The game Saturday in Madison between undefeated #1 Ohio State and Wisconsin has been looming for a couple of weeks. If Ohio State were to stay undefeated, which they did, most thought the game at Wisconsin would be their biggest test of date and maybe until the tourney. My fan bias obviously comes into play here but I think Wisconsin will win in somewhat solid fashion, 65-58.
Bo Ryan vs Thad Matta
I always get the impression that Bo rolls his eyes at Matta a little bit. Matta is great recruiter and can be very animated on the sidelines but I always find his strategies a bit gimmicky. Mike Lombardi used this analogy regarding the Balitmore Ravens offense, they are like the restaurant that has everything on its menu, they try to do everything but do nothing well. Thatta is like the restaurant that has every imaginable thing on it, full-court zone presses, half court traps, full-court man dropping into a zone, you name it. I find it hard to believe college kids with limited practice time can execute all of those styles. They become effective simply because the opponent will be confused in what they are doing and what they are seeing. This switching it up becomes effective because a lot of teams do not recognize change quickly enough, which results in poor possessions, which results in stops or turnovers. What really makes it effective is Matta usually has at least one lottery player on his team every year, when he does not have elite talent the Buckeyes are not very good.
The problem is Bo Ryan is like the other restaurant that is great and only does a few things. The Badgers play tough man to man half-court defense and will possess the ball on offense, and they do those two things better than anyone else in the country. The Badgers do not out-gimmick you, they force the opponent to beat them while never beating themselves. The big difference this year is the Badgers have two players who may be two of the top 20 players in the country making this execution style of play extremely tough to deal with.
Throwing the kitchen sink will only get you exposed against a team like Wisconsin. This is one reason Tom Izzo has struggled with the Badgers under Ryan. While Michigan State does not get as gimmicky on the defensive end they do switch it up a little bit and on offense they run a ton of set plays. The Badgers patient style exposes both advantages Izzo usually has schematically on offense and defense. The Badgers are very accustomed to using the entire shot clock to get a shot, other teams panic at the end of the clock which ends in a successful defensive possession.
While the best overall player in the game will be Jared Sullinger, the next two are Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer for Wisconsin. Here are additional matchup thoughts.
- Sullinger will be a load as he always his, the key will be limiting him to a good game and not allow an out of this world game.
- Jordan Taylor will have an advantage over his freshman counterpart Aaron Craft. Craft has had some very good games this year but mostly at home. He has not dealt with a combination of Taylor at the point and the atmosphere of the Kohl Center.
- Keaton Nankivil will be key. If he is hitting outside shots he can open up a lot of options. He will also dictate what lineups Ohio State goes with. If they go big with Dallas Lauderdale he should get open outside looks, if they go small he can go inside. Nankivil will be key.
- David Lighty and William Buford. Ohio States athletic wings are the keys for them to exploit. The Badgers will have to use Ryan Evans a lot on Saturday to match some of the athleticism of Lighty and Buford.
- Keep Diebler in check. Jon Diebler is an unbelievable shooter, probably the best pure shooter in the country. The Badgers do not extend the defense past the three point line but for Diebler they will have to. My strategy against shooters like Diebler that get so many screens and do not need a lot of time to get a shot off would be to sacrifice some length for quickness. A shorter quicker guy can stick to him better and get underneath him so he never feels comfortable. Long guys usually effect shots by lunging at the shooter late which will not effect Diebler.
Ohio State is not quite as good on the road as they are at home. Shocker, no college team is. The Badgers are a completely different animal at home and just play differently. They play with more aggressiveness and their shooting becomes lights out at home. The Kohl Center will be a big factor on Saturday as most home court advantages in college equate to around 3.5 points, I argue that number is at least 5 at the Kohl.
NCAA Tourney Seeding
With as screwy as tourney seeding gets, this game is very important for Wisconsin to get off of the 4-5 line most bracket predictions have them at. There are four very tough one seed candidates this year with Ohio State, Kansas and Texas virtual locks with Pittsburgh and Duke in the running for the fourth spot but the two seeds will have a couple of weaklings. Getting a three seed this year could be huge since it is very likely there is at least one very weak two seed opening up a run to the Elite Eight. This game will give the Badgers more exposure and a better opportunity to move up in the seedings with a win. The Big Ten tourney never seems to factor into the Badgers seeding unless they lose early, the late Sunday championship game has annually screwed over Big Ten teams hoping to move up in their seeding with a great showing. A win against Ohio State will plant the Badgers as a legit contender in the media’s and committee’s eyes which will become very valuable in a few Sundays.
Go Badgers, it should be a very fun game to watch.