Hoops notes: Defending the Pack

N.C. State's 3-point shooting forwards present a challenge; checking Hodge; adapting to the Dome; searching for respect

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The University of Wisconsin men's basketball team regularly frustrates its opponents by inverting its offense, with forwards such as Zach Morley, Mike Wilkinson and Alando Tucker shooting 3-pointers. The sixth-seeded Badgers (24-8) will get a taste of their own medicine Friday when they tip off at 6:27 p.m. with No. 10 seed North Carolina State (21-13) in an NCAA Tournament regional semifinal at the Carrier Dome here.

Ilian Evtimov, a 6-foot-7 forward, has made 43 percent of his 3-point attempts this season and he is not bashful, having made 64 of 148. That is more made and attempted triples than any UW player. In postseason play — three Atlantic Coast Conference tournament games and two NCAA tourney games — Evtimov has made 17 of 37 3s (46 percent).

"I think it just adds pressure on the defense because you can't shake off that help," UW senior guard Clayton Hanson said. "When they are running those cuts off of him hard, you have to remember that he's a shooting threat."

Evtimov, who averages 9.9 points per game, is not alone. Senior 6-10 center Jordan Collins, who is probable for Friday's with a shoulder injury, is 23 of 51 from beyond the arc this year (45 percent) and 6-10 freshman forward Andrew Brackman is 18 of 50 (36 percent). As a team, the Pack shot 41 percent on 3s in ACC play.

Wisconsin has faced a handful of post players this season who are willing to step out and shoot along the perimeter, but has not seen a team nearly as prone to the 3 as N.C. State. And the Badgers have not contended with a forward who can match Evtimov's 3-point productivity.

The Badgers, however, practice against a collection of 3-point shooting forwards every day.

"We faced it enough where we know how to attack it," UW sophomore guard Kammron Taylor said. "We are going to have to really focus [Friday] because Evtimov can shoot it from anywhere on the floor. We're really going to have to focus in on him."

Checking Hodge

If you want star power in the Wisconsin/N.C. State tilt, look no further than Wolfpack swingman Julius Hodge, who is averaging a team-high 18.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 7.5 assists in two NCAA Tournament games.

The 6-7 Hodge is a challenge because of his ability to break defenses down off the dribble, post up, or shoot from the outside.

Typically, Wisconsin has put senior guard Clayton Hanson on the opponent's top perimeter player but Hodge will likely see a number of Badger defenders, including Hanson, forward Alando Tucker and possibly forward Zach Morley. Reserves such as Ray Nixon and Michael Flowers, whose minutes have shrunk in the postseason, could also check Hodge in spots.

"We are just going to have to try to take him [Hodge] out of the flow of the offense. Make him work to get tough shots," Tucker said. "We were throwing different looks [in practice] at who was going to actually guard him. It's not one set guy that we know is going to guard him. I think we are going to throw a couple different guys at him just to see how he reacts."

Deceptive balance

In all games this season, Hodge has averaged 17.1 points per game. While no other N.C. State player is in double figures, three players — Evtimov, Brackman and Cameron Bennerman — average more than 9.0 points per game.

"We definitely have balanced scoring," Hodge said. "I just… try to get my teammates involved early in the game. If they are hot, then it's going to open up opportunities for me, so I try to use that equation, game in and game out."

Hodge may have another option Friday. Point guard Tony Bethel, who has missed the past four games with a groin injury, practiced Thursday and will be a game time decision. Bethel has started 21 games this season, averaging 8.3 points per game.

It is all about style

The Badgers have taken some comfort in the knowledge that they saw a ‘Princeton-style offense' when they faced Northwestern this season. North Carolina State's offense employs many of the concepts prevalent in the system Pete Carril made famous at Princeton, but the Wolfpack are much more than the product of their screens and backdoor cuts.

"I'm not taking anything away from Northwestern because they are a good team but North Carolina State, they just have more weapons and they're more athletic," Taylor said.

Itching for respect

Wisconsin has not exactly been a national media darling this week. From being tabbed the 16th best team among the 16 left in the tournament by ESPN.com to having their swing offense berated for lacking of pizzazz, the Badgers are feeling a bit underappreciated.

"There is probably a lot of people out there who want us to lose," senior guard Sharif Chambliss said. "I think they are drinking Haterade and not Gatorade. That's on them."

Despite playing as a higher seed, the Badgers are assuming an underdog's guise.

"You look at… how everybody always takes us for granted as a team and a program," Tucker said. "We can pretty much say we have to take that approach every game… We always kind of take that [as] people are overlooking us. You have to take that approach… You have to be confident but you can't be too cocky."

Adapting to the Dome

The Carrier Dome, home of Syracuse basketball and football, seats an incredible 31,805 for basketball games. It's unique football/basketball dual use can create a difficult shooting backdrop for players who are unaccustomed to the sheer size of the arena.

"We have to be able to adjust and that's what makes you an athlete," Tucker said, before the Badgers took the court for their 50-minute practice Thursday. "You have to adjust to the situations and in the different environments. If we go out there and get quality minutes on the court, we'll be ready."

Remember me?

Wisconsin has never played North Carolina State, but Chambliss faced the Wolfpack four seasons ago, when he was a true freshman at Penn State. N.C. State won that game 84-76.

Chambliss, who played two minutes in that game, said he remembered playing against a "little dude", referring to Archie Miller, a guard who is now N.C. State's director of basketball operations.

"Is he?" Chambliss said at this revelation. "I remember stealing the ball from him… He could shoot it."

Miller ranks fifth in ACC history in career 3-point shooting accuracy at 43 percent.


For the second consecutive Thursday, Wisconsin wrapped up its open practice session once a player made a half-court shot. Last week in Oklahoma City, Sharif Chambliss ended the workout; this week it was 6-11 redshirt freshman forward Brian Butch. To the delight of the smattering of fans watching practice Thursday, freshman guard Michael Flowers and sophomore guard Kammron Taylor each threw an alley-oop to each other before leaving the court.

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