Las Vegas Invitational: It's Not You, Presbyterian, It's Me

Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Laying into winless Presbyterian seemed like the best way to make game two of the Las Vegas Invitational interesting.

Presbyterian College (0-3) is located in middle-of-nowhere Clinton, South Carolina, and its men's basketball program has only played five full seasons at the Division I level. Proud members of the Big South Conference, the school is more famous for its unique nickname, the Blue Hose, and mascot (Scotty the Scotsman), than anything it's ever done on the court.

But I venture there are a couple reasons to not overlook Presbyterian:

1. The Blue Hose beat Auburn and Wake Forest back-to-back in 2010.

2. Not to be outdone, Presbyterian shocked No. 20 Cincinnati on the Bearcats' home floor last year.

3. Campbell, a fellow Big South member, also beat Iowa last year.

4. Winthrop also plays in the Big South. You don't usually mess with Winthrop. Wisconsin found that out in 2007.

Reasons to overlook Presbyterian? Everything else. Presbyterian is ... not good right now.

It's not just the 25+ average margin of defeat, because they've played three either ranked or BCS-conference opponents. Wisconsin (2-1) has a larger average margin of victory even if you include its 18-point loss to Florida, in fact.

It's not only an offense and defense both ranked lower than No. 300 in efficiency.

It's also not limited to the 17-point first half they produced in an 87-58 loss to Creighton the other night.

No, what's really startling is that the Blue Hose rank dead last in the NCAA in bench minutes, at 13.2 percent.

So when Wisconsin (2-1) hosts Presbyterian on Tuesday night, you can rest assured that the Blue Hose simply do not have enough quality players to compete with the Badgers. They return one senior, Khalid Mutakabbir, who led the team in minutes last season.

Young wings Jordan Downing and Austin Anderson are also seeing big minutes for Presbyterian. Downing, a sophomore who leads the team in scoring, is coming off a nice 25-point performance against Creighton. At 6'8", Joshua Clyburn is the leading rebounder (7 rpg) and second-leading scorer. Only six players play regular minutes for the Blue Hose.

Why the hit job on poor ol' Presbyterian you ask? Nothing personal. This is another game where Wisconsin will not be judged by earning a 'W' (shhh ... don't tell Bo), but by how easily the players make it look. We need to calibrate our expectations. And if the Badgers don't methodically destroy this team, then there is a problem heading into the Vegas portion of this invitational.

I'm in a bit of a panicky mood because the Badgers failed their one true test -- albeit a big one -- miserably. It's still too early in the season to know exactly what to expect of this team.

What if Ryan Evans continues to shoot under 50 percent on a high volume of shots, even against mediocre-to-bad teams?

What if Ben Brust continues to out-rebound guys 5-to-9 inches taller than he is?

What if Frank Kaminsky's strength around the basket never materializes?

Does the block party continue (9 vs. Cornell) -- and is that stat covering up for bad perimeter defense?

Will UW's young guards and certain senior leaders (Mike Bruesewitz) keep dribbling into halfcourt traps?

Stay tuned.

Projected Starting Lineups
Wisconsin Pos. Presbyterian
Jared Berggren, Sr. F William Truss, So.
Mike Bruesewitz, Sr. F Josh Clyburn, Jr.
Ryan Evans, Sr. F Jordan Downing, So.
Ben Brust, Jr. G Austin Anderson, Fr.
George Marshall, Fr. G Khalid Mutakabbir, Sr.

KenPom win probability: 99% (69-44 W) 55 possessions

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For more Wisconsin basketball coverage, follow Phil on Twitter @hoopsmarinara.

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