Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
It's time to take the kid gloves off. Nothing like celebrating a DirecTV Classic tournament title than traveling back East to take on one of the perennial college basketball stalwarts. It's been twelve straight tournament visits under Coach Bo Ryan including a sweet 16 loss to Syracuse last year. His teams are always fundamentally sound. They defend, rebound, and don't turn the ball over. The Badgers lost star guard Jordan Taylor to graduation and suffered a huge blow when heir apparent point guard Josh Gasser was lost for the year due to an ACL injury. Instead of a guard-oriented attack, they've had to switch gears and rely more on their trio of senior bigs. Although they're 4-3 on the season, the two of losses came on the road against top-25 squads Florida and Creighton. Their most recent loss, however, was an ugly and uncharacteristically mistake-laden clunker at home to Virginia. Even so, make no mistake. This is the most complete and skilled team we've faced to date. They'll be highly motivated after their recent loss and are historically very tough at home. A victory here would be a definite statement game and would likely count as a quality win with regards to post-season implications. It's a definite measuring stick game to see what type of team we have this year.
F Ryan Evans(Sr), 6'6, 10.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.0 apg
F Mike Bruesewitz(Sr), 6'6, 6.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg
C Jared Berggren(Sr), 6'10, 15.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg
G George Marshall(Fr), 5'11, 7.3 ppg,
G Ben Brust(Jr), 6'1, 11.8 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 2.2 apg
Stepping in for the injured Gasser is redshirt frosh George Marshall. He's a quick guard known for his tenacious defense. He doesn't get to the line much, but can hurt you from deep. Ben Brust is their veteran off-guard who acts as their designated long-range ace.(46% 3FG) Ryan Evans was the leading returning rebounder for the Big-10. He's more of a scrapper who'll mix it up inside. Bruesewitz is known as "The Bruiser" which should clue you in to his style of play. He's their hustle and glue guy; almost a Jorge-type mentality in Harper Kamp's body. Jared Berggren has really stepped up to lead the team in scoring, rebounding, and blocked shots. He nearly single-handedly carried the team against Creighton with 27 points and matched their star forward Doug McDermott shot for shot. He's got a true inside-outside game and will burn you if you leave him open from deep.
Off the bench, they have McDonald's All-American and five-star recruit Sam Dekker. He was listed as one of the top wings in America (just behind Allen Crabbe) before he played a single minute. He's athletic, skilled, and versatile enough to play the 2, 3, or 4.
Keys to the Game:
1) Protect the ball and punish overplays.
Wisconsin only averages 9.8 turnovers per game, but they force 7.2 steals. Cal has gotten themselves in trouble at times this year by getting sloppy with the ball. Besides bringing it up, we have to be aware that they have very active bigs who play good ball denial defense in the post. Our entry passes and swing passes need to be crisp. The Badgers do like to go for steals. They gave up some easy points to the Virginia Cavaliers by gambling.
2) Hold our own on the glass.
Statistically, Cal is actually a slightly better rebounding team overall. The Badgers do grab more offensive boards, however. Their forwards are a bit under-sized, but they're savvy and high-energy. We can't let them out-work us.
3) Play smart on defense.
If there was ever a game for Montyball, this is it. We need to be on top of our defensive assignments or their half-court execution is going to pick us apart. The same type of defensive intensity we flashed during our best runs this year needs to be there from the tip. One real positive from last weekend's tournament was the improvement shown by Solomon, Kravish, and Thurman. They'll need to continue to elevate their play against a very tough Badger frontline. Wisconsin is somewhat infamous for playing at very slow tempo and using plenty of time on the clock before putting up a shot. We'll need to be ready to defend for the entire possession.
4) Be patient on offense.
The Wisconsin defense reminds me a bit of the Notre Dame team we played a couple of years ago, or last season's Colorado team. Neither of those games went particularly well for the Bears. They don't make a lot of mistakes, and will force you to run your sets to see if you'll get impatient with your shot selection or make a bad pass. As always, it'll be up to Cobbs and Crabbe to carry the scoring load. Cobbs will probably draw Brust as his defender. Crabbe might have a quickness edge coming off screens to get free from either of their starting forwards.
If Kreklow were healthy, we'd have a significant advantage at the point with Cobbs matched up against either a redshirt frosh or his sophomore back-up. Instead, we're probably going to have to rely on Tyrone Wallace and Brandon Smith to continue their solid play.
One area where Wisconsin has appeared vulnerable has been with regards to dribble penetration. Both Creighton and Virginia were able to get into the lane and force help defenders to slide over. This often lead to dump-offs for points in the paint or kick-outs to three point shooters. If Cobbs makes good decisions, he should be able to set the table all night - it'll be up to the rest of the guys to convert when given the opportunity.
Tip-off: Sunday, 12/2/12, 1pm PST.
TV: Big Ten Network (DirecTV 610)