Badgers Adapt to Return to Sweet 16

After advancing to the Sweet 16 five previous times under Bo Ryan with its deliberate offense, Wisconsin is back and playing with an offense that can adapt to whatever its opponents throw at them.

MADISON - After a 40 point whipping of American in the first round, and a second half surge against Oregon, Wisconsin is moving on to its seventh Sweet 16 since 2000 when it travels to Anaheim, California, to matchup up with sixth-seed Baylor this Thursday.

After overcoming a deliberant offensive attack and an up-tempo track race in the first two games, Wisconsin now transitions into an efficient zone defense, as the Bears (26-11) held Creighton, the second-most efficient offenses in the country, to 24.4 points below their season average.

And if that wasn't enough Baylor has four players who average in double figures, interior size led by a 7-1 sophomore center (Isaiah Austin) who blocks 3.16 shots per game and a perimeter game that outscored the Bluejays 41-15 outside the paint.

"That's a pretty formidable foe," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said of Baylor. "But every team that's in it now has done some things during the year. They played well towards the end of the year. We think we have. So it's two teams that get a chance."

The way the Badgers have played this season (grit, toughness, chemistry, etc.) is similar to previous Ryan coached teams, but on the offensive end of the floor the results have been better and give Wisconsin that precious chance to get to the Final Four.

When Wisconsin made the Sweet 16 two seasons ago, the Badgers averaged 64 points per game and relied on a three main scorers: Jordan Taylor (14.8 points per game), Ryan Evans (11) and Jared Berggren (10.5).

Matching up against a tough 2-3 zone from Syracuse, Wisconsin lived and died on 3-pointers that night. After making six straight 3-pointers to start the second half, UW couldn't find the range in the last six minutes, including Jordan Taylor's 3-point miss with three seconds left, taking a little bit of luster off its 14-for-27 3-point shooting.

This season the Badgers averaged 74 points per game with four of five starters averaging in double-digits, including consistent contributions from stellar freshmen, Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig, off the bench.

Wisconsin has won games where they've score in the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and even one in the 100s. Shooting and scoring quicker this season than previous years, the Badgers are just as efficient, averaging the same number of field goals per game (53) as it did in the 2011-2012 season.

"We've played all sorts of team personalities this year," Sam Dekker said. "We've played guys that slow it done and guys that run up and down the court. We just have to react to the situation in front of us. I think that only spells more value to what our coaching staff does. They get us ready for no matter who we are playing."

Despite a four-game stretch in January where UW gave up 70 or more points a game, the Badgers have held their own on the defensive end. In 2012, the defense held opponents to 53.2 points per game, good enough for tops in Division 1.

While Wisconsin has allowed more points per game this season (64.1) than two years ago, the Badgers have used timely stops and a potent offense to advance in the tournament.

"Sometimes you've got to play with the cards that are in front of you," Dekker said of UW's ability to play many different styles.

But as it is with any team, falling into shooting slumps this time of year doesn't help if the defense falters. It's one of the reasons Wisconsin has fallen short of advantage to the Final Four in the last 13 tournaments

Wisconsin has run into shooting problems that have bounced them from the tournament, where they've shot between 20 and 30 percent against Xavier, Butler and Ole Miss. Despite forcing turnovers in those games, the Badgers weren't able to capitalize because of the inability to put the ball through the hoop.

Wisconsin has already forced 25 turnovers in two games, while going on runs of 40-6 and 17-6 to erase deficits.

Now in a neutral site game with a likely smaller Wisconsin contingent than the one that watched them win two games in Milwaukee, the Badgers hope to keep the run alive against a physical Baylor team.

"We've played on the road and come back on the road before," Dekker said. "It is what it is, but we were happy that the crowd was here tonight (against Oregon), but they're not the ones shooting the ball, they're not the ones getting defensive stops and stuff. They're obviously aiding in noise, but all that matters is the 10 guys on the floor at one time."

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