Beating Badgers a tall order

Still reeling from a drubbing at the hands of the resurgent DePaul Blue Demons, the Milwaukee Panthers head into a home contest tonight that will certainly test their mettle.

The Wisconsin Badgers, despite losing to Duke last week at the Kohl Center, remain one of the best teams in the country. They had difficulty but dispatched with Marquette on Saturday at the Bradley Center, and return tonight to take on the Black and Gold. And that’s going to be one tall order.
Assuming the Badgers start the same starting line-up as they have in every game this season, the Badgers will put out a starting line-up of every position being 6 foot 2 or taller. When looking specifically at the front court starters for the Badgers the Badgers starting front court has heights of 7′, 6’9″ and 6’8″. The Panthers, especially JJ Panoske, are going to need to work harder on the low block to get rebounds. That could be where the game is won.
While the height itself is a big problem, the reason Wisconsin is as good as they are is how the Badgers run their offense. The Swing offense centers around people moving and replacing other people within the flow of the offense. As the offense works through a possession, it is possible that any of the players with greater height could end up out by the three point line and the smaller guards could end up closer to the basket where the bigger forwards and centers typically play.
This change of position puts the defense in a very uncomfortable position. Guards are not used to having to deal with other players posting them up on defense and forwards are not used to having to guard other forwards 20 to 25 feet away from the basket. The Badgers force teams to do this because their guards have the skills to score inside but more importantly almost all of their front court players have the ability to pop behind screens and hit shots that are typically taken by guards, including three pointers.
One way the Panthers may try and solve this match-up problem is playing a zone defense. In a recent game against Marquette, the Golden Eagles played a zone defense against Wisconsin. This defense did give the Badgers some problems and held them to one of their lowest shooting percentages and point totals of the season. The problem for the Golden Eagles and a potential problem for the Panthers if they choose to zone the Badgers is offensive rebounds. In that game the Golden Eagles gave up 14 offensive rebounds to the Badgers. The choice the Panthers might be facing Wednesday night is deal with bad match-ups in a man-to-man situation or run the risk of giving the Badgers lots of offensive rebounds and potential second chance points if they choose to zone them.
Another problem the Panthers face is experience and line-up continuity. The Badgers use a seven to eight man rotation that is loaded with not just talent but experience as well. The Badgers current starting line-up consists of three seniors, a junior and a sophomore. In addition several of their key reserves also made key contributions towards their Final Four run last season, all the way up to the season-ending Final Four match-up with Kentucky. There are several things that are important about the roster having maintained continuity. Their players have played together so that means they trust each other to make good decisions. Secondly, they do not get rattled in tough environments and situations but remain calm under pressure and trust their teammates all the more.
A third big issue the Badgers present is discipline. The Badgers are annually near the bottom of the list in turnovers per game. This season, the Badgers have only committed more turnovers than their opponent two times and they are only averaging nine turnovers per game. In addition, the Badgers are patient and get the shot that they want not the shot the defense wants them to take. A big key for the Panthers to stay in this game is to be the more disciplined team for the entire forty minutes. Discipline is not just turnovers but shot selection as well. The Badgers pass up good shots in order to get great shots. If the Panthers have any chance in this game they must win the discipline battle with one of the most disciplined teams in the country.
A final key to the Panthers keeping this game close is containing Frank Kaminsky. When ESPN ranked the top 100 players in the country prior to the season, they ranked Kaminsky as the top player of anyone they previewed. For the season he is averaging 16.4 points per game and almost nine rebounds per game. He must be the Panther’s first priority defensively and must be the assignment of the Panther’s best overall defender. The Panthers must force somone other then Kaminsky to beat them.
If the Panthers allow Kaminsky to get himself going and establish himself inside, outside and on the glass they are in for a long night. This is a different pick-your-poison type of game for the Panthers. The Panthers best method going into this game might be to use a similar game plan of the Golden Eagles did recently against the Badgers. Zone them, slow the game down, hope to hit some shots. Anyway you slice this game from the Panthers perspective, it is going to take a special effort to keep this game close and an even more special effort to have any shot at beating them.

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