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Behind Enemy Lines: Wisconsin

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I hate that I am bumping Rodger's excellent Outback Bowl recap/Tampa trip report post, but there's a big basketball game tomorrow against Wisconsin. To help preview it, I talked with Adam Hoge of Bucky's 5th Quarter about all things Badger. A lot more after the jump, and before you read this, read Rodger's post, it's really good.

It seems like every year, Bo Ryan has Wisconsin exceeding preseason expectations. What makes him such a great coach?

 What makes him different than most coaches is that he is one of the few who still looks at his job as if he is an educator. He coached at the D-III level with UW-Platteville for 15 years and won four national championships there. He was a teacher on top of being a coach and he took that approach to the Division I level. He wins by taking secondary talent and forcing them to play mistake-free basketball. Most people look at turnovers when they talk about not making mistakes, but check out Wisconsin’s defense Wednesday. Ryan only plays guys who have the right footwork to stay in front of their man and if they reach or violate any of his "rules" then they will be on the bench at the next whistle. Every year when practices start in October, Ryan doesn’t run any shooting drills for almost two weeks. All they do is work on fundamentals and conditioning. It shows.

Jon Leuer's injury is clearly a big loss. How will this hurt the team, and who takes his place?

 A lot of fans are expecting the Badgers to be fine without Leuer because they beat Purdue Saturday despite Leuer struggling with the wrist injury for the entire game and only making 2-of-15 shots. The problem with that argument is that he still played 38 minutes and Purdue was guarding him like he was LeBron James the entire game. When you take Leuer completely out of the equation, things won’t be so easy for the rest of the team. Still, there are signs that Wisconsin will be OK. In UW’s three Big Ten wins, Leuer is averaging only seven points per game, 23 minutes per game and has made only 7-of-27 field goal attempts. So who takes his place? It will be a committee of freshmen who earn more playing time. Ryan Evans, Mike Bruesewitz and Jared Berggren should all be in there more, but the bottom line is that junior Keaton Nankivil is going to have to stop getting in foul trouble and start being more aggressive offensively in Leuer’s absence. There’s a chance Ryan will start Jordan Taylor, but he is sparkplug off the bench and that is an entirely too small lineup with Tim Jarmusz still in there. I think Evans gets the starting nod Wednesday.

Point guard seems to be a strength for the Badgers, with Trevon Hughes and Jordan Taylor. How critical are these two to Wisconsin's success?

The reason Hughes and Taylor are so critical to Wisconsin’s success is because they are both great leaders at the point guard position, but they can also be the most dynamic scorers on the court in any game. Having two of them on the same team this year might be the biggest reason why the Badgers are 13-3 thus far. Just look at Saturday against Purdue. Hughes went out with foul trouble in the first half and didn’t play the final 15 minutes of the half. Taylor filled in nearly flawlessly and then in the second half, when Hughes returned and Purdue keyed in on him, Taylor singlehandedly took over the game for Wisconsin.

How do you expect Wisconsin to fare against NU's trapping zone defenses?

It all depends on how long Hughes can stay on the court. HE CANNOT GET INTO FOUL TROUBLE. Bo Ryan hinted yesterday that the trapping zone defenses would be even tougher this year because the Wildcats are more athletic this year. Then you couple that with the fact that UW will have some young players on the court who haven’t seen the traps before. Not to mention, Tim Jarmusz and Jason Bohannon – two upperclassmen – tend to struggle against traps anyway. If Hughes isn’t out there to direct traffic, Wisconsin could set a season-high in turnovers

Predictions for Wednesday's game?

Overall, I think the absence of Jon Leuer will cost this team two wins and strictly because of matchups. There are few guys in the Big Ten that can stick Leuer and Northwestern has none of them. Without Leuer in the game, there aren’t a whole lot of matchup problems for Northwestern. I think the Wildcats pull out a close one in Evanston.

 

Thanks again to Adam for taking the time, and make sure to check out Bucky's 5th Quarter to get more Wisconsin perspective on the game. I also answered 5 Northwestern related questions of his, you can read them here.