There was a lot of talk throughout this season of the new-look, high-paced offense the Wisconsin Badgers were running. Gone was the boring, methodical pace where the Badgers would lull you to sleep and win by scoring 54 points. One thing that has stayed the same is Bucky’s defense. And that same defense stepped up for Wisconsin in the Elite Eight against Arizona.
And now Wisconsin will be heading to the Final Four as a dangerous team to play thanks to that hard-nosed, gritty, grind them down defense. That’s just Bo Ryan basketball, right?
During a few points this season, the Badgers were flat on the offensive end. Whether it was shots not falling, not getting open looks or whatever the case may have been, the offense sputtered. But the reason they have been in so many games with a chance to win has been because of their stellar defense.
That has not been more on point than during the NCAA Tournament. In the first three games, Wisconsin held opponents to a total of 77 points in the second half. The Badgers used their tight defense to help erase a 12 point Oregon lead in the third round of the tournament.
And against Arizona, with a Final Four trip on the line, Wisconsin relied on their defense once again. The Badgers held Arizona to shoot just 39.7% from the floor, a tournament low for the Wildcats. And every time the Wildcats seemed to be going on a run, the Badgers defense was there to shut them down and start a mini run of their own.
Frank Kaminsky battled in the paint with Kaleb Tarczewski and Aaron Gordon, making sure any points scored inside were earned. Tarczewski scored 12 points while Gordon, one of the top freshmen in the country, was held to just eight points on 3-for-11 shooting. In fact Gordon did not make a field goal until there was 2:34 left in regulation. And when the Wildcats had a chancein overtime to win the game with 2.3 seconds left, it was that stingy defense that forced Nick Johnson to use so much time that he failed to get a shot off before time expired.
Just like the previous three games, Bo Ryan’s crew outscored the Wildcats 39-35 in the second half and in overtime.
The Badgers have proven in the past couple of weeks that they are capable to play with, and even beat, some of the best teams in the nation. Because of their defense, this Wisconsin team will be dangerous in next weekend’s Final Four.