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Northwestern Wildcats vs. Wisconsin Badgers Game Preview

I appreciate Wisconsin's contributions in the fields of beer, cheese, and friendly residents whose major ambitions including helping me consume beer and cheese. However, I've never been a particularly big fan of the Wisconsin Badgers, mainly because of the vicious football and basketball beatdowns Northwestern has suffered at their hands over the past few years in sports - NU is 1-5 in basketball since I got here with some true #beatemdown moments, and the last football matchup between NU and their closest northern conference opponent ended with them scoring three times as many points as the Wildcats.

So with NU's hopes reinvigorated after a monster victory over No. 7 Michigan State, I wouldn't mind beating the Badgers.

Are they good?

Depends who you ask, bold-faced questions guy. Kenpom's rankings have Wisconsin as the No. 3 team in the country, thanks to some truly dominant early play against cupcakes: the team's first five games featured a combined score of 365-179, with no opponent putting up over 43. However, the team isn't ranked, after five losses. True, four are to ranked teams: North Carolina, Marquette, Michigan, and Michigan State. But Michigan genuinely blew them out, and there was also a not-close loss to Iowa, plus, the team only has one win over a ranked team. Wisco maintains the Kenpom ranking due to a defensive prowess early on that still gives them the No. 2 overall defense, No. 1 efg%, No. 3 2p%, and No. 4 3p%, but they obviously are not as good as his numbers say they are. Pomeroy got so tired with people asking him about why Wisconsin was so highly ranked during their recent three-game losing streak that he posted an FAQ about Wisconsin's ranking. It's an evisceration of people faulting his system, but acknowledges his mistake with regards to Wisky.

If you are going to trash the entire system based on the biggest outlier over the last six years, I suspect you had no desire to use the system in the first place. Either that, or your team is ranked lower than you think it should be... If you would simply remove Wisconsin from the planet, the ratings on my page would look fine to me...The difference between your flawed knowledge and my flawed system is that I am tracking the results of my system so you can identify all of the flaws for yourself. Ten years from now, you'll be able to look at my site and see that Wisconsin was like 21-13 at the end of the 2012 season and ranked #5...basically, I don't think the Wisconsin situation invalidates the predictive methods used on this site, except in cases involving Wisconsin.

I love Pomeroy's work, so am willing to forgive and forget on this front. Furthermore, while I don't think Wisconsin is the No. 3 team in the country, I believe enough in Pomeroy's track record that I believe while his system has failed in this case, it is likely accurate in not writing the Badgers off despite a few bad games. I think they're a top 25 team playing in a rough conference and that their defense is very, very good.

What are they good at?

If you'll allow me to get mammalian, Wisconsin has been more three-toed sloth than badger this year. Wisconsin has always been a fan of lethargically-paced ball, placing in the bottom 50 of tempo each of the past four years, but this year is their best homage to boredom yet, barreling along at 58.8 possessions per game, last in the nation. (The nationwide average is 67.0 possessions, Wisconsin has only played one game - a 34-point blowout of Mississippi Valley State - at that pace, and that includes their one overtime game.) Wisconsin's style vibes towards molasses on both sides of the ball: on offense, they run the swing. It's very schematically different from the Princeton, but like the PO, is based on a few sets and reads the team is very, very, very familiar and does not have any problem with waiting for defenders to stick with their man for 32 seconds hoping somebody slips up and leads to an easy basket. (That said, they're occasionally willing to pop a shot early in the clock if they're open.) On defense, the Badges play a patience-driven man defense looking to emphasize contesting shots rather than forcing turnovers. The team is good at both, and both lead to a lot of 25-plus second possessions on both sides of the ball.

Things slower than Wisconsin basketball games

Well, to be honest, this was just going to be a Youtube video of two Galapagos Turtles mating, but I decided against it in case any of you might be offended by turtle sex. Or in case any of you are eight years old, because I still feel guilty for this one time I was a camp counselor and we went on a group trip to the zoo and the zoo had a turtle area and we walked past it and the turtles were boning really hardcore, so I was like "kids, maybe now isn't the best time to look at the turtles, lets come back in a few minutes", so I brought them to the other parts of the zoo for like an hour, then we came back to the turtles and they were still boning really hardcore, and I was like "look, kids, today just isn't the day for you guys to see the turtles" and they started yelling at me and eventually I gave in and let them watch turtles have sex, except they were eight so they just assumed they were fighting. Still guilty. I guess any eight year olds reading this site are pretty scarred for life anyway.

So, Swing Offense, huh?

Yeah, but if you have to pick a game to study it, don't make it tomorrow's. The swing offense is a man offense, and NU has opted to go with the 1-3-1 against Wisconsin in the past. And when they do, like many teams, Wisconsin abandons its basic set. Bo Ryan has been more than happy to tear through it with a very well-designed zone offense that he clearly has in his back pocket ready to bust out whenever NU uses it. Having seen the fire and the fury at Ryan's command in past matchups, I would be pleased if Bill Carmody left the Kraken sheathed tonight. Wisconsin has a machine duplicating shooters, and this year is no different: Josh Gasser, Ben Brust, and Jared Berggren are ready to gun from beyond the arc. Let us


Let us mourn the loss of Wquinton Smith. It seems the B1G has lost its best names in this past year. But let us celebrate the awkwardly named backup Duje Dukan. I don't even think it's that great.

Can NU win?

I certainly think Northwestern is talented enough this year to beat Wisconsin. But Wisconsin on a neutral court or on the road is a different beast from Wisconsin in the Kohl Center. Sure, Iowa won there. But I have memories of playing on the road at Wisconsin, and they all end with me somehow contracting dysentery. (NOTE: I was going to actually figure out what dysentery was - something with your colon and diarrhea and dying while on the Oregon Trail, right? - but I wrote this at 12:08 am, eight minutes after the Wikipedia blacked out. I feel like mentioning that while I ignore taking political stances on this site, SOPA is currently counterintuitive to my desire to write freely on the internet, and the smarter folks over at SB Nation agree.) Wisky may be struggling, but a loss in the Kohl Center is nothing to be ashamed of, and a win would genuinely surprise me.