The Badgers did not look great all afternoon but made plays when it mattered most and were able to maintain good balance for the majority of the game. Wisconsin did not shoot free throws particularly well and also appeared to go through spurts in which they did not actively attack the basket and the paint.
The Badgers have regained the balance they had earlier in the season and no longer rely entirely on the three-point shot. This balance will be crucial going forward, as one cold shooting day from the perimeter can result in an early exit from the NCAA tournament.
It remains to be seen whether the Badgers woes against a 1-3-1 zone will continue due to the fact they have not faced such a zone since their home win against Northwestern. This remains one of the major story lines on offense entering the postseason as the Badgers first round opponent will most likely attempt to throw off the Badgers consistency on offense with a mixture of zone and man-to-man.
The Badgers once again looked tremendous on defense for the majority of the game and were able to contain star point guard Demetri McCamey. Illinois inexplicably do not continuously run pick-n-roll sets with McCamey and center Mike Tisdale. In their previous match-up, the Illini ran the high pick to perfection and the Badgers did not seem to have an answer. Today, the Badgers kept Illinois out of the lane and forced Illinois to live on the perimeter.
Wisconsin will be able to rely on its tremendous man-to-man defense in the NCAA tournament and can potentially ride this defense all the way to Indianapolis. With Leuer and Nankivil down low, the Badgers have two players capable of routinely altering shots in the paint. Additionally, the Badgers do a great job of team rebounding as all five players crash the glass. This was emphasized today when Trevon Hughes pulled down 11 rebounds from his spot on the wing.
Bo Ryan did a great job of letting his players dictate the tempo and preparing his players for the Illinois offense. Coach Ryan and the Badgers will most likely end up as a four or five seed with an outside chance at a three seed in the NCAA Tournament. If the Badgers can avoid being in the same region as Kentucky and Kansas, the Badgers look poised to make a serious run in the tournament and seal Ryan's position as one of the top coaches in the country.
Game MVP: Jordan Taylor. Taylor played extremely well on both the offensive and defensive end as he was asked to handle a lot of the perimeter duties on both ends of the court with Trevon Hughes saddled with foul trouble. Taylor has emerged as a calming presence in the backcourt and has played with a veteran's poise all season long.
Taylor's strong play provides the Badgers with a trio of guards capable of knocking down perimeter jump shots and playing strong on the ball defense. Having Taylor and seniors Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon gives the Badgers the edge in the backcourt on virtually any team they will encounter in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament.