Tuesday, March 18, 2008

How Do The Badgers Hypothetically Match Up Against Future Lottery Players

The Wisconsin Badgers(29-4) received a three seed in the Midwest which puts them in an Omaha regional with not only their first round opponent, Cal-State Fullerton(24-8), but a possible second round match up against USC(21-11) or Kansas State(20-11). Much have been said about both USC's guard O.J. Mayo and K-State's forward Michael Beasley. Both players are freshmen who are expected to bolt from the NCAA to the pro ranks. Mayo should be a high lottery pick and Beasley is a virtual lock for the first or second overall selection. A question has been posed that in a hypothetical match up versus one these teams, do the Badgers win?

A look at the No. 5 ranked Badgers shows only four losses. Wisconsin does not present any huge offensive weapons, with Brian Butch being the teams leading scorer at 12.5 points per game. But every player on the floor can score from anywhere on the court save Stiemsma who can still stroke it from about 20 ft. That can be attributed to Bo Ryan's swing offense which keys on clock usage, player movement, ball movement and smart shots. So what has allowed the Badgers to only lose four games? For one it has helped that the Big Ten is having a down year, but the three main reasons are defense, turnovers, and free throw shooting.

It's well known now that the Badgers play one of the best defenses in all of the country. They lead the nation in scoring defense at 53.8 points per game and after them no team is even close. The next best teams in scoring defense that are in the NCAA tournament are Washington State at 57.1(this is important later) and Butler and Georgetown right near 58 points per game. Not only do the Badgers shut teams down but they do so with out fouling. They are currently 5th in the country committing a measly 14.4 fouls a game. They allow their opponent to get to the line 13.2 times where those teams are making 9.3 free throws per game. At the same time the Badgers average 14.5 free throws made while attempting 20.2. That's right people, the Badgers make more free throws than their opponents have attempted. In the turnover department the Badgers are 19th in the country at 12.1 turnovers per game. Only eight teams in the current field of 65 can boast better turnover numbers.

Lets look into the games the Badgers lost. If you look at the box score of the four games you will see a common theme is present. First, in the games against Duke, Marquette and the home game against Purdue the Badgers committed 18 turnovers a piece. In the road loss to Purdue the Badgers committed 13 TO's. That's 16.75 TO's per game in the losses. The Badgers average 11.4 TO's per game in their 29 wins. Also if you look at the loss to Duke and two losses Purdue you'll notice that Wisconsin's opponents went 11-24, 7-20, and 8-19 from three point land respectively. All three of these teams rely heavily on there guard play, and have multiple guards that are not only scoring threats but three-point threats as well. Clearly the reasons for these losses can be attributed to turnovers on the offensive side of the ball, and strong three point shooting by the opposing team. So how does that stack up against a possible match up against Kansas State or USC.

Let it be known that neither USC or Kansas State bother me as much as CS-Fullerton does. In fact none of these three squads even come close to how terrified I was last year when I saw UNLV as a possible second round match up. Let me explain.

First, for match up reasons lets assume that Wisconsin beats Cal-State Fullerton and USC beats Kansas State, since USC is the 6 seed and a team I would be more worried about. USC is a young athletic team that boasts freshman guard O.J. Mayo. He currently averages 20.8 points per game, and has been playing better and better each game. While guards Mayo and Dwight Lewis(10.9) both average double digits in scoring the only three point scoring threat on USC is Mayo. USC averages 5.5 three pointers made per game. Contrast that number with the teams Wisconsin lost to in Duke, Purdue and Marquette, who average 9.3, 7.2 and 7.3 three pointers made per game respectively. USC also is quite turnover prone. They average 14.7 a game. Perhaps the biggest reason I don't fear the USC Trojans is the fact that they were 0-2 versus conference opponent Washington State who plays a very similar defense to the Badgers. Not only did USC lose these games(74-50, 73-58) but they were blown out losing by 24 on the road and by 15 at home. The biggest reasons for losing? USC turned the ball over 27 times and were out shot at the free throw line by 14 points. Clearly the key in this potential game would be getting to the line and creating turnovers, which plays to Wisconsin's strengths. Also shutting down Mayo may be hard but Michael Flowers is one of the top defenders in the country. This could be a match up that puts Flowers on the big stage. More than likely Mayo would get his points, but its making sure his fellow Trojans don't follow suit that is the key for the Badgers. USC is definitely a good team, but with young players and based on the way they played versus a similar team like Washington State, it wouldn't be a game that would require me to go out and buy some Rolaids before hand.

So lets say the Badgers beat Fullerton and 11 seed Kansas State upsets USC. (This would be the best case scenario for the Badgers, in my opinion) Before you really get into the numbers, you could look at K-State's record, where they are 2-4 over their last 6 games and 5-7 of their last 12. This serves as evidence that this team isn't really playing top-notch basketball right now. Wisconsin would, however, have to deal with a beast of a man in Michael Beasley. He's the Big Twelve Player of the Year and one of two players getting NCAA PYO consideration, the other being Tyler Hansbrough of North Carolina. Beasley averages 25.6 points per game and 12.4 rebounds per game. The only other scoring and three point threats are Bill Walker(15.8 ppg) and a non starter who Jacob Pullen(9.8 ppg). K-State can shoot the three though, as shown by their 6.54 three pointers made per game. They are sort of set up like Indiana with Eric Gordon being the shooting threat and D.J. White inside, with the difference being Walker is listed as a forward even though hes 6-6 and Gordon is a combo guard. Lets get real though, this offense goes through Beasley, and the Cats only score from outside when they kick the ball out after the defense collapses on Beasley. While there isn't a player that could truly match up with Beasley's size and strength a combination of Marcus Landry and Joe Krabbenhoft would be two gritty players that could do the job keeping Beasley from getting offensive rebounds and put backs. He averages 4 offensive rebounds a game, an aspect of his game that makes him the great player he is. Looking deeper Kansas State turns the ball over a whopping 15.3 times a game, something the Badgers would key on. They also commit 20.4 fouls a game and put their opponents to the line 20.5 times per game. Those numbers play well into Wisconsin's kind of style. Offensively drawing Beasley out of the paint would be a main priority. Overall I think Kansas State offers a better match up for the Badgers, mainly because Kansas State doesn't have the guards that would give the Badgers fits. Remember the Badgers let D.J. White get 22 points and 17 boards, and still won by 13. While at the same time I realize White isn't the same dynamic player Beasley is, it's the closest kind of dominant big guy they've played. I just feel like if the Badgers lose this game it wouldn't be because Beasley has a big game, it would be because they turned over the ball or Kansas State hit them with a 3-point barrage.

The reason Cal-State Fullerton bothers me is that they have great guard play. They have 3 players that average more than 14 points per game and Josh Akognon is the teams leading scorer at 19.9 points per game. The Titans also average 8.6 three pointers made per game. This team seems strangely close to a mid-major version of Duke or Purdue. But before you really start to get scared you need to know that the Titans are a 14 seed. The same 14 seed that since 1985 has been beaten by the 3 seed 77 times which is 84%. A 14 seed over a 3 seed has happened 15 times in 24 years. Another thing the Badgers have going is that, CS-Fullerton's regular players stand no taller than 6'6". They're two gritty forwards stand 6'5" and 6'4". Obviously Wisconsin's inside game will be a focal point on offense. Seriously though this game could be close, and does worry me a bit.

Overall, I guess what I'm trying to say is if you have Wisconsin in the round of 32 in your bracket, the numbers would suggest that its safe to also move them into the sweet 16 and 72.6% of ESPN's Tournament Challenge bracket population agree.


Winks said...

Congrats Bear on the first Bucky Channel article I've printed off for the bathroom! (By the way, I took off the labels on the page if anyone else was looking to do some bathroom reading as well. I'm looking into one of those TagCrowd things, but for now, enjoy the article).

Mr.Man said...

Good effort. I recommend that you use Ken Pomeroy's stats when you're doing your discussions. They're far more accurate. For example, the raw number of turnovers per game doesn't matter as much as the percentage of possessions that a team turns the ball over. (Pomeroy provides those stats for free.) On that scale, UW is quite good, but not great. They have been doing quite well of late though (1 TO against MSU, 7 against Illinois).

And I agree that UW matches up better against K-State than USC. UW's defense is based on closing the lane, and so much of K-State's offense as you say, runs through the paint.

However, you make some pretty wacky statements. First off, Beasley is 6'10". There's no way Krabby would guard him. They'd switch around Butch, Stiemsma and Landry, looking for the best option. Second, UW does not base its defense on forcing turnovers. They're 127th nationally in forcing turnovers-- right in the middle of the pack.
Check out Pomeroy's stats---
They're awfully interesting.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Mr. Man, I agree, after looking at the pomeroy stats you are right on. Good point on TO per possession, I should of looked at that. As for some of my "wacky" statements, I meant it to say Krabbenhoft and Landry would probably loosly double him possibly with a front back double, especially when Beasley is in the paint. Stiesma I think would be too slow to guard him alone and Butch is probably too soft. As for the TO statement, I was just pointing out that Kansas State is turnover prone and that it would be something the defense would capitalize on. But thanks for the comments, and for pomeroy stats.. good stuff!

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