Wisconsin-Penn State Preview: O Badgers, Where Art Thou?

Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

The Badgers look disinterested in fighting for loose balls and tough baskets of late. Sunday's rematch with Penn State is Wisconsin's final regular season chance to right the ship.

Based on what Wisconsin has shown over the past 60 minutes of basketball, the Badgers are in danger of extending their losing streak to a season-high three games Sunday in State College, Pa., of all places. Two games ago, this scenario sounded unthinkable.

From the closing minutes of the Purdue game through the entire Michigan State game, Wisconsin (20-10, 11-6 Big Ten) has looked soft and too reliant on 3-pointers. Apologists may scoff at the word "overreliance" by pointing to an even number of long-distance attempts across those last three halves (12, 9 and 12), but to me that's irrelevant. When a team is shooting 11 percent on those threes, any three-point attempt should be examined closely for its necessity.

Seniors Jared Berggren and Mike Bruesewitz get a lot of heat for the de-evolution of the Badger offense. And deservedly so. Neither player has put together a solid game in quite some team and they are the poster boys for the "No, don't shoot that three!" movement.

Berggren has scored only 23 points over the last three games, hitting just 1-of-11 behind the arc. Ten of his 21 field goal attempts have been 3-pointers in the past two games. Bruesewitz has been worse. In three games, 10 of his 18 field goal attempts have been 3-pointers, but he's hitting just 20% of those threes and 27% on the season.

But don't forget about Ben Brust and Frank Kaminsky. After carrying Wisconsin offensively for a recent five-game stretch, Brust has fallen off. The junior guard made only 4-of-14 threes on 17 overall field goal attempts. Kaminsky, who is nearly 7-feet tall, is making half of his shots inside the over the past two games (a measly 1-for-2), but none of his 3-pointers (0-for-6).

In all, these four players haven taken a combined 37 of their 59 shots from 3-point range, hitting just 16 percent (6-of-37) on threes and 27% overall (16-of-59).

And other than Kaminsky, those players are all upperclassmen. Time is running out for some of them.

Penn State (10-19, 2-15) is still a young team, pointing toward next season when the return of a healthy Tim Frazier will give the Nittany Lions an impressive three-guard rotation (along with Jermaine Marshall and D.J. Newbill). Yet it is Penn State that comes into its Senior Day having won two of its last three games -- the highlight of the season.

One could consider the Lions to be a on a roll, but that would probably mean ignoring the fact that sandwiched in between its upset of Michigan and a rout of Northwestern, Penn State was railroaded by Minnesota, 73-44. Yes, the same Minnesota that plummeted from No. 8 in the nation to ninth in the Big Ten over the past eight weeks. Then again, when you cannot shoot --which both of these teams have experience with -- any loss is possible.

All the people want today is for the Badgers to play tough, even if they don't win. Historically, playing tough against Penn State makes a win inevitable. And though that would seem to be the case again this year, Wisconsin has to play more like the Badgers that we've come to love over the full length of Bo Ryan's tenure, not just the 3-point gunners of late.

Projected Starting Lineups

Wisconsin Pos. Penn State
Jared Berggren, Sr. C Sasa Borovnjak, Jr.
Mike Bruesewitz, Sr. F Ross Travis, So.
Ryan Evans, Sr. F / G Jermaine Marshall, Jr.
Ben Brust, Jr. G Nick Colella, Sr.
Traevon Jackson, So. G D.J. Newbill, So.

KenPom win probability: 88% (64-53 W) 61 possessions

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

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