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Game notes: No. 1 Baylor 76, No. 9 Wisconsin 63

The Badgers battled, but the Bears were just too good and they’ll be moving on to the Sweet 16.

Wisconsin v Baylor Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Well, the season is over for the Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team. Honestly, it ended kind of like we all assumed: going down fighting against a team that is far more talented than them. The Baylor Bears are good. Really good. They have myriad dudes that can shoot from deep, create their own shot and, basically, put the ball in the hoop. Their defense is long, fast and athletic and it caused a ton of problems for the Badgers early in the game.

Let’s take a look at some things that I noticed during the game:

  • I thought that Nate Reuvers had a really nice game. 11 points (made his only three point attempt), four rebounds, one assist and one block is exactly what the Badgers needed out of him. He was probably the best player on the court for Wisconsin in the game (only player with a positive plus/minus at +4) and that is not something I would’ve been expecting to write after the game.
  • That brings me to a problem however. Why did Reuvers only play 18 minutes? He was clearly playing better than he had been recently and Gard even made the (correct) switch to playing Reuvers and Micah Potter at the same time. Reuvers was never in foul trouble, while Potter ended with four fouls but 27 minutes played. It sometimes seems like the Wisconsin coaching staff has a plan of who is going to play how many minutes at the start of the game and they don’t want to deviate from that.
  • Another example of this is Trevor Anderson playing five minutes. While that doesn’t seem like a lot, he literally recorded no stats. He couldn’t keep up with Oregon’s Baylor’s guards on defense and was forced to call a timeout after picking up his dribble and being trapped just across half-court. He, quite frankly shouldn’t have played at all after the timeout fiasco and certainly not at all in the second half.
  • Overall though, these quibbles with Greg Gard’s rotations weren’t the main reasons the Badgers lost. The main reason would be the turnover battle, which Wisconsin lost decisively. The Badgers were the best team in the nation at protecting the ball and ended up at their season average after the first half. The second half was better, but UW still turned the ball over 14 times while Baylor only did four times. At halftime, Wisconsin had nine turnovers, leading to 12 Bears points, and lo and behold...Baylor was up 13!
  • Free throws were also weighted heavily in Baylor’s favor. The Bears went 18-of-23 while the Badgers were only 5-of-7. The difference here is 13 points...which is also the difference of the final score! When both teams shoot an identical 25-of-55, scoring at the free throw line is going to be, literally, the difference.
  • Otherwise, the Badgers did alright in other statistical areas. They actually outrebounded the Bears 32-30 (each team had seven offensive rebounds), shot a respectable 38.1% from deep (each team made eight three pointers) and had five blocked shots compared to Baylor’s zero.
  • Having superior guard play can cover up a lot of flaws and take you far in the NCAA Tournament. Against UNC, Brad Davison and D’Mitrik Trice both played wonderfully and the Badgers blew out the Tar Heels. Against Baylor, Davison and Trice both played poorly and, well, you know what happened.
  • Trice scored 11 points (5-of-17 shooting), grabbed two rebounds and had four assists (and four turnovers) while spending far too much time dribbling the basketball pointlessly instead of trying to run some sort of offense or move the ball via passing. It was a frustrating game for Trice who was harassed by Baylor’s defense all game.
  • Davison wasn’t much better, scoring eight points (3-of-11 shooting), grabbing three rebounds and dishing out four assists (compared to three turnovers). On both KenPom and Torvik, Davison had a one-point higher ORtg so, yeah, both of these guys didn’t play their best game. Another bummer was that both players, usually stout on defense, didn’t have their best games on that end either.
  • Aleem Ford had eight points and five boards and was a nice complimentary piece on offense. He, however, got absolutely abused on defense when trying to guard Matthew Mayer. According to Torvik he had a positive defensive box plus/minus (which is wild to me) but the ol’ eye test graded Ford out as a minus on defense.
  • Micah Potter struggled with pick and roll defense, something he had been getting better at, and gave up a couple of easy buckets. His defense improved as the game went on and he was helpful as a rim protector (three blocks) and active on the boards (nine defensive boards, one offensive board) while also chipping in 10 points and three assists.
  • Freshman Jonathan Davis had flashes of being a player who could take over an NCAA Tournament game in the coming years. He scored 10 points (4-of-5 shooting, made his only three) and had two rebounds and played good defense but he also had four fouls and two turnovers (with no assists) showing that he still has work to do to get to where he wants to be.
  • Tyler Wahl scored four points, had three rebounds, one assist and one blocked shot. He wasn’t the reason Wisconsin lost but he certainly wasn’t the reason they were going to win either.
  • Wisconsin scored 0.98 PPP, Baylor scored 1.19 PPP
  • Baylor is a really good team and I look forward to watching them the rest of the Tourney now that they won’t be steam-rolling my favorite team. They’ve got a bunch of NBA talent on their roster and Wisconsin, quite frankly, doesn’t. I love that Wisconsin didn’t quit and tried to battle back in the second half but there was really only one way this game was going to end.