MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin's coaching connections with their second round NCAA Tournament have been well documented, but the two teams have more in common than former Badger and current Montana assistant coach Freddie Owens.
Here's what Mike Bruesewitz had to say about the Grizzlies, who have won 14 in a row and 21 of their last 22:
"They've got four guys in double figures, another guy that's around 8 or 9. That's a sign of a very successful team, a dangerous team," Bruesewitz said. "They've got guys that can knock down threes, guys that can get to the bucket. There's a reason they won so many games in the league. There's a reason they're on a roll right now. It's cause they're a good team."
Because the Badgers play at a slower pace than the Grizzlies (Wisconsin averages 60.5 possessions per game, Montana averages 67.9), the numbers don't match up exactly. But the teams do have very similar approaches to distributing their scoring.
Generally speaking, junior point guard Will Cherry, who averages 16 points per game for the Grizzlies, is to Montana what Jordan Taylor (14.7 ppg) is to the Badgers. Both teams also have two complimentary scorers: Jared Berggren (10.5) and Ryan Evans (10.9) for the Badgers and sophomore guard/forward Kareem Jamar (13.8) and junior forward Mathias Ward (11.1).
The Badgers and Grizzlies each have a solid group of role players as well. Each team has three players aside from the ones listed above that average more than five points per game.
However, while the Badgers play about as slow as possible, Wisconsin assistant coach Greg Gard says his team needs to be wary of the Grizzlies' transition game.
"They will play fast," Gard said. "Those three guards out front with Cherry and Jamar and (senior Art) Steward, when they can get out and go, they will. Athletically they can create some problems."
Dealing Montana's seven-foot center, senior Derek Selvig (9.2 points per game), is another unique challenge Gard identified as a key to Wisconsin's success against the Grizzlies.
"Those two bigs inside play off each other pretty well. Selvig, people out west call him the 7-foot guard. That's how he's kind of morphed his game," Gard said. "He's a good player."
But the Grizzlies greatest strength on offense is their ability to shoot the 3-pointer. Gard mentioned Steward and Ward as being efficient from beyond the arc. Those two, Jamar and Selvig all average better than 43% from beyond the arc. As a team, Montana makes 38.3% of their 3-point attempts, the 29th best percentage in the NCAA and better than every Big Ten team but Indiana.
One area Wisconsin could have an advantage in Thursday is on the glass. Even with Selvig's size, the Grizzlies rank 196th in the nation in defensive rebounding rate. They're even worse on the offensive glass, pulling in just 25.5% of rebounds after missed shots, which is 295th nationally.
Still, Bruesewitz knows it would foolish to underestimate the Grizzlies.
"They deserve to be here. A lot people say, 'Oh it's (just) Montana.' When you get into the NCAA tournament it doesn't really matter what's on the front of the jersey. It could be Tech State College of Pennsylvania, whatever, and it doesn't really matter cause they made the NCAA tournament," Bruesewitz said, referring to a non-existent school.