For today’s Q&A we asked our fellow SB Nation site “Bucky’s 5th Quarter” to answer some questions for us on this years Wisconsin basketball squad. Matt Rock give us some insight into what makes this years squad tick along with how he thinks the Badgers will fare against the Huskers in Madison.
Corn Nation: What were the expectations from the fans of Wisconsin going into the season?
Matt Rock: There’s two ways to answer this. The traditional way is Wisconsin should get to the NCAA tournament, and maybe win a game. Competing for a conference title was out of the question, but maybe get back into the top 4 of the regular season Big 10 standings.
The untraditional way is that with Ethan Happ gone, this team is going to look a lot like a vintage Bo Ryan squad. Happ was defensively brilliant and an offensive virtuoso in the paint, but couldn’t make a jump shot. Nate Reuvers has taken over the center spot and can let it fly from deep, pulling out opposing centers to let Kobe King or Brad Davison drive easier.
CN: Wisconsin was handed a tough loss to Michigan State on Friday night. A tough loss to a very good team. What went wrong and can badgers fix it?
MR: At some point during the first half, I saw that Wisconsin had attempted 5 more shots than Michigan State, but Sparty made 5 more shots. Between Michigan State’s stellar defensive play and maaaaybe forcing a few things on some jump shots, not much went well offensively.
Part of fixing it is not playing the preseason #1 team on the floor where you haven’t won in over a decade. The rest is being able to hit a jump shot when you have the opportunity.
CN: Brad Davidson limped off the court against the Spartans. Will he be available to play against the Huskers? If not, who will replace the guard and will they be a threat to Nebraska?
MR: I haven’t seen anything saying Brad’s out of the game. If he’s limited in any way, his minutes will probably be cobbled together by backup point guard Trevor Anderson and 3-point specialist Brevin Pritzl. Pritzl can absolutely hurt a team from deep, and if he gets hot at home it would be a painful night for Nebraska. He’s the guy that is most likely to make a 3 to get the Kohl Center loud enough to force a timeout.
Trevor Anderson…Wisconsin has scoring depth this year. There’s 8 players where if any combination landed somewhere in the top 3 in Badger scoring for a game I would say ‘Yup, that makes sense.’ Anderson is the one that if he’s leading the scoring, something bad happened. Somewhere between multiple injuries to alien bodysnatching bad. He can distribute well, but he doesn’t take many shots in his limited playing time.
CN: Who else should the Huskers watch out for?
MR: I’ll take this opportunity to launch into every single talking point at once by saying “the power forward spot.” Aleem Ford will start there as he’s done every game this season. But, the guy that made 45 of 110 3-pointers his freshman year is at 30% this season, and hasn’t developed elsewhere to compensate. His minutes have steadily decreased to the point where he was on the Breslin Center floor for all of 6 minutes.
A lot of those minutes have gone to true freshman Tyler Wahl. Right now, he’s a high-energy player off the bench for better and worse. Offensive boards? He’s got em. Personal fouls? He’s got em. Half-court buzzer beater? He’s got… well one against Richmond.
The rest of Ford’s minutes went to Micah Potter. After the Ohio State transfer sat out 3 semesters because of ~~NCAA reasons~~, he stole the show in games against Penn State and Maryland with highly efficient shooting and really great rebounding. Suddenly, fan opinion was that Potter needed to start, the entire campus should be built around him, you needed to put him and Reuvers in together and Greg Gard is an idiot for not having the exact same plan as someone on the couch. That talk went away after he scored 4 points on 7 shots with 3 turnovers at MSU, the first game where Potter and Reuvers were on the floor together for extended minutes. Potter is extremely welcome front court offense off the bench. If he can create assists (0 on the season so far!) and rotate on defense quicker, then yeah give him more run. Until then, bench scoring is a nice luxury to have.
CN: What does Wisconsin do that will give the Huskers fits in Madison? Can Nebraska’s fast paced offense take advantage of Wisconsin or do the Badgers have what it takes to slow the Huskers down?
MR: Marquette and Penn State play around the Huskers’ pace, and both were Badger wins in completely different ways. In the faster-paced game, Marquette’s Markus Howard got deep in his own head in the second half and was hucking early, and the Golden Eagle defense was disjointed at times leading to easy Badger buckets. Compare that to Penn State, which was a 2 hour dentist trip that made you wonder how long ago the 36-33 game was. This is once again a lock-solid Wisconsin defense that wants you to force a difficult shot and not get a rebound. Badger basketball is built on a foundation of nobody enjoying it and just forcing the other team to enjoy it less.
CN: What will happen on Tuesday night and what do you think the final score will be?
MR: Potter gets double-digit points, but is the victim on a few lobs causing more consternation over how to use him. Trice ‘gets hot’ for the first time in a conference game this year by going 2 of 7 from deep. There will be a stretch between TV timeouts where both teams combine for under 4 points. Nebraska can’t string together buckets as often as Wisconsin does, and the Badgers win in ugly-to-watch fashion, 64-55. It’ll last 2:07.
Thanks again to Matt Rock of Bucky’s 5th Quarter for answering our questions. For more info on this years Badger team I suggest you head over to their site and check out what they have in store for the Huskers tonight in Madison.