There are plenty of constants to Bo Ryan's swing offense at Wisconsin: a slow pace, limited turnovers and at least for the last few years, loads of three-pointers.
Offensive rebounding has not been one of those constants. According to KenPom.com's data -- back to 2003 -- the Badgers have ranked somewhere from 56th all the way down to 255th in the nation in offensive rebounding. The team is built to find ways to score in the half court on one good shot -- anything beyond that is gravy. Offensive rebounding is a philosophical choice, and in some ways a gamble. If you send too many players to crash the offensive glass, you're risking giving up points on the defensive end.
Three of the last four seasons, the Badgers have been more or less satisfied to get back on defense and eschew the offensive rebound. In 2009, 2010 and 2012 the club ranked 221st, 249th and 225th respectively in offensive rebound rate (or, offensive rebounds per missed shot). But on Sunday, the Badgers pulled down a tremendous 19 offensive rebounds on 29 misses -- an absurd 65.5 percent rate. Those offensive rebounds were the true key behind a 147.1 offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions), the Badgers' fourth best single-game mark since 2003.
For reference, the nation's leading defensive rebounding team in 2012, Bucknell, pulled down 76.9 percent of its opponent's misses. The average team pulled in 68.9% of available defensive rebounds. In effect, the Badgers had the equivalent of a slightly below average defensive rebounding game on their own end of the floor.
Although certainly some of it has to do with the opponent -- Southeastern Louisiana didn't come close to matching the size of the Badgers -- this is a nearly unprecedented performance from Wisconsin on the offensive glass. Only once in KenPom's dataset -- back to 2003 -- have the Badgers pulled in more offensive boards, the 2009-10 season opener against Prairie View A&M. Much like Sunday saw Ben Brust scramble his way to five offensive boards, that night saw Josh Gasser pull down six offensive boards, keying dominance off the glass with relentless activity and soft hands. And, of course, the bigs were in as well -- Ryan Evans, Jared Berggren and Frank Kaminsky grabbed seven combined offensive boards on Sunday; Jon Leuer, Keaton Nankivil and Mike Bruesewitz combined for seven against Prairie View A&M.
With the size presented by Leuer and Nankivil, the Badgers rebounded 34.2 percent of their misses in 2011, 103rd in the nation -- not elite, but significantly better than the surrounding seasons. Unsurprisingly, that 2011 team was also the only Badgers team of the last four years to rank in the top 100 in effective height (a weighted average of height by minutes played).
George Marshall (5-11) and Brust (6-1) will probably drag the club's effective height out of the top 100, as the duo is listed as two and three inches shorter respectively than Jordan Taylor and Josh Gasser. However, the height of the Kaminsky-Berggren front line is similar to that of the Leuer-Nankivil front line from two seasons ago, and the effective height of 6-5 from Sunday's game is about a full inch higher than last season.
So if the Badgers do become a dominant or even just good offensive rebounding team in 2013, it's not about philosophy. "It's not like last year we said, look guys, don't go to the glass. You take advantage of the opportunities and there were opportunities," coach Bo Ryan said Sunday following the game. It just comes naturally that there will be more opportunities with a bigger front line like the Badgers feature this season.
Take that height and combine it with hustle and activity from the guards, and you have a recipe for big offensive rebounding totals. As Ryan noted, "If you look at the 19 [offensive rebounds], I think 10 of them were somebody got a hand on it first -- not controlled -- and then we got control. So it's being active and it's partially our size, we're gonna play teams that are bigger."
Wisconsin gets a quick real test of it's glass abilities Wednesday against Florida, a team that ranked 88th in the country in defensive rebound rate last year thanks to solid performances from a front line of Patric Young, Erik Murphy and Will Yeguete. At 6-9, 6-10 and 6-7 respectively, we'll get a chance to see if the Badgers can keep creating offensive rebounding opportunities against some real size. But with a bigger, opportunistic Badger club this year, it shouldn't surprise anyone if they win a game or two on the offensive glass.