I am not going to over-analyze this game as that will be done to death on other websites, ESPN, CBS, College Sports Network and more. I am going to point out the main things this particular Badger fan is afraid of with this matchup. Yes, the Badgers have played better competition than Belmont has faced. Yes the Badgers should be able to win this game but upsets in the tournaments do not conform to what should happen.
Here are my major fears:
- Badgers recent struggles against similar teams.
- Badgers lack of spurt-ability, Belmont’s streakiness.
- Styles of play fit perfectly for an upset.
I have to admit, I thought the Badgers would roll through Cornell last year. I thought with a week to prepare they would be ready for Davidson. I never thought UNLV would be able to take them down when Wisconsin was a two seed. But all of those things happened, my confidence in Bo’s system in the tournament is a little shaken. Heck, last year the Badgers barely got through the first round against Wofford. The Badgers have run into some hot mid-majors the last few years that have knocked them out and that is exactly what Belmont is right now. How will Wisconsin react if they start slowly?
I actually hate this word from CBS’s Kellog but it fits here. Wisconsin is a grind it out team, similar to Pittsburgh. Both teams can go on runs but these runs usually span a few minutes and will end up as small as 6-0 or 8-2 even though it will feel like it was more dominant. During these runs the Badgers will dominate the defensive glass, execute very well on offense but in the end only gain 6-8 points because their style will not overwhelm the opponent with turnovers and quick striking threes. The Badgers can make a quick run but they are not built on it.
The main components to Belmont’s style is forcing turnovers and shooting threes. These make for lightening quick runs that can pile up a double digit advantage in only a couple of minutes. Belmont is second best in the country on forcing turnovers per possession and has the 30th best three point shooting percentage. Belmont has won 11 games by more than 30 points, that is a lot and I do not care who the competition is. If you have the ability to dominate your opponents at any division one level you have a chance to get hot enough to scare any team in the country.
Could you NOT see a scenario where Wisconsin does all of the things they do every game, box out, do not give up layups, not a lot of fouls and protect the ball, but have a couple two minutes spurts where Belmont goes on a quick run of 10 or more to 0? What if Jordan Taylor has to sit for a few minutes? Jon Leuer? After those two players the Badgers are not all that deep with playmakers. One or two runs can really put Wisconsin in a hole that could be tough to dig out, especially if either Taylor or Leuer have to sit out.
Style Of Play
I believe it is most common for an upset to involve teams with different styles. If teams both play the same style it is likely the more talented team will be able to out-execute their opponent but things change when the styles differ. For years the Badgers have been able to hang with teams that are much more talented because their style limits possessions and can frustrate more up-tempo, talented teams when the pressure rises on the favorite. In a game like this Belmont can make up for their talent by speeding up the game with their defense and hitting some threes. The pressure goes on the Badgers to win this game. If Belmont gets down double-digits their style can allow a quick comeback, if Wisconsin gets down I am not sure how far down they can go before some panic sets in.
I really hope Wisconsin can overcome their recent past in similar games against teams that also relied on the three. The Badgers have won a lot of tough games over the years but have struggled in the tournament against teams that fit a lot of the strengths of Belmont. I am not predicting Belmont WILL win but there are enough realistic reasons to give us all concern.