Well, it's not exactly a secret Wisconsin will play man-to-man defense the entire game. So here are my projected match-ups between players.
|Kevin (Yogi) Ferrell (fr., 6-foot, 178 pounds)||Traevon Jackson (so., 6-foot-2, 213 pounds)|
|Jordan Hulls (sr., 6-foot, 182 pounds)||Ben Brust (jr., 6-foot-1, 195 pounds)|
|Victor Oladipo (jr., 6-foot-5, 214 pounds)||Ryan Evans (sr., 6-foot-6, 212 pounds)|
|Christian Watford (sr., 6-foot-9, 232 pounds)||Mike Bruesewitz (sr., 6-foot-6, 223 pounds)|
|Cody Zeller (so., 7-foot, 240 pounds)||Jared Berggren (sr., 6-foot-10, 235 pounds)|
As you can see, when we get to the front court there are some decisions to be made at the forward match-ups. I think Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan will opt to put Evans on the more athletic Oladipo. The second leading scorer for the Hoosiers with 13.8 points per game (and the Big Ten leader in FG percentage at 68 percent), Oladipo is quick and loves to get his points by driving to the basket and slicing to the rim on cuts. The fact that he leads the conference in field goal percentage speaks wonders to how many open, easy looks he gets per game out of Indiana's quick transition game and terrific point guard penetration. Evans will need to use his extra length to try to limit Oladipo getting touches close to the rim and physically body him from getting inside on back door cuts and screens.
Bruesewitz will have his hands full with Watford but then again, which Badger player won't in this game? Bruesewitz does the best job of any Badger at boxing out, and Watford is the team's second leading rebound at 6.7 a contest. Watford has range from three, so Bruesewitz will have to make sure that he keeps him in his sight. But, Bruiser showed plenty of defensive promise by chasing after Illini guard Brandon Paul this past Saturday and limiting him to 1-for-11 shooting from the floor. I like Bruiser's chances to win this battle.
To me, defensively for Wisconsin, this game comes down to limiting transition and lane penetration. Jackson is going to have to play an almost perfect game defensively against Ferrell, the player that makes this Hoosier team tick in full-court transition and half-court possessions. He's got a keen eye for the open man and his court vision is tremendous, especially considering he's just a freshman. The key for me in this game is Jackson stopping Ferrell from getting inside the arc uncontested on his dribble. Against Minnesota this past weekend, Ferrell grilled the Gophers by getting a few steps inside, forcing help and then kicking out to the open man, either across the court to Hulls for three or to one of his forwards cutting backdoor underneath, filling the spot left by the help.
I wouldn't be surprised to see Brust chasing Hulls in the game, mainly because of Hulls range and quick release. In fact, I think these two players are almost mirror images of each others (deep-three range) but Hulls has the quicker release. I like Hulls' IQ on the court, mainly because he knows his role and does a terrific job utilizing his strengths. He leads the conference in three-point percentage at an ungodly 52 percent, so Brust will have to never lose sight of him, considering Hulls is automatic. Hulls does a phenomenal job filling the spot in transition either on the break or as a trailer, so Brust will have to limit his open looks (he hits them just as easily with men in his face, but better to make every shot contested, right?).
As far as Zeller vs. Berggren, we all know what this is. Two of the best big men in the country against each other. Don't sell Berggren short in this matchup. I remember last year Berggren physically handled Zeller, although Zeller has a year of experience and more muscle now since the last time the team's met. Once again, the most important part of this battle between the centers comes down to Berggren in transition. Will he be able to keep up with Zeller running the floor in transition? And will he be able to push the lanky center off the blocks? Those are the two most important questions. Also, Berggren will need to be careful on which shots he chooses to try and contest, because Zeller will feast on any weakside rebounds if Berggren chooses to leave him. Berggren also must avoid foul trouble, because, and no offense to Frank Kaminsky, the Badgers don't have much depth behind him to match Zeller on the floor.
There's a reason Indiana is the #2 team in the country. They're fast, athletic, skilled and every member of their starting five is an offensive threat. Wisconsin has the best scoring defense in the conference and Indiana has the best scoring offense, but Wisconsin doesn't have the athletes to beat Indiana in this game. If the Badgers hope to win, they'll have to hope that Indiana has a bad shooting night and they have one like the Illinois game, because if the Badgers shoot cold from the floor in Bloomington, they're going to get blown out.
But, also, keep in mind that this is Indiana's third game in just over a week and this is just Wisconsin's second. Not that it will matter much, but just something to keep tucked away in the noggin if Indiana looks like their dragging their feet in the second half compared to Ryan's squad.
I think Wisconsin's defense does a great job slowing the tempo in this game, but in the end, the offensive prowess of Indiana and Ferrell's ability to get to the lane and distribute will prove the end for the Badgers hopes at an upset.