It has become something of a running joke in college basketball circles that Bo Ryan could take a team of any 12 players to the NCAA tournament, and that team would lose to an inferior opponent when they get there. Deep NCAA tournament runs have been non-existent during the Bo Ryan era, but don’t doubt the system in the regular season. With no true post presence, a struggling point guard, and no obvious secondary scoring threat, the Badgers are once again on the cusp of the top 10 entering conference play. This is getting old.
What they’ve done so far:
Wisconsin hasn’t quite earned their lofty #11 ranking. They started the season ranked and haven’t done anything to mess it up. They have two losses, against #5 North Carolina, and to #14 Marquette. The Marquette loss is notable only in that it was on Wisconsin’s home court. The Badgers rarely lose at home, and they may be done losing at home this season. The Badgers have wins over UNLV and Brigham Young, and were unchallenged in the rest of their games except a road game at UW-Milwaukee that they won by six.
Who to watch:
The Badgers desperately need someone to step up to score after John Leuer graduated, and so far another Minnesotan, Jared Berggren has picked up the slack and actually leads the team in scoring with 12.5 points per game. That probably won’t last. Jordan Taylor is going to remember how to shoot at some point, and even the biggest of Badger fans has to be wondering just how sustainable Berrgren’s scoring is. This season he has about twice as many points as he scored in the first two seasons in Madison, raising his points per game from 1.1 two years ago, to 2.4 last season, to 12.5 this season. He is playing 26 minutes per game this season, 20 more than last season, so the scoring was going to go up, and he is shooting 40% from the three-point line, which is good for anyone, especially for a 6’10” player. The non-conference season is a far cry from a full trip through the Big Ten, and it remains to be seen if his excellent play can continue.
What to watch:
So-called college basketball analysts, at least those who don’t know of what they speak, tend to make proclamations like “Wisconsin is the best defensive team in the country” because they generally allow opponents to score very few points. The Badgers do generally have a good defense, and don’t allow teams to score a ton of points, but they haven’t been the best defensive team in the country since 2003. They were close in 2008 when they were number two, but were thoroughly mediocre last season. They have been the slowest team though, which can create the illusion of good defense. Those know-nothing analysts are right this year though. The Badgers are allowing only .79 points per possession, and their pace of 59.1 possessions per game may actually become even more glacial in conference play. If you like high scoring basketball, look elsewhere. The big question in Madison may be how many times the basketball Badgers will score fewer than 62 points, the most scored in a game by the Badger football team. So far that has happened three times this season.
How they’ll do:
The second tier of the Big Ten (below Ohio State) is going to be an absolute mess. The Badgers have as good a chance as anyone to finish second in the conference, which should be good enough for a #4 seed or better in the NCAA tournament. They’ll get to the Sweet 16, and get booted by the first good team they play. It really is like clockwork.