Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Wisconsin game.

Wisconsin Badgers
Current record: 16-9 (7-6)
Current RPI: 30
Current Sagarin: 30
Current Pomeroy: 32
2007-08 record: 31-5 (16-2, Big Ten champion/Big Ten Tournament champion; lost to Davidson in NCAA Sweet 16)
2007-08 RPI: 10
2007-08 Sagarin: 5
2007-08 Pomeroy: 5
Series: IU leads 94-57
Last IU win: 1/31/2007 (71-66 in Bloomington)
Last Wisconsin win: 2/13/2008 (68-66 in Bloomington)
Pomeroy scouting report
TV: 9 pm Thursday, ESPN

(I thought the game was tomorrow, but it's Thursday. Here's the preview anyway).

After two excellent seasons, the Badgers have settled back to Earth this season, and the Badgers cannot afford to lose to IU, even on the road. Wisconsin has rallied admirably from a six game losing streak, and has won four in a row, including home wins against Illinois and Ohio State and a road win at Penn State. Not long ago, Wisconsin was a Big Ten laughingstock and went 46 seasons (from 1947 to 1994) without a single NCAA Tournament appearance. Now, Wisconsin has been to the tournament ten consecutive years and 11 of the last 12. Only Michigan State has a longer current tournament streak among Big Ten programs. Of the Badgers' five remaining games, two are against IU, but the Badgers still have to travel to Michigan State and Minnesota.

The main tempo free difference between this year's Badgers and the excellent teams of 2007 and 20008 is on the defensive side. UW's usually dominant defense is merely above average. Wisconsin's field goal defense and defensive turnover and steal percentages are pedestrian or worse, although they remain among the nation's leaders in defensive rebounding. On the offensive side, the Badgers continue to excel at taking care of the ball. As always, the Badgers play at a very slow pace, only 60 possessions per game (#331 of 344 teams).

The ageless Marcus Landry leads the Badgers at 12.9 points per game, and is shooting 50 percent from the field and 37 percent from behind the arc. Virtually all of Wisconsin's top 7 scorers are legitimate threats to shoot three pointers. Jon Leuer, who is 6-10, is shooting only 28 percent from behind the arc, but still takes 1.6 from there per game, and could present a matchup problem, as could Landry if he drags seemingly exhausted Tom Pritchard out to the perimeter. I wouldn't be surprised to see some novel defensive looks for Crean in this game.

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