Showalter gets some late game PT and throws down one of the put back offense rebound dunks he’s become known for in practice, the Bench Mob (lead by seniors Dan Fahey and JD Wise) will have to practice insane reactions/stay back after things like this.

Prediction time

Bo Ryan has made the NCAA tournament in each of the twelve seasons as head coach of the Badgers. In the previous 11 he has failed to make it out of the first round only once (in 2006 the #9 Badgers lost to #8 Arizona). Although Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson (20.0 points per game) fits the mold of taller, athletic guards  who have given the Badgers trouble this year (particularly DJ Newbill and Jermaine Marshall of Penn State) as well as historically in the NCAA tournament (Stephan Curry/Davidson in 2008) I expect the Badgers will hold Henderson to one of his lower outputs of the season. Badgers rank 11th in the country in 3-point field goal defense and their proven ability to contest all of Henderson’s shots will be the difference in this game.

A potential 2nd round match-up against Kansas State led by familiar face Bruce Weber former coach at Illinois. Bo Ryan owns a 12-9 record against Weber dating back to Weber’s time as head coach in Illinois. Angel Rodriguez and Rodney McGruder are the type of slashing guards that could give the Badgers trouble. However the Wildcats don’t really have anyone capable of handling Ryan Evans in the post, who has done a fine job lately determining when to take bigger, slower defenders off the dribble and posting up against smaller, slighter defenders.

Do not be fooled though, this Badger team has shown a penchant for long scoring droughts this season and has had to be bailed out by championship level defense. Deficiencies of this nature often reappear in the tournament when the stakes are higher. Wisconsin must be careful to avoid offensive deficient stretches to prevent an early departure.

Best Case Scenario - Riding the momentum of the Big Ten tournament, Wisconsin advances to their third consecutive Sweet Sixteen and sneak past an overrated Gonzaga team before bowing out to Ohio State in the regional final.

Worst Case Scenario – hot shooting Marshall Henderson pushes Wisconsin to the brink in round one, but the Badgers prevail on a last second shot. In round two Angel Rodriguez and Rodney McGruder run roughshod and cold shooting sends the Badgers back to Madison

The Badgers have already demonstrated their love of dancing this season, here’s hoping it continues to April.


Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

Neal Olson (

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