If the 85 points North Dakota put up on Wisconsin earlier this week put you on notice about the Badger defense, you might be the last one to the party. Luckily the Badgers are scoring more and still winning, but they are surrendering nearly 70 points on average through four games.
One explanation for higher scores is UW's willingness to play a bit faster this season. However, a bigger reason has been the defense's inability to stifle high-volume shooters on the other team.
Whether or not it is due to defensive rule changes and resulting tentativeness by Bo Ryan's squad, there is no denying that a certain type of player has been giving Wisconsin's defense fits so far: quick, streaky guards around 6'4" tall who play a lot of minutes, use a lot of possessions and take a lot of shots.
Will the streak end now that Wisconsin welcomes Bowling Green (1-1) from the MAC? HA HA HA!
Let me introduce you to Jehvon Clarke.
Clarke is a 6'1" junior and BGSU's leading scorer. He has scored 17 points in both outings so far this season. Granted the first game was against something called Earlham (who's eighth in line for throne, I believe), and Clarke found it tougher sledding against an AAC opponent.
But Clarke is never scared! While Bowling Green fell to South Florida, 75-61, he played 39 minutes and jacked up 24 shots against the Bulls. Score one for "point" guards everywhere!
I asked John Wagner, the Bowling Green beat writer for The Blade in Toledo, to break down Clarke's game for us.
"Clarke is extremely quick, and that's the foundation of his offensive game. His quickness makes him a tough on-man guard for any opponent," Wagner said. "He took a lot of shots in the loss against South Florida, and he spends some time at shooting guard when freshman J.D. Tisdale plays the point. But he's more valuable at the point."
How does Clarke measure up to previous guards who have exploded offensively against Wisconsin? Let's check using tempo-free stats through Wednesday:
|St. John's||D`Angelo Harrison||6-4||Jr.||115.4||85.0||29.7||32.3||133||36||27||9-19||1-7|
|Florida||Michael Frazier II||6-4||So.||121.5||66.9||21.0||26.4||164||33||20||7-11||5-7|
|Green Bay||Keifer Sykes||5-11||Jr.||107.4||73.8||33.0||41.9||117||35||32||13-26||2-8|
|North Dakota||Troy Huff||6-5||Sr.||149.6||66.2||33.6||34.3||149||28||37||15-22||4-6|
|Bowling Green||Jehvon Clarke||6-1||Jr.||97.9||80.0||32.2||31.5||?||?||?||?||?|
All but Huff exceeded their season's offensive efficiency in their game against the Badgers -- and Huff basically maintained his already insanely high efficiency.
Green Bay's Sykes might be the best comparison to Clarke on the surface, when it comes to size and efficiency. But Clarke is more comparable to Harrison when it comes to the size of his role in the team's offense. In addition to being a fine gunner for Louis Orr's group, Clarke can also pass (6.0 apg) and cause trouble on defense (4.0 spg).
The obvious gap in Clarke's superpowers is that he is not very experienced for a junior. He waited in the wings for a couple years behind a pair of upperclassmen, so he doesn't have a list of marquee performances like a Troy Huff or a D'Angelo Harrison. Other than exploding for 14 points in 12 minutes against Michigan State as a freshman, Clarke had not scored in double-figures until two games ago.
"There just weren't a lot of minutes for Clarke last year. With [Jordon] Crawford's graduation," Wagner continued, "now is Clarke's time. So far, outside of the poor shooting night against South Florida, he seems ready for it. I think his ability to limit turnovers is the key to his play."
Injuries & Notes: Among the injured Falcons is starting guard Chauncey Orr, who remains a "game-time decision" with a preseason knee injury. Wagner does not expect Orr to play ... UW's George Marshall will miss his third straight game recovering from a concussion ... Vitto Brown gets to play his hometown team during his first season, a rare treat for a Badger freshman, though it is something Wisconsin tries to arrange for players during their careers. Nigel Hayes (Toledo) grew up not far from Bowling Green as well.
Projected Starting Lineups
|Frank Kaminsky, Jr.||C||Cameron Black, Sr.|
|Sam Dekker, So.||F||Richaun Holmes, Jr.|
|Josh Gasser, Jr.||G / F||Spencer Parker, So.|
|Ben Brust, Sr.||G||Anthony Henderson, Jr.|
|Traevon Jackson, Jr.||G||Jehvon Clarke, Jr.|
KenPom win probability: 98% (74-54 W) 62 possessions
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- Wisconsin vs. Minnesota 2013: The start of something beautiful
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