MAILBAG QUESTIONS (FOR BEN WORGULL)
BW: So far, Butch is having his best season defensively for the simple reason that his footwork is better. In year's past, Butch has often struggled to keep up and needed backside help to stop players like James Augustine and Paul Davis. This season, Butch has looked good guarding Pittsburgh's Aaron Gray and Georgia's Takais Brown, holding them both to under 50 percent shooting.
Even so, Butch, much like the rest of the Big Ten, hasn't seen a player with Oden's ability around the basket. I would imagine that Butch will be matched with Oden and would enlist the help of other Badger big men Jason Chappell, Joe Krabbenhoft and Greg Stiemsma to assist in guarding the huge youngster.
How would you try to stop Alando Tucker? Has he improved at the free throw line?
BW: Different teams have tried different ways of guarding Tucker, including double-teaming the fifth-year senior or throwing a 2-3 zone at Wisconsin. So far, nothing has seemed to work. With his experience, Tucker has learned to find the open man when he's double teamed, as his 32 assists are a career best through 16 games. If I were going to stop Tucker, I would try to stop Kammron Taylor, who can be turnover prone and the source for most of Tucker's points.
His free throw shooting has greatly improved since last year's disaster in which he shot 54.5 percent. Through 16 games this year, Tucker is making 68 percent (69-102) from the foul line. More importantly, he looks more relaxed at the line this year while he looked like he lost his favorite puppy last season.
Where has Marcus Landry been this season? It doesn't seem he's played very well.
BW: With Taylor and Tucker being ironmen on the court (averaging over 30 minutes each), there aren't many minutes available to the sophomore. When Landry is on the floor, he doesn't do anything too spectacular. His assist-to-turnover ratio is poor (.368) and he's only scored in double figures once.
The thing with Landry is that he'll step up when he's needed. His 11 points at Marquette proved to be a huge lift off the bench and his free throws down the stretch at Georgia proved to be the difference.
For me, the jury is still out on Landry until he is an every game starter, which will probably be next season. Right now, all Landry is going to be is a solid bench player and another option for Bo Ryan off the bench.
Who's running the point this year – Kammron Taylor or Michael Flowers?
BW: Wisconsin has had the same starting five for all 15 games this season. After struggling at the point down the stretch last season, Taylor has seemingly grown into the possession. Taylor's assist-to-turnover ratio is above 1.0, but struggles at times with his ball handling.
Flowers has been a solid two guard and defender for the Badgers. He will occasionally bring the ball up during a half-court pressure situation, but the point guard position has been Taylor's so far through the non-conference portion of the schedule.
Why does it seem like Taylor isn't having as good a season as last year? He's shooting the ball very well but it doesn't look like he's having as good an all-around season. Is this true in your opinion?
BW: Your assessment is right on, as Taylor's play as made Badger fans scratch their heads at times. Taylor can look solid one game and look like a freshman the next. Like you said, Taylor has been shooting the ball much better this season, especially from three-point range where he's shooting 50 percent.
Where Taylor struggles is when he's not mentality into the game. After Wisconsin's win at Georgia, Taylor admitted to not be focused and mentality checked out during the game and his play mirrored that (4-for-13 shooting and four turnovers).
In Taylor's defense, he has scored double figures in seven consecutive games and 10 out Wisconsin's last 11. His turnovers are down, although they still pose a problem at times, and he is playing the point guard position better compared to his collapse down the stretch last season.
Wisconsin has had some impressive wins this year but what happened to them against Missouri State?
BW: Two things plagued the Badgers against Missouri State: a slow start and a bad finish. Wisconsin trailed by as many as 19 in the first half in South Texas and shot 63 percent in the first half.
Wisconsin was able to recover and regain the lead with a little over five minutes left in the second half, but Missouri State went on a 9-2 run rest of the way thanks to missed shots and turnovers and Tucker couldn't nail the three at the buzzer.
In reality, Missouri State is a good team that hasn't gotten a lot of national recognition. Looking back, the early season loss might have been the best thing for the Badgers, as they have been on a roll since that Thanksgiving tournament.
Do you think Wisconsin is capable of winning the National Championship?
BW: Much like Ohio State, I believe the Badgers have a real shot to make it to the Final Four in Atlanta. Even though they usually aren't mentioned among the best teams in the nation, Wisconsin has traditionally played a tough non-conference schedule that pits the Badgers against a number of difference offensive and defensive styles. Come tournament time, that knowledge could prove to be very useful.
Are they as good as a North Carolina or a UCLA? It's hard to say. But with Wisconsin returning 90 percent of their scoring and beating some quality teams, I would lean to say yes.
Do you think Wisconsin will try to slow the game against Ohio State, or are they willing to play at whatever pace since they have athletes as well?
BW: I think Wisconsin will try to play a defensive-type game against the Buckeyes and control the tempo. Not to keep referencing the Georgia game, but the Bulldogs ran all over Wisconsin in the first half and dominated the tempo. The Badgers were able to regain control of the game in the second half and pull out the win.
Wisconsin is at their best when they have time to set up their swing offense and get the ball into the post. Playing against a player like Oden however, is easier said than done. In the long run, the Badgers may try to speed the game at points, but probably will be content with a slower pace.
Putting you on the spot – who wins the Big Ten? Wisconsin, Ohio State or someone else?
BW: It seems to me that the Big Ten championship will go to either Ohio State or Wisconsin this season. Every team in the Big Ten lost talent besides Wisconsin and only Ohio State was able to reload with an outstanding freshmen class.
That having said, the schedule favors Ohio State to repeat as regular season champions. Due to the unbalanced scheduling, Ohio State two travel-only games are Penn State and Minnesota, while Wisconsin travels to Indiana and Illinois, two places much more difficult than Happy Valley and the Barn.
In all honesty, I think the Big Ten season will end with the Badgers and Buckeyes both at 14-2 in conference. But if I had to pick one, I would pick Ohio State, but ask me again in February when these two teams play round two.
Brian Butch, is he living up to his hype of being a McDonald's All-American?
BW: This season he is. If you had asked me that question last year, I would have said no. Butch struggled last year based on the fact that he lost backup Greg Stiemsma for the second semester due to academics and played a heck of a lot of minutes.
Butch is playing better, as his game against Pittsburgh showed why he earned that All-American distinction. While his free throws are brutal to watch at times, Butch's perimeter shooting has gotten better as of late, which ads another dimension to his game.
Where does this Ohio State game rank in terms of regular season hype for Wisconsin in recent memory?
BW: If I had to rank this game in terms of hype, I would put it third on the list. Number one would be when No.1 Illinois came to Madison two years ago when the Badgers had their long home-court winning streak. Number two would be this year's Pittsburgh game since it was the highest-ranked non-conference opponent the Badgers defeated in school history and for the fact that they gave it to the Badgers pretty good the season before.
With Wisconsin possibly moving to number three in the country and Ohio State moving to at least number five, a matchup of those proportions doesn't happen to often. Wisconsin fans were loud on Saturday when the lowly Gophers came to town. I can only imagine what it will be like on Tuesday night.