Here it is, the day we get every year that all Indiana fans eventually have to face. Game day versus Wisconsin. It's been well documented the Hoosiers struggles against the Badgers. Worse, it isn't even just in basketball. The football team is also completely vexed by the Badgers. It has now been 6+ years since an Indiana football or basketball team has beaten Wisconsin, the Hoosiers will be hard pressed to end that streak tonight.
This year's Wisconsin team is completely different from any other Bo Ryan team we've become used to. Yes, they still plod and are methodical in their methods, but they can also play at any tempo. They are the only team this year to win games where they've scored in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and 100s. Which is a very telling stat. All spectrums of the game are their pace and they'll beat you with anything you throw at them.
Gone are some of the streaky shooting teams of the past, this Wisky team is currently sitting at 15th in the nation in shooting and 4 in overall offense. These guys have a firepower that we've only seen from Michigan State so far this year and we all know how that went. The Badgers are also second in the nation in turnover %. They just don't make mistakes all that often.
On the flip side, their offense is ranked so highly because of their shooting and turnovers. If it wasn't for that they'd be pretty middle of the pack. They're 212th in offensive rebounding. Mainly because they sell out on the rebound to get back and set on the defensive end. That means that more than likely when a shot goes up tonight, the fast break opportunities won't be there.
That's something that the young guys are going to have to recognize or you're going to see a ton of turnovers and empty possessions as guys try to go 1 on 3. Let's hope that they've recognized this already and can make the right decisions. Like Penn State, Wisconsin doesn't force turnovers. So it's not going to be defensive pressure that causes stupid mistakes. Like always it will likely be mental.
Truly if we can get some Assembly Hall magic and good pressure from the defense, there's a great chance that Wisconsin can be forced into an offensive funk which will leave the door wide open for the Hoosiers. Opposition shooting often dries up in AH and if the fans and fat heads can provide a tough atmosphere, we could see a game like Wisconsin had against Virginia where they just couldn't hit a shot to save their lives. That's likely Indiana's best hope.
With Indiana being able to throw out a decent amount of warm bodies it should be useful as there are a bevy of threats that Indiana has to watch out for. In fact, this Wisconsin squad reminds me a ton of last year's Indiana team. They run 3 guards out there with Traevon Jackson, Ben Brust and Josh Gasser. Brust especially is a sniper in the mold of Jordan Hulls. Gasser and Jackson play the roles of Oladipo and Yogi, though much more experienced.
On the perimeter to you have the 6-7 Sam Dekker who is the engine that keeps this team running. He's out Watford comparison, but dramatically better. Dekker can shoot, he can get to the rim and he rebounds very well for an undersized 4. Probably most underrated of all of Dekker's skills is that he's a great defender that not a lot of people seem to notice. He's fantastic at avoiding fouls, but keeps very good ball pressure on the perimeter while still being able to rumble in the post.
Finally you have Frank Kaminsky who is the prototype Wisconsin big man. A three star athlete out of high school, the 7 footer received only a few minutes a game for his first two years. During that time he became a shooter that can stretch the floor, take care of the ball, block shots and protect the defensive glass. He's the type of player everyone not in Wisconsin has learned to hate.
Outside of those five only three other players get any sort of time. Freshman Nigel Hayes is the first player on the bench to give the post players a breather, but at only 6-7 that means Wisconsin has to go small. Meaning Sam Dekker is going to have to try and defend the 6-10 Noah Vonleh at times. Look for Wisconsin to front him rather than muscle him out of the lane like we saw Michigan State do.
Duje Dukan also offers some post minutes at 6-9, but he doesn't really do anything spectacular. He's a warm body that rebounds OK on the defensive end and just in general is there to provide a resistance on defense while Kaminsky and Dekker get a breather. When Dukan and Hayes come in it should be a focal point to attack them. They both foul at a pretty high rate.
Finally we have freshman Bronson Koenig. Koenig, is a guy that I've ranted about in the past. He's a guy that I think is going to be pretty special for the Badgers in the future, however at this point he's also in warm body territory. He's out there to take care of the ball and minimize mistakes. His turnover rate is currently higher than his assist rate, but it's pretty much a flush. He's probably the most susceptible to mistakes of anyone on this squad, but even that is pretty low in a very low usage rate.
In the end, this game is going to come down to mistake free basketball and contesting every WIsconsin shot. Indiana can't get lost in the non-stop cuts of the swing offense. The Bo Ryan swing was designed to lose defenders left and right and forcing teammates to over help. If that starts to happen then it's going to be a three point festival in Bloomington as Wisconsin is more than willing to let them fly at a high rate. If Indiana can take Wisconsin off their shooting game this could be a very good one. I don't expect the Hoosiers to win this, but if they do I could see a lot of people getting back on the bandwagon. The talent is there, the cohesion is still lacking. A win here, would be huge.