The Badgers, who beat Texas last year 67-66 on a last second three-pointer by Michael Flowers, hold a 4-1 advantage in the all-times series and come into Tuesday as one of the top defensive teams in points scored against in college basketball.
The architect of the Wisconsin defensive team is the highly successful Bo Ryan. Ryan dominated D III for many years as the head coach of Wisconsin-Platteville winning four national titles in a nine year span before moving on to the D I ranks at Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
On the offensive end, Wisconsin runs the "swing offense", which consists of five players all being interchangeable. The Badgers work to get a triangle look on the play side with weak side cutters looking to dart into scoring areas.
The Longhorns will need to be their best as a team defense on Tuesday and communicate on every position as well as rotate to help without giving up easy weak side scores on cuts along the baseline and from the wing to the middle of the lane.
Offensively, Texas must attack off the bounce and force a less athletic Wisconsin team to defend as a team. Against Michigan State, Travis Walton did a good job sticking to leading scorer A.J. Abrams like glue. The Badgers don't have an off the ball defender as talented as Walton, but do play as good or better team defense and make the opponent work deep into the shot clock and often times force tough shots as the clock works to under three seconds.
Tuesday's tip is set for 8:30pm central time. The game will be televised on ESPN2 and will be played at the Kohl Center, where the Longhorns lost in the Sweet 16 to Oregon in 2002.
A Look at the Coaches
Rick Barnes, who is in his eleventh season at Texas, coaches the Longhorns. Barnes has a career record of 458-229, including 256-95 at Texas. Barnes is 16-10 in NCAA Tournament games at Texas.
Bo Ryan is in his eighth year as the head coach of the Badgers and is widely considered one of the most underrated college coaches in the country. Ryan has career record at the D I level of 212-89, including 182-62 at Wisconsin and a record of 10-7 in the NCAA Tournament.
A Look at the Numbers
Texas shoots 45.1% from the field, 38.3% from three and 62.2% from the free-throw line.
The Badgers convert 45.3% overall, 37.2% from the three-point line and 69.2% from the foul line.
The Longhorns surrender 39.1% shooting and own a +4.1 rebound advantage.
Wisconsin gives up 42.7% defensively and checks in with a +5.7 rebounding margin.
The Longhorns are committing 13.1 turnovers per game, while Wisconsin is turning the ball over 11.7 times per contest.
The Longhorn Starters
G Justin Mason 6-2 Jr. (7.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 5.4 assists)
G A.J. Abrams 5-10 Sr. (19.7 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists)
F Damion James 6-7 Jr. (14.1 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.4 steals)
F Connor Atchley 6-11 Sr. (6.9 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.6 blocks)
C Dexter Pittman 6-10 Jr. (8.4 points, 4.4 rebounds)
Key reserves include 6-7 sophomore Gary Johnson (9.5 points, 6.2 rebounds), 6-1 freshman Varez Ward (3.5 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists) and 6-10 sophomore Clint Chapman (2.1 points, 2.3 rebounds) and 6-0 sophomore Dogus Balbay (1.3 assists).
The Badger Starters
G Trevon Hughes 6-0 Jr. (12.1 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists)
G Jason Bohannon 6-2 Jr. (10.6 points and 3.1 rebounds)
F Joe Krabbenhoft (7.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists)
F Marcus Landry 6-7 Sr. (12.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.9 blocks)
C Keaton Nankivil 6-8 So. (4.9 points and 3.9 rebounds)
Keys to the Game
Numbers 1A and 1B on the list Tuesday night will be talking on defense and rebounding the ball. Wisconsin applies constant pressure against man-to-man defense and makes the opponent defend for 30 or more seconds with terrific patience. That means limiting the Badgers to one shot is key.
The Badgers will often times get a big man pinned on the high side and work to get the ball to the player in the post with a bounce pass toward the baseline that can lead to an easy score if the defense doesn't rotate from the weak side. At the same time, junior guard Jason Bohannon will often be found on the weak side wing in catch and shoot position if the defense over-rotates and collapses with two feet in the paint by both weak side defenders.
Against Wisconsin, the Longhorns often porous transition defense won't likely be tested.
On offense, Texas must make Bohannon defend laterally and run from side to side if defending Abrams. If Krabbenhoft is defending Damion James, the Longhorns need to work to get James the ball in the mid-range post as a clean look on a turnaround will be a good look against a quality defensive team.
When Balbay is in the game, he must be aware of the collapsing Wisconsin defense as he will get player control fouls if he gets up in the air without a place to come down. Wisconsin will attack that weakness and slide right into his driving lane and take the charge.
This is a game in which Atchley has the chance to pull a big man away from the basket and should get a few long range opportunities as he will have a three or four inch height advantage. That also means he could post up and not have to labor to get off a running hook or turn around jumper.
Texas has not pressured the ball for 94 feet in recent games, but Tuesday could be an opportunity to do so. The Longhorns have to speed up the Badgers and not get into a half court game of 30+ second execution. Denying Hughes and forcing Bohannon to work the ball up the court would be the best option for creating ideal pressure.
The Badgers don't enter the game with a three-point percentage that will scare an opponent, but Bohannon hasn't gotten on a hot streak yet. The Badgers have five players that have to be closed out on quickly in catch and shoot situations: Hughes, Bohannon, Landry, Leuer and Jarmusz.
If the game is tight late, Krabbenhoft is a dead eye at 90.9%, while guards Hughes and Bohannon are solid too.