The Wisconsin Badgers, and the Badger faithful, may still have sore faces as a result of all of the smiling they’ve been doing lately. If your face still hurts, it’s probably because of Wisconsin’s exciting comeback victory over the Oregon Ducks on Saturday night.
It’s thrilling games like those that make March Madness so special. That win has sent the 2-seed Badgers to Anaheim, CA., to face the 6-seed Baylor Bears in the Sweet Sixteen.
Winner gets a seat at the table of with college basketball’s best eight teams.
The Badgers face the Bears on Thursday night, March 27, at 6:47 PM CT. Thus, it’s as good as a time as any to learn about the Baylor Bears, and what to expect once the two teams tip-off.
Baylor had a pretty solid season, in the tough Big 12 Conference, going 26-11 on the year thus far. But they had a pretty rough stretch reminiscent to the Badgers’ mid-season slump. Although, the Bears’ skid was worse, they went 2-8 from Jan. 7-Mar. 8. The rest of the season got better for the Bears, though, as they are currently 12-2 in their last 14 games. They finished sixth in the Big 12 going 9-9 in conference play.
3 Baylor Players To Watch:
Brady Heslip (Guard) – An experienced senior who knows how to score. He can cause many problems for the Badgers defenders. He will look to drive continually into the Badgers’ lane. So far in the tournament, he is averaging 14.5 PPG. Heslip is a great three-point shooter and the Badgers will need to play great perimeter defense on him.
Isaiah Austin (Center) – Coming off a 17-point performance in Baylor’s domination of Creighton, Austin is a threat down low, both offensively and defensively. The 7-foot-1 sophomore is one of the first true centers the Badgers have played in awhile. Austin is a shot-blocking machine and he will look to make driving to the hoop a nightmare for the Badgers.
Cory Jefferson (Forward) – The senior is simply put; a beast. On the year he nearly averaged a double-double at 13.6 PPG and 8.3 RPG. Look for Nigel Hayes to bump up against him a lot in this game. Jefferson has been one of Baylor’s most consistent players the past two seasons. He could cause the Badgers some fits.
A Look At Baylor’s Offense:
Baylor’s offense has been pretty dynamic all year and it is heating up. Over the past four games, the Bears have averaged over 79 PPG…and that’s against four quality opponents. They defeated Texas, lost to No. 16 Iowa State, beat a Nebraska squad that made easy work of the Badgers and blew out 3-seed Creighton; something not many people expected. Baylor will look to run the court against the Badgers, even after made baskets. Wisconsin will have to get back on defense immediately to not get caught napping. They shoot the three incredibly well (11-18 against Creighton) and will shoot it often against Wisconsin. As of lat,e Baylor hasn’t been beating itself by turning the ball over much, either. That is a trend Bucky will have to reverse to make it to the Elite Eight.
A Look At Baylor’s Defense:
All you need to know about Baylor’s defense is that, in its last game, it shut down the nation’s leading scorer, Doug McDermott. And did it with ease. Beyond that, in the Bears’ previous four games they haven’t allowed an opponent to score 70 points. At this time of the year, that’s quite impressive. Baylor’s defense runs an aggressive 1-3-1 zone, something the Badgers don’t have a ton of experience against this year. The Badgers will need to pit Baylor’s aggressive against them and continually take advantage of backdoor passes and cuts to the basket. Baylor’s defense has gotten stronger all year and are now as confident as they’ve been all year, especially after taking down a dangerous Creighton squad. Bucky will have to be precise to overcome Baylor’s zone.
3 Keys To Victory:
1. Wisconsin must shoot its way out of Baylor’s aggressive zone. If the Badgers can hit the three-point shot with regularity it could force the Bears into adjusting their defense into something less aggressive. The three-point shot is always important in Bo Ryan’s swing offense, but in this game, it’s relied on even more. Ben Brust, Josh Gasser and Frank Kaminsky need to lead the charge in this department. Of course, no one will be upset if Traevon Jackson, Sam Dekker or Duje Dukan hit one or two as well.
2. Make Baylor play the pace Wisconsin wants, not the other way around. If the Badgers give in the fast pace of play that Baylor desperately wants, they could find themselves in trouble early. A deliberate pace will kill Baylor’s offensive flow. That means get the ball into the post to Kaminsky and Hayes with regularity, extend possession and wait for the best shot available. That’s Wisconsin basketball.
3. Play strong defense in the paint against Austin, Jefferson and any guards that attempt to drive toward the hoop. That means the Badgers must have their arms up and play defense with their feet first. Also, Bucky must take some charges to discourage the Baylor guards from driving to the hoop with reckless abandon. This is the one thing the Badgers have consistently struggled with this year but seem to have a bit more under control as of late. If Wisconsin can limit the amount of points in the paint for the Bears early, it may force them into launching ill-advised threes; playing right into the Badgers’ defensive game plan. Let’s hope so, anyway.
This will be a very fun game to watch and Wisconsin is incredibly excited to get back out on the court.
Click here to hear Bo Ryan’s thoughts on the upcoming game.
Now that you know a little more about the Badgers’ next opponent, aren’t you already jazzed for tip-off?
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