Wisconsin got to enjoy the fruits of its season-long labor when it was able to coast past American in the second half on Thursday. Now the real tournament begins.
The Badgers (27-7) will be challenged by Oregon's offensive juggernaut Saturday, which will test how comfortable UW really is with playing uptempo. Think Iowa on steroids. The Ducks (24-9) blitzed BYU two days ago, 87-68, and have won nine of their last 10 games. Oregon uses a guard-oriented approach to spread teams out and then picks them apart in all facets -- with 3-pointers, at the rim and from the free throw line. However, the Ducks do have a tendency to foul, so Wisconsin would be well-served to match Oregon's aggressiveness.
Will the pseudo home-court advantage at the Bradley Center be enough to put UW over the top? For our game day preview, enjoy some Q+A with David Piper, the manager of an Oregon blog that is one of the best-named websites in the universe, Addicted To Quack.
B5Q: Oregon's season has been a lot like Wisconsin's. The Ducks started 13-0, then lost five in a row and 8-of-10 in all. Since then, they'e gone 9-1. What problems did Oregon have to solve to break out of that midseason funk?
Addicted to Quack (David): I think a lot of the midseason funk was due to role confusion, and it took the team awhile to work through it. To start the season, last year's starting point guard, Dominic Artis, and a rotation big in Ben Carter were suspended for 12 games for selling gear. The Ducks went undefeated without them, but their return disrupted the on-court chemistry. It spiraled for awhile, but when the Ducks got it back, they started looking like the top 15 team they were at the beginining of the year.
B5Q: The Ducks like to play very uptempo offensively, scoring a very efficient 82 points-per-game, good for ninth in the country. Besides all the transition points, is Oregon equipped to attack Wisconsin's weakness on pick-and-roll defense?
ATQ: While Oregon runs the pick and roll from time to time (and may do it more if that is a weakness for Wisconsin), it's not Oregon's bread and butter. The Ducks want to run a high post offense and move the ball around, using spacing and movement to open either post-ups or wide open threes. The pick and roll is often more a change of pace than a staple.
B5Q: Oregon features a nice trio of small guards in leading scorer Joseph Young (18.6 ppg), super sub Jason Calliste, and the 5'8" playmaker Johnathan Loyd. Both Young and Calliste are snipers from deep as well as automatic from the free throw line, where the Ducks do a lot of their scoring. How do these three players compliment each other?
ATQ: The thing about Oregon is that a lot of their players are very interchangeable, and it's not just these three--Damyean Doston and Dominic Artis will also see a lot of run in the backcourt. Calliste is a deadly shooter, and shot 68% from three during Oregon's 9-1 end to the season. He also has an uncanny ability to get to the line for a guy that doesn't drive to the rim. Young can do pretty much whatever he wants, whether it's shoot from outside or take it to the hole. His problem is that he sometimes gets lured into taking bad shots. Loyd is the spiritual leader of the team. He's not really a scorer, but is great at penetrating and creating opportunities for others. He's also a defensive pest.
B5Q: A pair of Duck forwards -- senior Mike Moser and freshman Elgin Cook -- are somewhat familiar with Wisconsin already. Cook is from Milwaukee, while Moser faced the Badgers two years ago in Madison as a sophomore with UNLV. Explain what Moser's arrival has meant to this team.
ATQ: This team would really struggle without Moser. A big part of what made Oregon so good during their Sweet Sixteen run last season was that Arsalan Kazemi was the best rebounder in the Pac-12. Problem was that Kazemi graduated, the bigs who were supposed to replace him never made it to campus, and it left Oregon without a real post presence. Moser's not a traditional post, but he's a very good rebounder, and gives Oregon a presence on the boards. Without him, this team would get absolutley murdered on the glass.
B5Q: Who guards Frank Kaminsky? Where do you see the Badgers giving Oregon trouble offensively?
ATQ: I'm guessing seven footer Waverly Austin will start on him. The problem is that Austin's not very good. This is an obvious matchup problem for Oregon. The Ducks aren't a good half-court defensive team. They will try to press and speed the game up. It will be a real clash of styles, and whoever can impose their will on the pace of the game is likely to win.
B5Q: Will Wisconsin see any full-court pressure on defense on Saturday?
ATQ: Pretty much the entire game. If this is a half-court game, Oregon loses. If they can force Wisconsin to play at their pace, they win. Simple as that.
B5Q: Dana Altman did an impressive job this season, replacing four key seniors from last year's Sweet Sixteen team and getting them on the doorstep of a repeat. What needs to happen for this program to be a national player annually out of the Pac-12?
ATQ: Altman is a great strategist. It all comes down to recruiting. When Altman came here, this was a rotting corpse of a program decimated by en masse transfers after Ernie Kent was fired. Altman did a great job getting transfers in here just to bring the talent level back up to competitive. Now that Altman has a couple of successful seasons to recruit on, you're seeing the elite high school talent come. The Ducks have a top-20 class for 2014, including 5-star guard JaQuan Lyle. With a good coach, a brand new $200 million arena, and the talent starting to come in, the Ducks should be pretty good for awhile.
It's safe to say I'm more than a little worried about what this pesky little Loyd can do against Traevon Jackson. He's an Oregon fan favorite for sure, and there must be a reason for that. Check out more thoughts from David @atqdave or @AddictedToQuack.
Projected Starting Lineups
|Frank Kaminsky, Jr.||C||Waverly Austin, Sr.|
|Sam Dekker, So.||F||Mike Moser, Sr.|
|Josh Gasser, Jr.||G||Damyean Dotson, So.|
|Ben Brust, Sr.||G||Joseph Young, Jr.|
|Traevon Jackson, Jr.||G||Johnathan Loyd, Sr.|
KenPom win probability: 62 percent (76-73 W) 66 possessions
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