The Badgers appear to be on track, but does that mean they can beat Kansas State?
As soon as Wisconsin beat Belmont 72-58 Thursday night, my twitter feed was immediately filled with "I told you so's" and retweets of my Belmont pick.
Fair enough. I was wrong. And happy to be wrong.
But what those critics of mine failed to retweet was the tweet I sent out just seconds after I picked Belmont. You know, the one that talked about how Wisconsin could make a run if they got past Belmont?
I stand by that statement. Belmont was a bad matchup for the Badgers on paper. With two talent bigs and number of players who could get hot from outside, the Bruins were the perfect example of the kind of underdogs that had knocked Wisconsin out of the NCAA Tournament in the past. And had the Bruins been able to hit anything -- UW's defense deserves a ton credit for that -- they would have been a much tougher out. Did I overrate Belmont a little bit? Probably.
And now I could be overrating the Badgers a little bit, but I like their chances against Kansas State tonight. Sure, the Badgers could easily fall back into bad offensive habits, miss a majority of their shots and lose to Kansas State, but there was an important development in the win over Belmont that tells me that won't happen:
Mike Bruesewitz is clearly healthy enough to make an impact.
More importantly, he wants to make an impact. What was bewildering to me in UW's losses to Ohio State and Penn State was how Wisconsin's role players -- pretty much everyone besides Jordan Taylor and Jon Leuer -- were so nonchalant on the court. It appeared everyone was afraid to shoot and there was very little energy spreading through the team. Against Belmont, Bruesewitz was a force from the time he stepped on the court and his attitude provided a spark to the rest of the team.
On the flip side, energy is great, but that doesn't mean shots are going to fall. It's hard to blame role players for not wanting to shoot when they struggle from the floor. In fact, when you look at a guy like Tim Jarmusz, who has pretty much struggled shooting the ball his entire career, you can see why he has almost completely reserved himself to playing defense and rebounding the basketball. That's fine if that is what your role has been for entire season, but it's not okay when you are Keaton Nankivil who is and has to be Wisconsin's third reliable scorer in every game. Taking four shots against Penn State is inexcusable. Taking only two shots against Belmont is even more disturbing.
I'm not sure why Nankivil's offense has disappeared recently, but he needs to get involved early against Kansas State and be an x-factor.
For what it's worth, I think that will happen and the Badgers will come away with a win to head to their second Sweet 16 appearance in four years.