It wasn't that long ago. Everything was great. Wisconsin was No. 3 team in the nation, unbeaten and with a style that was rarely seen in Madison. Three weeks ago, the Badgers popped up and swaggerjacked Illinois, 95-70. But now?
I'll leave you to find the most Malcolm Tuckerian usage of curse words to delineate just how bad this has gone. I won't. Because you know what? It's a long enough season that there's going to be a stretch that breaks badly. After all, a good basketball season will have thrice the games of a football season.
But this is a stretch where you have to go and think about what 's happened. In the "Behind The Music" of this season, where did it all go so wrong?
Teams are working inside
Overall, the Badgers aren't as impenetrable on the inside as they have been the last two seasons. A .425 overall field-goal percentage and a .459 percentage inside the arc aren't awful overall. They're actually reasonably close to where they were in 2009-10 and 2010-11. But here's the thing: there's been a steady, noticeable rise in both percentages that even the Purdue game didn't stop.
The Badgers were allowing field goals at a 40-percent clip, and just under 44 percent while they were unbeaten. But teams have figured they can attack inside. And they're going to keep attacking.
The three-point shooting
The Badgers have averaged 21 three-point shot attempts per game this year. That's right on pace with where they chucked shots from behind the arc the past few seasons. And as we all know, when you have a team that's going to fire away from beyond the arc so much, sometimes it's going to break bad.
Right now? It's breaking bad.
The undefeated run was assisted by the fact the Badgers were just under 40 percent from beyond the arc. Since? They're just under 30. When you chuck a high amount of three-pointers and they're not falling, the results will not be optimal.
The good news? This is one of the more fixable problems the Badgers have had during the streak. It may just be a market correction, because the Badgers have plenty of good shooters from three.
The Mercurial Traevon Jackson
If anyone's like the quarterback who shall not be named on the basketball team, it would be Traevon Jackson. He's around the ball a lot, and while he's had some good performances -- 21 points at Indiana, 15 points vs. Illinois -- he's definitely been sketchy (his seven-turnover game against Iowa, for example).
You want to know how sketchy? His assist-to-turnover ratio for the month is 26-to-24. He doesn't have the assist total to justify averaging three turnovers per game, and here's the thing: it seems to be affecting his shooting.
Now, while he's shooting just over 40 percent during this bump in the road, you take away the Indiana game and Jackson's field goal percentage falls to under 28 percent. He's slumping hard. He's not alone, but when the guy who has the ball is struggling, there is no chill. I mean, in the heat of Thursday, Nigel Hayes is fouling too much for Bo Ryan to consider moving him into the starting lineup right now.
So at the start of this, I posed the question: Should the Badger fan be worried?
Honestly, I think there's reason to worry somewhat. Sure, the shooting will correct itself. And this defense should improve. After all, the Badgers were on pace to match the previous two seasons before this bump in the road. But there's one thing that will leave you skittish the rest of the way.
It'll be difficult for the Badgers to go 0-7 next month. But you know what, this is not a downy soft schedule. Not anymore, anyway.
|Feb. 1||Ohio State|
|Feb. 4||@ Illinois|
|Feb. 9||Michigan State|
|Feb. 22||@ Iowa|
Yeah, the Badgers' streak has a real chance to get worse before it gets better. Of course, Wisconsin has always been a team that finds a way to subvert expectations, and it has always found a way to climb out when things seem bleakest.
But if you're worried about the Badgers' chances, I'm not going to tell you not to. It's a bad look right now.