Badgers Ready For Belmont Fastball

It will be up to Jordan Taylor to control the pace of play Thursday against Belmont as the Bruins like to convert turnovers into fast break opportunities and three pointers — all factors the Badgers have struggled with in the past three NCAA Tournaments.

MADISON — You don't have to look very hard to understand how the Wisconsin basketball team has lost their past three NCAA Tournament games.

Last season, the Badgers allowed a hot Cornell squad to get open looks from the perimeter and the Ivy League champs buried them early, building a double-digit lead seemingly in minutes while going 8-of-15 overall from the three point line.

The Xavier loss was less of a blowout, but that made the 42 percent three-point shooting (6-of-14 overall) from the Muskateers even more damaging in a close game.

Finally there was the Davidson Fiasco, where the Steph Curry parade walked through UW by nailing twelve treys at a 50 percent clip over the 40 minutes of action.

Now the Badgers have drawn Belmont, another team that likes to run and gun and worse for UW fans, they do it at an efficient rate. The Bruins hoisted 842 threes this season — an average of nearly 25 a game — and they convert on 38 percent overall. Their 9.4 three-pointers made per game ranks second in the country.

All of which makes them eerily similar to Wisconsin's last three NCAA ousters.

"I haven't thought about it like that," UW points guard Jordan Taylor said. "But yeah, I guess they do. They shoot a lot of threes and get up and down."

The uptick in pace of play is something UW literally does not see in conference action.

Belmont ranks No. 57 our of 345 teams in possessions per game. There is not a single Big Ten team that ranks in the top 100 for tempo, and the Badgers sit dead last in possessions per game according to college basketball stats guru Ken Pomeroy.

All of which means that whoever can control the tempo has a very good chance at controlling the outcome.

"If you cut down on turnovers it takes away their opportunities to get out and run," Taylor said. "We just need to be mistake free."

The game may become a battle of wills between Taylor and the relentless swarm of bodies Belmont likes to throw out.

The Bruins play 11 guys that average over 10 minutes per game and it will be up to Taylor to make sure the constant stream of energy off the bench doesn't get away from Wisconsin.

"Even though they play 11, 12 guys consistently in games they have all gelled together really well," Nankivil said.

"They have a nice mix of upperclassmen and underclassmen."

Even though Belmont may be the best No. 13 seed the selection committee has scheduled in five years, Badger fans would be given much less cause to worry if UW hadn't played their worst two games of the season the week before the NCAA Tourney started up.

Both Taylor and Nankivil admitted they thought long and hard on the Penn State disaster after being knocked out early from the Big Ten Tournament, but once they started practicing again it was pushed from their minds.

After UW scored a Bo Ryan-low 33 points against Penn State, Nankivil said after the game it was the most frustrated he has felt in his life.

As it has donned on him that he is a senior and has only a guaranteed 40 minutes left, Nankivil assured reporters the Badgers would come out with a better start against Belmont.

"It is the context of the game, at this point it really starts to set in to me that this is my senior year and my last chance," Nankivil said.

"Just walking off the court and feeling like that is a very frustrating feeling and I think we are a better team then we showed. We talked as a team and coaches what where we need to improve at this part in the season to be successful where we have dropped the ball in other years … it is the little things. We have to take it upon ourselves bringing energy and just playing how we know how to play."

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