While the oddsmakers might not think much of Wisconsin basketball, opposing teams are rapidly finding out that the Badgers are no joke. After their gritty, come-from-behind victory on the road against the Oregon Ducks, the Badgers will once again pack their bags for their next contest. However, this time, they’ll be playing the NIT Final Four in the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. Their first opponent is the University of North Texas Mean Green.
Know your enemy: North Texas
North Texas, located in Denton, Texas, had a regular season record of 26-7. Their March Madness aspirations were popped when they lost their 2nd game of the C-USA tourney to UAB. They were one of the many mid-majors who had an impressive resume on the surface, but when you pulled the cover back, their body of work left something to be desired.
UNT played St. Marys earlier in the season and actually held the Gaels to 63 points. Unfortunately for the Mean Green, they could only manage 33 themselves. Wisconsin scores an average of 65.6 PPG, which is a very poor 325th of 363 in the nation. UNT is one of the 38 teams below them, averaging 64.7 themselves.
However, they couple that poor offense with a defense that leads the nations in points allowed (55.7) per contest. The aforementioned game against St. Marys is a good example of that defense as the Gaels scored 7 points below their season average. In the game that got them to Las Vegas, UNT held Oklahoma State to 59 points, almost 10 points lower than their season average…and that game went into overtime! At the end of regulation, the score was tied 55-55.
A good defense is part of this low-scoring equation, but the main reason is they have the nation’s slowest-tempo team. UNT’s average length of possession is 21.3 seconds and their defense forces the opposing offenses to use an average of 18.5 seconds per possession. which is 342nd out of 363 teams.
The average length of possession for offenses is 17.6. So what these incredibly slow possessions do is drastically reduce the number of times teams have a chance to score.
President Lincoln once commented on General McClellan, the commanding general of the Army of the Potomac, that he suffered from “a case of the slows” because of his cautious and slow manner in maneuvering his troops. Had old Honest Abe seen UNT play, he probably would have thought that McClellan was their coach.
North Texas’s primary weapons
While North Texas has three players who average double-digits in scoring, their team MVP is Senior guard Tylor Perry. His play is a lot like another player UW recently faced, Liberty’s Darius McGhee. Perry averages 17.3 points per game and is shooting 41.9% from long-range. He’s joined in the double-digit scoring by Senior Kai Huntsberry (12.0 ppg) and Junior Abou Ousmane (11.1 ppg).
UNT is a bit on the short side, as their players average a whole inch shorter than the Wisconsin basketball team. However, they do not let this deficiency in height impede their ability to get offensive rebounds, as they are 36th in the country in offensive rebound percentage.
The long-range missiles are a big part of the arsenal of weaponry that UNT employs. 36.1% of their scoring comes in the form of 3-point shots and this puts them 73rd in the country. Compare that to Wisconsin’s 34.3 percent and you can see that if you slow down their production of points from beyond the arc, they would encounter some difficulty with scoring.
No respect for Wisconsin basketball
For the second consecutive game, Wisconsin basketball finds itself as a small underdog. The line opened as UNT -1 and now has actually moved down half a point to UNT -1.5. The total has been moving as well, starting out at 115, moving up to 116, moving back down to 115, then moving half a point further down before coming back to the original 115.
I still do not understand the lack of respect that the Wisconsin basketball team is continuing to garner. They have been a completely different team in the NIT. I truly believe had they played with this level of intensity for just half of February, they would have made that other tourney with ease.
Yes, UNT has some impressive defensive scoring stats. Those are because of, once again, inferior competition and the tortoise-like style of play that they employ. Guess who isn’t going to be bothered by slow play? Wisconsin basketball. UNT’s biggest guy is 6’10 and they only have 3 players that are over 6’8″. Crowl and Wahl should be able to have their way inside, which will then open up Hepburn and Klesmit to snipe from long-range. While Connor’s struggles from long-range are being noticed by announcers, he’s still able to manufacture points with his drives.
So, if you happen to find yourself in a locale that offers you some legal sports wagering, taking Wisconsin to win on the money line, which should pay out even money or better, looks to be a very strong play, with a slight nod to the under.
Game Prediction: Wisconsin 58 North Texas 54