SCOUTING THE BADGERS
With experience in the backcourt, Wisconsin is plaing at a bit faster pace this year. Long a standard-bearer for deliberate offensive possessions and tempo control, UW is getting the ball up and down a bit more, and has shown more aggressiveness in getting the ball to the basket. UW is averaging more possessions per game this year than in any other season under head coach Bo Ryan.
That's not to say, though, that the Badgers have become racehorses. UW is still near the bottom of the NCAA rankings in possessions per game, but that's not a negative. They are averaging a very efficient 1.17 points per possession. (WVU is at 1.21, which forecasts an interesting match-up of styles.)
Wisky is led by Frank Kaminsky (F, Jr., 7-0), who ranges all over the court in accounting for 16.6 points per game. He's an excellent three-point shooter (11-22) who picks and pops repeatedly to find shooting room. Along with Sam Dekker (F, So., 6-7), who also can range out to the three-point line and is an excellent mid-range shooter in his own right, Kaminsky helps form a starting frontcourt that is difficult to defend.
The starting trio of guards are also all threats from distance, combining to make 31 threes so far this year. Traevon Jackson (G, Jr., 6-2) is the primary placesetter, having dished 30 assists on the season, but he's also the third-leading scorer at 12.3 points per outing. Ben Brust (G, Sr. 6-1) averages 11 per game, and Josh Gasser (G, Jr, 6-3) completes an awesomely-balanced starting five with 10.3 points per contest. The scoring distribution makes UW a tough math-up, as no starter can be ignored on the offensive end. The Badgers keep this unit on the floor a great deal, with every player averaging at least 28 minutes per game, and each has led UW in scoring at least once this season.
The primary backup inside is Nigel Hayes (F, Fr., 6-7), who is one of the few Badgers without a three point attempt this year. He fills his available game time efficiently, though, scoring 4.9 points in his 16 minutes per outing. Bronson Koenig (G, Fr., 6-3) has gotten most of the run as a backcourt sub following a concussion sustained by George Marshall (G, So., 5-11) last week. Marshall didn't play against St. Louis and his status is uncertain for the WVU game.
One of West Virginia's defensive tenets is to keep the ball on one side of the floor, and that will definitely be in the spotlight against Wisconsin.
9:30 PM E
Hard Rock Hotel
Puerto Aventuras, Mex.
WVU 5-1, 0-0
UW 7-0, 0-0
CBS Sports Net
WVU - 213
UW - 5
To combat this, West Virginia must force the ball to go out and around the perimeter. It must force skip passes to go deep beyond the three-point line. And when the ball does get moved from one side to the other, the Mountaineers must recover quickly and get out to defend the Badger's solid contingent of outside shooters.
The other thing the Mountaineers must accomplish defensively is provide more help on drives to the basket. Wisconsin's guards penetrated time and again in the Badgers' win over St. Louis, and they'll be primed to do it again versus a WVU defense that has struggled to get secondary defenders into postion. The rules against secondary defenders taking charges in the circle and this year's new Rule 10 standards make this more difficult, but West Virginia's big men must react more quickly and cut down on the wide open lanes they've allowed at times.
If, and it's a huge if, WVU can execute in these two areas, it will have a chance to knock off the 10th-ranked Badgers. It's a huge task, though, as UW is extremely efficient in running its offense, and is loaded with experience in the backcourt.
West Virginia is 39-1 under Bob Huggins when shooting 50 percent or better from the field. That mark could be in jeopardy against Wisconsin, which also shoots the ball extremely well. The Mountaineers could have another excellent shooting night, but be derailed by a similar performance from the Badgers, who are averaging 49.1%/44.1% from the field and three-point range, respectively. WVU is at 51.4%/43.4%.
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Wisconsin's early strength of schedule has contributed greatly to its high RPI ranking. The Badgers own a win over Florida (#11 at the time) and have also downed St. John's while facing a better pod of teams in the early rounds of the Cancun Challenge. In all, UW's seven opponents to date are a combined 23-4 in all other games.
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WVU got its sole win over the Badgers in another tournament -- the 1965 Milwaukee Classic. UW swept a two-game series in the early 1970s to account for the current 2-1 series record.
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With the win over St. Louis, Wisconsin got off to its best start ever under Ryan. That last time UW started 7-0 was in 1993-94, when it ran off 11 consecutive wins to start the season.