Wisconsin finished its 13 game nonconference slate with a record of 11-2, losses coming at Creighton and against North Carolina in the championship game of the Maui Invitational.
Entering tonight’s conference opener against Rutgers, the Badgers to date have used 132 distinct lineups (defined as the five person combination on the floor) – compared to 127 during the 2015-16 season and a mere 85 during the run to the N.C.A.A. championship game in the 2014-15 season. This uptick in lineups can be attributed a few factors: a change in coach Bo Ryan to Greg Gard, a concomitant great use of the bench, and, especially compared to last season, several blowouts that allowed for Gard to use the bench in a wide variety of combinations.
First here is a chart showing the Badgers numbers overall as a team and numbers for each player. The usual caveats about small sample sizes and not being adjusted for opponents applies here and throughout the article.
How to read the table: The Badgers have played 520 minutes this season, have scored 1,014 points, given up 771, have had the ball for 852 offensive possessions and 857 defensive possessions, have scored 1.19 points per possession, given up 0.90 points per possession with a difference of 0.29 points/possession.
There is a clear delineation in minutes played between the starters, the sixth and seventh men (D'Mitrik Trice and Khalil Iverson), the next three reserves and then the deep bench. The starters are close to or above the team efficiency marks, with many, but not all, of the reserves being below team efficiency averages.
Because of the large number of lineups, only seven combinations have seen greater than 10 minutes of playing time together.
While the Badgers starters and playing, the team is outscoring opponents by 40 points per 100 possessions. Their six most common lineups all exceed the overall team efficiency numbers, which make sense since they are primarily starters.
This season we will also track lineup data with the Badgers 'Big Three' of Ethan Happ, Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig. The following chart shows how the Badgers have done with various combinations of the big three on the floor.
Just a note that during the 2015-16 season, the Badgers played less than 15 minutes with none of the big three on the board. They have almost quadrupled the time played this season without the trio, primarily because of blowouts that didn't happen last season.
As the Badgers enter into the more difficult conference portion of the schedule, Gard will likely tighten up the rotation, and the Badgers will likely not have as many opportunities to empty the bench.
The Badgers are projected by KenPom to tie for the Big Ten conference title with Purdue at 13-5, with Indiana a game back at 12-6, making the Badgers first two road games of the conference season (at Indiana January 3rd and at Purdue January 8th) critical to their conference title hopes.