Traevon Jackson was sensational against Trey Burke and Michigan on Friday. Can he have a repeat performance against Indiana?
Yesterday, we saw the best and worst of this year's Wisconsin basketball team. I hate to use a classic cliché, but that game was truly a tale of two halves.
The Badgers shot an atrocious 17.2 percent (5-of-29) from the floor in the first half. I'll go out on a limb and say I could gather four of my fellow B5Q writers and we'd be able to challenge that mark.
Thankfully for Wisconsin fans, that awful sight doesn't have to happen because the Badgers came out of halftime red hot, shooting 60.7 percent (17-of-28) from the field in the second half.
Once Bo Ryan made the adjustment to move the offense through Ryan Evans on the low block, Wisconsin's ball movement and rhythm really picked up. He didn't shoot it great from the field (just 4-of-12), but I thought Evans' performance in that second half was probably the best he's played all year. His patience in finding open teammates was crucial for the Badgers' turnaround.
Another guy you've got to give huge credit to: Traevon Jackson. In what was likely his best game of the season, Jackson had 16 points on just seven shots and he shut down Trey Burke about as well as you can, limiting the Big Ten Player of the Year to 19 points on 8-of-22 in a darned good day at the office.
But there is no time for the Badgers to reflect on their nice win over Michigan -- such is the nature of postseason play in college basketball. It's on to the next one this time of year. Top-seeded Indiana awaits.
Wisconsin will need a similar effort from the likes of Jackson and Evans later this afternoon if it wants to knock off the top-seeded Hoosiers. IU would love to avenge the loss the Badgers handed them back in January at Assembly Hall.
In an epic clash of styles, Wisconsin vs. Indiana should be yet another Big Ten dandy. Here are three keys for Bucky to come out on top:
Keep the Hoosiers under the 60-point threshold
We all know this is a tortoise and the hare match-up, so whichever style wins out most likely advances to Sunday's final. The Badgers have held their opponents under 60 points in seven of their past eight games and have the best scoring defense in the conference, allowing just 56 points per game. On the flip side, IU has the top scoring offense in the Big Ten and second-best in the nation, averaging 80.8 points per game. However, in games the Hoosiers have been held to under 60 points, they've lost each one. 60 is Wisconsin's magic number.
Limit Indiana's second-chance opportunities
IU ranks only fourth in the Big Ten in offensive rebounds per game at 12.5, but with Cody Zeller in the middle and guys like Victor Oladipo, Will Sheehey and Christian Watford crashing the glass from the wings, the Hoosiers are always a threat on the offensive boards. Zeller is averaging 22 points per game over his last four and the Badgers cannot afford to give him any extra looks at easy baskets in the paint. Indiana has a substantial size and athleticism advantage in the frontcourt over Wisconsin, but the Badgers counter that athleticism with more strength and physicality. The Hoosiers had 17 second-chance points in their win last Sunday in Ann Arbor, and that was the main reason they pulled out a win and ended the season alone on top of the Big Ten.
Get Traevon Jackson to double-figures in scoring
Huh? Yes, I know this may seem a little out of the blue, but given how well Jackson played against Trey Burke yesterday, he deserves a spotlight. Jackson has scored in double-digits nine times this season and the Badgers are 8-1 in those contests. One of those wins came at Indiana on Jan. 15, when Jackson scored 11 points and helped keep both Yogi Ferrell and Jordan Hulls under 10 points apiece that night. Jackson's become a legitimate scoring threat at the end of the shot clock and that really helped Wisconsin maintain a flow offensively during the second half against the Wolverines. If he can continue to make plays with the clock winding down, UW will be right there at the end with a chance to eliminate the No. 3 team in America.
Dating back to the beginning of the 2007-08 season, the Badgers have beaten Indiana 11 consecutive times. To put it simply, Ryan has Tom Crean's number big time. Will that streak extend to 12, or will Indiana solidify itself as a bona fide national title favorite?
Sit down, crack open a brew and find out at 12:40 p.m. CT.