Breakdown: No.15 American vs. No.2 Wisconsin

Making its 20th appearance in the NCAA tournament, the Badgers begin their run for a second national championship when it takes on No.15 seed American at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee. BadgerNation breaks down the matchup.

No.15 American (20-12, 13-5 Patriot League) vs. No.2 Wisconsin (26-7, 12-6 Big Ten)

Date/Time -Thursday, March 20, 11:40 a.m. Central

Arena –BMO Harris Bradley Center (18,550)

Television -truTV (Ian Eagle, Jim Spanarkel and Lewis Johnson))

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)

Series – First Meeting

Wisconsin Probable Starters

1 Ben Brust (6-1 Senior Guard, 12.9 ppg)

12 Traevon Jackson (6-2 Junior Guard, 10.4 ppg)

15 Sam Dekker (6-8 Sophomore Forward, 12.7 ppg)

21 Josh Gasser (6-3 Junior Guard, 9.2 ppg)

44 Frank Kaminsky (7-0 Junior Forward, 13.6 ppg)

Off the Bench

10 Nigel Hayes (6-7 Freshman Forward, 8.0 ppg)

13 Duje Dukan (6-9 Junior Forward, 2.6 ppg)

24 Bronson Koenig (6-3 Freshman Guard, 3.2 ppg)

American Probable Starters

0 Darius Gardner (5-9 Junior Guard, 11.5 ppg)

1 Kyle Kager (6-8 Junior Forward, 5.9 ppg)

14 Jesse Reed (6-5 Sophomore Guard, 13.9 ppg)

22 John Schoof (6-5 Junior Guard, 11.4 ppg)

34 Tony Wroblicky (6-10 Senior Center, 12.2 ppg)

Off the Bench

5 Marko Vasic (6-5 Sophomore Forward, 4.0 ppg)

12 Yilret Yiljep (6-7 Freshman Forward, 4.0 ppg)

20 Charlie Jones (6-4 Freshman Guard, 2.1 ppg)

Last Time Out

INDIANAPOLIS - Wisconsin's first half was its undoing Saturday, as No.22 Michigan State overwhelmed UW with its length, transition offense and its shooting to set the tone for its 83-75 victory in a Big Ten tournament semifinal at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Michigan State (25-8) advanced to take on in-state rival Michigan in tomorrow's championship based on shooting 56.9 percent overall and putting six players in double figures.

UW had talked all week about getting a ring, a coveted trinket given to winners of Big Ten championships, something the Badgers hadn't earned since sweeping the championships in 2008.

The Badgers put four players in double figures – led by Frank Kaminsky's game-high 28 points – and shot 60 percent from the second half, but those title dreams seemed far fetch when the players looked up at the scoreboard and saw they were down 21 points – its largest deficit of the season – with 5:39 remaining in the first half.

After winning wire-to-wire in the quarterfinals, which included shooting over 60 percent in the second half, Wisconsin (26-7) was the antithesis of a hot start, unable to drive into the paint and attack Michigan State's size and length. That led to a 28 percent field goal percentage, attempted 40 percent of its shots from the perimeter and long rebounds that led to transition breaks for the Spartans.

In the opening half, Wisconsin was outscored 10-0 on fast-break points and created three and-one opportunities on three straight possessions when UW was beaten off the dribble and reached in to foul.

"Those are the little things that we just have to clean up," said Traevon Jackson (10 points).

Michigan State jumped out to a 7-0 run in the first 1:42 but put the game away with a 16-1 run over a five-minute stretch midway through the first half. That erased UW cutting the lead to six and its chances of playing in back-to-back championship games for the first time since 2007-08.

Spartans senior Adreian Payne was the wrecking crew. He scored 12 of his team-high 18 in the opening 20 minutes. He was efficient (5-for-6) and timely, answering with a putback dunk that again stymied momentum UW was trying to build. The only time he was slowed was when he was on the bench with foul trouble in the second half.

The Spartans shot 65.4 percent (17-for-26) and was over 80 percent for long stretches of the first half.

That start made the finish all that more disappointing. Wisconsin scored on 7 of 9 possessions after the 8:33 mark, but could never get the lead lower than seven until the final seconds. The backbreaker came at 5:22. Having the opportunity to get a stop and really cut into the lead, Branden Dawson caught an inbounds pass in mid air and converted with less than a second on the shot clock. That put the Spartans up 72-63.

- Benjamin Worgull, BadgerNation.com

NCAA Tournament Notes

UW will make its 20th appearance in the NCAA tournament. The Badgers are 25-18 (.581) all-time in the Big Dance, advancing to the 2000 Final Four and winning the 1941 NCAA title.

The Badgers earned a No. 2 seed in the West Region, equaling their highest seeding in school history. Wisconsin was also a No. 2 seed in 2007 went it defeated Texas A&M Corpus Christi, 76-63, in Chicago before losing to UNLV, 74-68, in the second round.

UW has had a top-5 seed in 7 of the last 8 years.

Wisconsin has qualified for each of the last 16 consecutive NCAA tournaments, the 4th-longest active streak in the country and it ties as the 7th-longest in NCAA history.

? UW's 16 consecutive NCAA tournaments also ranks as the 3rd-longest streak in Big Ten history. Only Indiana's streak of 18 straight (1986-2003) and Michigan State's active streak of 17 consecutive are longer.

The Badgers have been to the NCAA tournament in each of Bo Ryan's 13 seasons at Wisconsin. In Ryan's first 12 NCAA tournament appearances, UW owns a 16-12 (.571) record and has advanced to five Sweet 16s and an Elite Eight in 2005.

Wisconsin's 16 NCAA tournament wins since 2001-02 (Bo Ryan era) rank 13th in the nation and 3rd among Big Ten teams (Michigan State 23, Ohio State 18).

UW has advanced to five Sweet 16s in the last 11 years. Only 5 schools - Duke, Kansas, Michigan State, North Carolina and Syracuse - have made more trips to the Round of 16 than Wisconsin over that span.

Series Notes

Wisconsin is 5-0 all-time against members of the Patriot League. The Badgers last faced a Patriot League team in 2011 when they beat Colgate, 68-41, at the Kohl Center in Madison.

The Badgers have faced a Patriot League team in the NCAA tournament once before, beating 14th-seeded Bucknell, 71-62, in the second round of the 2005 tournament.

Wisconsin Notes

The Badgers are 8-8 all-time in the BMO Harris Bradley Center. UW is 6-7 against Marquette in that building, beat Maryland in the 2000 Big Ten/ACC Challenge and went 1-1 in the 2004 NCAA Tournament.

he Badgers are 9-4 (.692) against the 2014 NCAA Tournament field. Wisconsin's 9 wins are the 6th-highest total among the 68 participating teams (Arizona, Iowa State, Kansas 12; Baylor 11, Oklahoma 10).

Among teams with 9 or more wins over the 2014 NCAA Tournament field, Wisconsin's .692 win percentage is the 3rd-highest mark. UW trails only Arizona (12-3, .800) and Villanova (9-3, .750).

Wisconsin's is enjoying its most productive offense of the Bo Ryan era - by a long shot. The Badgers are scoring 73.5 points per game, which would be the school's highest average in exactly 20 years when UW tallied since 77.9 ppg in the 1993-94 season.

Hayes averaged 9.8 ppg in Big Ten play, posting 10 double-digit scoring games on the season and leading the Badgers in scoring three times.

American Notes

Brennan has registered the best season by a first-year coach in AU history, winning 20 games overall and 13 in conference play – an American University record. He is the first Patriot League coach to lead his team to the NCAA Tournament in his inaugural season.

AU reached 13 Patriot League wins for the second time its 13 years in the conference. Dating back to AU basketball's inception in 1926, the Eagles have only reached 13 league wins in two seasons, both coming in the past six years.

Wroblicky, who entered the AU record books as one of 19 Eagles to reach 600 rebounds while becoming American's all-time leading shot-blocker, is the first AU student-athlete to be named Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year. Wroblicky manned the middle for an American team that led the Patriot League in scoring defense both overall (60.1 ppg) and in league games (59.2 ppg). The Eagles also led the Patriot League in field-goal percentage defense both overall and in League play.

American led all conference teams in scoring defense (59.2 points per game), scoring margin (+6.7), field-goal percentage (50.5 percent), field-goal percentage defense (41.5 percent), three-point field-goal percentage (40.5 percent) and assists (15.9).

Prediction

Sitting on the dais Wednesday afternoon in front of the nation media, a reporter asked Ben Brust, Josh Gasser and Frank Kaminsky what makes their head coach, Bo Ryan, such a special figurehead in their basketball lives.

Brust called Ryan demanding of his players, but the reason why players come to play from him because he gets them to play good basketball, dive for loose balls and do the little things that make UW successful.

Kaminsky added that the devil is in the details for Ryan, which is why Wisconsin spend a meticulous amount of time on fundamentals, film study and why he is quick to substitute a player for a poor decision on either end of the floor.

But Gasser, who has been with Ryan the longest and is one of Ryan's favorite players, said that the special thing about Ryan is he learns from the past and is always applying that to what is next.

"He's always looking at what's next, the next practice, the next possession," said Gasser. "Just takes them one day at a time, one possession at a time, and doesn't get too high or too low."

He also doesn't take for granted the next 40 minutes, or that his team is a big favorite heading into tomorrow's afternoon matchup with American at the Bradley Center. When a reporter asked him earlier in the week about preparing his team to avoid the 15-2 upset that has happened three times in the last two years, Ryan was very matter of fact.

"They won't hear it from me that we're a two," Ryan said. "They won't hear it from me that we're playing a 15. They won't hear it from me that we're in Milwaukee. My guys are pretty smart. I think they know where we're going. I think they know what's at stake, and you have to win more than one game. But you can't win two without winning one.

"It's all the same cliches that come out all the time. It won't be because anybody is overlooked. It won't be because they're not prepared for it. It's just going to be who plays the best that 40 minutes."

If Wisconsin has a sister program in the Patriot League, American would be it. Not only do the Eagles have four players averaging in double figures like Wisconsin, they ran a deliberate tempo – one of top 10 slowest in the country – and play solid defense. The only major difference is American runs a Princeton-style offense under first-year coach Mike Brennan, the Patriot League's coach of the year.

The offense isn't exactly foreign to Wisconsin's coaching staff. Bill Carmody ran the offense for several seasons when he coached Northwestern and North Carolina State ran a variation of it when the Badgers beat the Wolfpack in the 2005 Sweet 16. UW also has senior Zach Bohannon with background knowledge of the offense, having run a variation of it during his two years at Air Force.

"We've seen bits and pieces of it, and we've even used a little bit here and there, just some actions within it," said Gard. "I think the one thing is you have to have unselfish players, and they obviously are. They have to buy in, which they obviously have because Mike's only been there a year."

Wroblicky might be the most intriguing player on the team. He is second on the team in scoring, but leads the Eagles in rebounds, assists and blocks. A predominately left-handed player, Wroblicky has been labeled by Gard as a, "very good cerebral, well passing five man." Not bad for a guy who is 6-10, as the senior can generate his own offense around the rim or finding the open man.

"That's always a key," said Gard. "If you have a good passing big man, and we've had our share of them over the years. That puts a lot more pressure on the defense."

American has a number of options to execute its backdoor cuts, varying the player, the angle and the position the ball handler is on the floor to execute a play successfully. It's one of the reason Wisconsin can't take possessions off or get caught waiting for plays to happen, which is exactly what has happened in two of the last three games in the first half (at Nebraska, vs. Michigan State).

The Eagles do more containing and disrupting than pressuring, which means Traevon Jackson will need to play efficient and effective. Throughout Big Ten play, Wisconsin's offense goes with how Jackson goes, as he and Kaminsky are my two key players for UW if the Badgers want to win the six games.

The journey for the Wisconsin has taken the Badgers from Sioux Falls to Charlottesville, from Toronto to Cancun and from many other stops in between. During these five months, Wisconsin has proven to be a team who can win in different places against top level teams. While it's a brand new season, it's undeniable how UW's schedule has prepared them for a potential run.

"You play in the grueling season of Big Ten, playing road games at Michigan and a bunch of other teams, I could go on and on, and then you challenge us a tough nine conference schedule, you're definitely prepared for everything," said Gasser. "We've been through a lot as a team. We've played everyone anywhere."

Now UW is in a familiar venue against a team that reminds Ryan a lot of his own. A focused UW should be too much for American and register a 14-point victory.

Worgull's Record: 22-11

Points off Prediction: 303 (9.2 per game)


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