BadgerNation.com's site publisher Benjamin Worgull exchanged a question and answer segment with AllHoosiers.com's Terry Hutchens this week to preview Indiana and No. 3 Wisconsin. Here are those questions and Worgull's answers.1. A year ago, when Wisconsin came to Bloomington, the Badgers were not ranked and IU was the No. 2 team in the nation. This year it's almost a complete reversal. How different are the Badgers than the team that played in Assembly Hall 12 months ago?
WORGULL: "Confidence, balance, poise, you name it. The Badgers were an offensive enigma last season. They scored over 77 points seven times and scored 50 or below eight times, including a bizarre three-game stretch in conference play where they scored in the 40s. That team either had everything going for it offensively or couldn't buy a bucket, which included the free throw line.
"A year later, despite losing five seniors, Wisconsin is enjoying its best offense of the Bo Ryan era. The Badgers are averaging 76.4 points (up 11.4 ppg from last season), while leading the Big Ten in offensive efficiency with an average of 1.23 points per possession. UW plays incredibly unselfish, a reason why it's been led in scoring by six different players this season and has made a habit of putting at least four players in double figures, doing it 11 times this season.
"Through three Big Ten games, which included two ranked teams, the Badgers lead the conference averaging 82.0 points per game. UW is shooting exactly 50.0 percent from the field in B1G play.
"Fans also underestimate the value that Josh Gasser brings back to the team after missing all of last season with a torn ACL. Gasser doesn't score a lot, but routinely guards the opposing team's best players and makes them work for everything. Ryan has credited Gasser for a lot of the team's close wins in the early part of the season.''2. When Frank Kaminsky played against IU last year he had a minor role. He played 3 minutes off the bench in the first game and scored 6 points. He didn't score in the Big Ten Tournament game. Talk about the difference in his game from one year to the next?
WORGULL: "With three senior post players in front of him last season, Kaminsky's role was going to be limited. It also didn't help that he got his cornea scratched at Indiana last season and missed a handful of games recovering. He told me entering this season that with the seniors gone, he felt more confident in himself and his abilities than he had felt in his previous two seasons. That statement is backed up by his numbers.
"Not only is he among the Big Ten's top 20 in both points (13.6 ppg) and rebounds (5.9 rpg), Kaminsky broke the school's single game scoring mark when he dropped 43 on North Dakota, doing it from the perimeter, the paint and the free throw line against a decent ball club.
"Kaminsky scoring increase of 9.4 points per game from last season to this season is the third biggest jump in the conference (behind Ferrell's 9.9) and his 4.1 rebounds-per-game jump is the second highest in the Big Ten.
"What has gone into these numbers besides confidence? Kaminsky is getting the most extended playing time of his career, has spent the better part of the past two years improving his conditioning and has been benefitting from the Badgers having a variety of shooters on the floor, allowing him favorable matchups on the perimeter or being able to go one-on-one in the low post.''3. How has Gasser bounced back and integrated himself into the lineup?
"The junior still isn't 100 percent, but he's taken precautions in practice to save his legs for the games. Gasser is the only starter for Wisconsin who doesn't average double figures, but the work the former Big Ten All-Defensive team member does defensively makes him worth his weight in gold.
"Playing five exhibition games in Canada helped him shake off some rust and jitters to build some confidence in his knee, and he has been a rallying point for the players. Gasser is second on the team averaging 31.5 minutes per game and commits a foul every 12.9 minutes on the floor.
"In fact, Wisconsin has been thriving defensively despite the new defensive emphasis from officials. UW leads the nation in committing just 14.9 fouls per game, as well as giving up only 14.1 free throw attempts per game.''4. Wisconsin turns the ball over on 12 percent of its possessions and is one of the top teams in that nation in that category. IU turns it over on 22 percent of its possession and ranks last in the Big Ten. Do think this is where Wisconsin's experience is just such a significant factor?
"Experience and coaching certainly have a lot to do with it. Bo Ryan is one of the biggest preachers of fundamentals, which is evident by the amount of drills they do throughout the season that have nothing to do with the ball going through the hoop. I don't know how many other high major programs do that throughout the year. I am guessing not many, which is why the Badgers have been in the top five for fewest turnovers the last five seasons (UW is first in the nation this season with only 8.2 miscues per game).
"Even when Wisconsin doesn't shoot the basketball well (it has happened this season), the Badgers have been able to win games based on their defense and ball security.''5. Wisconsin has defeated Indiana 12 times in a row including five in a row at Assembly Hall. What do you feel is the biggest factor for the Badgers to make it 13 in a row against the Hoosiers?
"Ryan was asked about the streak during his Monday press conference. As expected, he had no clue about how many in a row it has been.
'I just don't dwell in that kind of domain,' Ryan said.
"Neither do his players, who have taken on their coach's philosophy by focusing on just the next game on the schedule and don't let extraneous factors play a role, especially since Rob Wilson's unexpected 30-point performance or Brian Butch's banked 3-pointer don't give the Badgers any extra points or an edge in this game.
"The other thing is that this team's embraces going on the road and knows how to win on the road. Over the last three seasons, Wisconsin is 12-7 away from the Kohl Center in Big Ten play, the top winning percentage in the league. This season UW has won six times away from home, so they won't be intimidated by any venue this season.''