If Wisconsin's rebounding effort in its Big Ten/ACC Challenge loss to Virginia made you want to puke, you are not alone.
Wisconsin got all kinds of bottled up by Virginia on Wednesday night, the 60-54 loss dropping the Badgers' record to 4-3 and making UVA head coach Tony Bennett look like a genius once again. The performance continued a disturbing trend of home-court losses in 2012, where UW is now a pedestrian 13-5 over the last 365 days.
Much like the football team, the basketball squad is still looking for its first signature win of the season. The Badgers have not beaten any of the Top 100 Pomeroy-ranked teams they've faced, though they get two more shots (California and Marquette) in the next 10 days. To make matters worse, Creighton got bullied, 83-70, on its home floor by Boise State of all teams.
Not a fun night for Badger fans or Big Ten fans, as the ACC stormed back to tie this year's Challenge with a couple upsets.
This team cannot rebound
Out-rebounded by the Cavaliers 36-25, according to the box score, the Badgers were actually even worse than they appeared. Of the 25 rebounds credited to Wisconsin, seven of them were not attributed to any particular player, meaning 28 percent of UW's rebounds came when there was a jump ball or the rock simply bounced out of play. That means Virginia's starting forwards Akil Mitchell (10 rebounds) and Darion Atkins (7) nearly out-rebounded Wisconsin's eight players (18) all on their own.
It's a stunning development, really. With three seniors starting in the front court, it just shouldn't happen this way. Jared Berggren, Mike Bruesewitz and Sam Dekker combined for three (!) rebounds in 81 minutes of play. Ryan Evans managed six boards.
Berggren has always seemed to play a little soft on the glass. One explanation gaining popularity now that Berggren is tops in the Big Ten in swats, is that he chases a lot of shots, leaving him out of position for rebounds. To some degree, this makes a lot of sense. The numbers don't necessarily support this, though, as Berggren is (barely) showing career-best offensive and defensive rebounding percentages so far this year. These numbers will be something to keep an eye when the conference season gets underway.
Part of the problem are the defensive switches. This is leaving inexperienced -- and often undersized -- guards to box out bigger players. They are not getting the job done either.
Why Jackson started over Marshall
Bo Ryan claims to have seen some things he liked from Traevon Jackson against Creighton and Arkansas -- and rated Jackson's "performance" higher than George Marshall's against Virginia -- which is why I don't see Marshall getting his spot back from Jackson any time soon.
First of all, I'll go on record and say I disagree with this decision. I would want the better shooter out on the floor for kickouts from Berggren, Dekker, and Brust to prevent Evans from thinking that's his job.
Jackson does one particular thing better than Marshall, clearly, and that is create movement on offense. Not because Jackson's really great at it, but that Marshall is struggling right now doing anything in the half court besides pass the ball around and hit open 3-pointers. Marshall's two head-slapping turnovers against Arkansas probably stick out in Ryan's mind, but Jackson's continued bullheaded missions into the lane stick out to me. Jackson seems to know the correct basketball plays that are needed, but does not have the skills to complete them.
I'll give Jackson more time to develop those skills, but why not equal time for Marshall to develop his penetration skills and confidence? Jackson received 32 minutes against the Cavs, whereas Marshall only played 11 minutes. You can see a little bit of Jordan Taylor in Jackson's game, but not nearly enough to shut Marshall out. Wisconsin will continue to lose these games until the guard play improves.
Please redistribute the ball
Some of the shots Ben Brust puts up are mind-boggling. There was a 3-pointer in the first half against Virginia, where Brust did a 360-degree spin like the shot putter before releasing the ball. He made a lucky shot about five minutes later by flipping the ball blindly back over his head as he fell forward to the ground. Yes, you have to take the good with the bad when the guy is one of your few offensive weapons. But Brust took 16 shots -- twice as many as Berggren -- making six. The junior is hitting shots at a mere 39.2 percent clip in 2012.
Brust is not alone. The well-documented struggles of Evans continued Wednesday. After a 4-of-12 night, Evans is shooting 39 percent on the year, but only 1-of-13 (7.7 percent) on 3-pointers. His True Shooting percentage of 39.7 percent, which takes into account 3-pointers and free throws -- is down 10 percentage points from last season (similar to the poor TS% of his sophomore year) and a far cry from the ~80 TS% of national leaders.
The Badgers crave the consistency from Evans that he displayed to end last season. And I'll say it until I'm blue in the face: Evans can take all the baseline and free throw line jumpers he wants, as long as they're shot in rhythm with no dribbling required. Those are the high percentage finishes for Evans.
The main beneficiaries of the extra passes should be Berggren and Dekker. Dekker has to learn to box out better instead of breaking out for potential fast breaks all the time. Yet, there's still no reason to not get him the ball. He can create like no one else on the team. And if this is already supposed to be happening in the offense for Dekker, but the players are not executing it ... well, Bo Ryan is not doing a great job holding those players accountable.
As for Berggren, he's simply the most valuable player on the team. He must be the anchor offensively. Ten shots per game minimum.
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