It will be deja vu for Wisconsin as they are set to meet Oregon (26-9, 13-5 Pac 12) for the second consecutive year in the NCAA tournament in the round of 32. Wisconsin hopes it can have a repeat of last year, as they were able to beat the Ducks 85-77 in Milwaukee on its Final Four run.
This will be the seventh meeting between the two schools and the first in consecutive years since 1951-52. Like last year, the Wisconsin defense will have to be ready for the athleticism of the Ducks, as Oregon is averaging 75.6 points a game and shoots over 46 percent from the field.
In this Badger Nation feature, we will look at the three keys or questions for top-seeded Wisconsin as it strives to win against eighth-seed Oregon for the right to move on to the Sweet 16.
Lay up: Working for a good shot on offense
As good as Oregon’s offense is, the Ducks defense has been spotty at times defense. Oregon is giving up 70.8 points a game, which ranks 10th in the Pac 12, and are allowing teams to shoot 42.2 percent from the field. Wisconsin should be able to consistently find the shot that they are looking for on offense, but that begins with staying patient and not allowing the defense to force them into poor offensive possessions.
Wisconsin has been clicking since its road loss to Maryland, having shot better than 47 percent over the last seven games and over 50 percent in four of those contests. With Oregon allowing Arizona to shoot 54.5 percent in the Pac-12 tournament championship game and Wisconsin shooting 48.2 percent from the field this year, an efficient Badgers offense could spell trouble for the Ducks.
Throughout the season Wisconsin has consistently been able to space the floor and make the extra pass. Averaging 12.7 assists a game, Wisconsin has a roster full of above-average passers and should be able to space out the floor in order to locate the best shot.
Even with proper spacing, Wisconsin will need to capitalize on 3-point opportunities. Despite Oregon’s defensive struggles, the Ducks defend the perimeter and have held teams to 33 percent shooting (third in the Pac 12). Over the last four games Wisconsin has shot above that percentage, which included a 50 percent effort against Michigan State.
One way Wisconsin could get an open three is if UW controls the offensive glass. Oregon allows teams to average 11.6 offensive rebounds a game, so the opportunity will be there for Wisconsin’s frontcourt. Only eight teams have failed to reach double digit offensive rebounds against Oregon. Nigel Hayes (2.2 offensive rebounds per game) and Frank Kaminsky (1.4 offensive rebounds a game) will help keep possessions alive.
Wisconsin, which averages 9.8 points off of second-chance opportunities, has gone over double-digit points off of second chances in four of the last five games. The longer Wisconsin can make the Ducks work defensively could help slow down Oregon on the offensive side.
Mid-range jumper: Can Wisconsin control the tempo?
In last year’s matchup against Oregon, Wisconsin gave up 49 first-half points, the most UW allowed in a first half all season. Joseph Young led the charge by scoring 17 of his 29 points in the first half. Once the second half started, Wisconsin finally was able to get a control of the tempo. That in turn saw the Ducks go from 50 percent shooting in the first half to only nine made field goals in the final 20 minutes.
Wisconsin should be better prepared this time around to handle the Ducks tempo. Even if Oregon wants to turn the game into a track meet, Wisconsin has shown that they can get up and down the floor if needed. The Badgers ability to play multiple styles effectively has frustrated many opponents for playing a style that’s outside their norm.
Oregon’s fast-paced tempo can put the Ducks into trouble. Averaging 11.8 turnovers a game, Oregon has only had 10 games this year where they committed single digits in turnovers. The Badgers – which average 4.5 steals a game – will have opportunities to disrupt tempo with solid transition defense. Wisconsin has become more aggressive on defense as of late, as the Badgers have recorded at least four steals in each of the last five games.
Averaging 5.6 steals a game and 12.6 points off turnovers, Wisconsin will be able to make the Ducks work if the Badgers can live up to their averages.
3-pointer: Slowing down Joseph Young
The Pac 12 player of the year, Young hurt Wisconsin last season and has not missed a beat when it comes to finding the bottom of the net this season. Shooting 44.6 percent from the floor and averaging 20.4 points per game, Young’s ppg average is 10th best in the nation and there have been only two games this year where Young has failed to score in double figures (VCU and Washington).
Josh Gasser will need to be able to bring his best defensive game and do his best to prevent the senior from driving to the rim for easy shots. Even if teams force Young to shoot from the perimeter, he’s comfortable shooting from the outside as a career 40.5 percent 3-point shooter and shooting 35.7 percent this season. The Ducks have done a good job of setting him screens to get open and he usually takes advantage.
This challenge has been nothing new to Gasser, who has won more than he’s lost against opposing teams’ top scoring threat. Gasser in particular will have to make sure Young doesn’t go on any solo scoring run, like he’s done in his last two NCAA tournament games.
Over the final eight minutes, 37 seconds in the first half against Wisconsin, Young scored 15 of the team’s final 19 points. On Friday, after Oklahoma State held him without a field goal for the first 15:46 of the first half, Young rattled off the last 15 points of the half, going 4-for-5 from the field, 3-for-4 from three and 4-for-4 from the free throw line. If he goes on scoring stretches like that Sunday, the Badgers will have to be ready to play a close game.
One area where Gasser can try and disrupt his rhythm is turnovers, as Young averages 2.4 turnovers a game. Although averaging 0.7 steals per game, Gasser is coming off of consecutive games where he has recorded a steal. Gasser will need to try and be aggressive with Young without fouling him and at times might need Bronson Koenig to switch off and help defend.