Before every Big Ten game, we try to track down someone who knows a bit more than we can figure out from perusing statistics and box score. Andy from Madtown Badgers graciously agreed to answer a few questions prior to Richard Pitino’s first real rivalry game.
FTB: Who are the new faces on the Badger roster, and what should we know about them?
MTB: Wisconsin doesn’t play with a ton of new guys on the roster this season, despite losing three front-court players off last year’s NCAA tourney team. There are two new names to watch out for in forward Nigel Hayes and guard Bronson Koenig. Both have gone through some injury/health issues this past week and its unknown how much, if any, either of them will play.
Hayes has been a force down low on offense and has great range to about 18 feet. He’s perhaps the most “ready” freshman Wisconsin has seen down low under Ryan. Koenig is a steady ball handler and will not make many mental mistakes. He’s perhaps the most confident and flashy of the guards UW play as well.
FTB: The Badgers have lost two straight games after starting 16-0. I’ll ignore the obvious opportunity to ask how motivated the team will be to avoid going 3-0. However, I will ask what you think might be going on. Did something fundamentally change over the last two games? Have Badger opponents suddenly figured out how to beat them? Were these two losses just flukes?
MTB: Well, I think the answer is two-fold. Part of me believes some of the team bought into the No. 3 ranking and the 16-0 hype. On the other hand it wasn’t well-publicized until right before the Michigan game, but the flu has been going around the team for the last week. It certainly explains the sudden lethargic effort we’ve seen on the defensive end of the floor.
Realistically, those two games were more of the fluke variety than anything else. Indiana was a case of a team finally getting a win after 12 losses in a row to UW and Michigan was just simply on fire. At one point it was shooting over 80 percent from the floor. I don’t care if you are playing amazing or poor defense, it doesn’t matter if the other team is making that many shots. UW was shooting over 55 percent itself and was down double digits in the 1st half if that tells you anything.
FTB: Frank Kaminsky has gone from a little used over-sized jump shooter last season to a force, inside and out, this season. How?
MTB: Great question there, not sure how this version of Kaminsky came along. We didn’t see it during the trip to Canada this offseason either, so perhaps it was between that trip and the season where the light bulb went off for him. More than anything I simply think he found the chemistry and confidence from his teammates. Kaminsky has always been a good shot blocker, but he’s added a great back-to-the-basket game on offense and he’s become a match-up nightmare for opponents because of it.
FTB: Last season Wisconsin was horrible on offense and great on defense. This season, they are great on offense and merely good on defense. What has changed since last season?
MTB: Wisconsin simply lost the three best defenders it had on its roster in Ryan Evans, Mike Bruesewitz and Jared Berggren. Losing that kind of defensive grittiness will make you change how you play. Not only that, but losing those three also made this team far more athletic and that means a change to how it plays the game.
Perhaps the biggest myth about Bo Ryan is that he has this rigid style of play and that means slow basketball on offense and stingy defense. The true hallmark of Ryan coached teams are tough teams who don’t turn the ball over. While coaching at Platteville, his team routinely were averaging over 90 points a game—not exactly slow it down basketball.
Ryan will play to the strengths of his team and there’s zero question this is the most athletic his roster has been from top to bottom in his 13 years at UW. That is what has been the difference between the team this year and of years past.
FTB: Richard Pitino will likely try to speed up the Badgers on Wednesday. How have the Badger looked against faster teams?
MTB: I hinted at this a bit in the previous answer, but this team is capable of scoring with anyone and doing it at a much faster pace than every before. No longer can you automatically scroll to the bottom of the Adjusted Tempo rankings on KenPom.com and expect to see the Badgers there. Wisconsin is 5th in Adjusted Offense and 30th in Adjusted D as well and that would’ve never happened before. Sam Dekker not coming off the bench and starting this season really makes this offense move. Safe to say Gopher fans who haven’t seen the Badgers play this year are going to be in for a surprise with how they play.
FTB: What is your prediction for Wednesday night?
Wisconsin losing three games in a row isn’t likely in my book. However, the Badgers playing in the barn is never a lot of fun. Expect this game to be very entertaining, but I think Wisconsin got its wakeup call last week and will figure it out.
Wisconsin 77, Minnesota 71