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Jared Berggren's struggles over the Badgers past five games personify Wisconsin's up-and-down season.
Earlier this year, I wrote the game recap and a column here on B5Q after the Badgers' woeful performance at rival Marquette. Most Wisconsin fans -- myself included -- were frustrated, even disconcerted, with the lack of progression this team had made through its first 10 games of the 2012-13 campaign.
Then the Badgers reeled off five consecutive whippings of far inferior competition and trounced a reeling Illinois club at the Kohl Center. At that point, Wisconsin was officially back on its feet and fans were reassured this wouldn’t be a lost season.
What happened next? An unexpected and stunning victory at Indiana. Now let’s be honest, did anybody actually feel the Badgers would pull out a victory in Assembly Hall, arguably the most hostile environment in college basketball? If you did, I’m inclined to call you a flat-out liar. However, if you actually called that upset, kudos to you on your brilliance.
After that victory, I immediately thought, "Well, here we go again." Another ho-hum Bo Ryan year with the Badgers in the Big Ten title hunt down to the end. My faith in Wisconsin basketball was restored.
But fast-forward two weeks, and one thing is clear: that Indiana win was a complete anomaly. The Wisconsin team fans have seen in the past four games is closer to what this team actually is: an average ball club. My fellow B5Q confidantes Nathan Palm and Louis Bien wrote great Badger Bits pieces this week highlighting many of the Badgers' offensive deficiencies, and to put it simply, this squad is riddled with problems.
Over the past five games, the Badgers' leading scorer, Jared Berggren, has been out-manned by the likes of Trevor Mbakwe (8 points, 10 boards), Aaron White (17 points, 7 boards) and Cody Zeller (23 points, 10 boards). During that span, Berggren’s offensive output has been egregious -- just 35 total points on 14-of-43 shooting (32.6 percent). Suggestion: stop shooting 3’s. Those have looked a lot like Ryan Evans free throws of late.
On to Evans -- has anybody seen a Badger (in recent memory) regress as much as this guy? He is having an awful senior season and my bewilderment has continued why Bo Ryan doesn’t tell him to stop shooting Also looking at the past five games, Evans’ struggles have amplified. He is shooting 30 percent (15-of-50) from the floor and averaging just 7.4 ppg. Suggestion: stop playing?
I highlight these two players because they still represent the Badgers' leading scorers, yet they beautifully illustrate just how terrible Wisconsin is offensively. Don’t expect this to change, because over these past five games, Wisconsin is shooting 38.3 percent overall (100-of-261). Of those 261 shots attempted, 122 of them have been from deep. Suggestion: stop relying so heavily on the three and get to the charity stripe at least once a contest (cough, cough…Ohio State game).
Now having said all that I’ve said and ridiculed as much as I’ve ridiculed, I still think more anomalies will happen this spring up. Heck, I’d even venture the Badgers will beat the current No. 1 team in America when the Michigan Wolverines visit Madison on Feb. 9. Taking it to another level, my bold prediction of the year will be as follows: Wisconsin gets a seven seed in the Big Dance, upsets a two seed in the second round and goes to another Sweet 16. Having said this, you all feel the same way and I know it.
Why? Because that would be so... Wisconsin, eh?
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