Here we go again as the embarrassment of riches gets even richer for the state of Wisconsin. As if it wasn’t enough for fans to see the Badgers in the Rose Bowl and the Packers in the Super Bowl, we now have the Badgers basketball team in the Sweet 16.
A match-up with the #8-seeded Butler Bulldogs awaits the Badgers who are playing in their fifth Sweet 16 since 2000.
After making the NCAA Tournament for a 13th consecutive season, the fourth-longest active streak in the nation, could this be the year Wisconsin makes a deep run to the Final Four?
By: Nick Grays
At first glimpse, this Badgers team looks like a typical Bo Ryan led squad. They play fundamental basketball and have an All-American caliber senior in forward Jon Leuer. They also win with defense while allowing just 58.5 points per game (4th in the NCAA).
However, this is not your typical Badgers team. They love to shoot the three ball and have arguably the best point guard to ever lace it up in Madison.
Jordan Taylor is rewriting the record books at Wisconsin by showing a little bit of everything in his game. He takes care of the ball (4.18 assist-to-turnover ratio), he gets his teammates involved (4.8 assists per game) and he can also put the ball in the hoop when he needs to (18 points per game).
We could go on and on about Leuer and Taylor because they are just that good, but the difference-makers in Thursday’s game with Butler will be Wisconsin’s role-players.
What makes the Badgers so dangerous is the amount of good three-point shooters they have. In their wins over Belmont and Kansas State, Badgers role players Tim Jarmusz, Mike Bruesewitz, Josh Gasser and Keaton Nankivil were a combined 10-for-19 (.526) from behind the arc.
How do you stop a team who has more than five players who can legitimately get on a roll from downtown?
In previous seasons, people not familiar with Wisconsin and their style of play could easily explain the Badgers woes in the tournament by saying their slow-paced, grind-it-out, minimal possessions kind of game only worked in Big Ten conference play.
That couldn’t be farther from the truth this season as the Badgers finally have a team that can comfortably play in their slow tempo style of play, but can also create and stop runs with their better-than-average three-point shooting.
A battle with Butler should be an interesting one because the two teams are fairly evenly matched. They both play good defense and stars Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack match-up with Leuer and Taylor very well.
While I think the game stays close in the first half, I think the Badgers will pull away in the second half with their great free-throw shooting. Not only will I predict a Badgers win, I think the Badgers win on Saturday and make a run at the Final Four.
Like I mentioned before, this is not your typical Wisconsin team, they have what it takes to make some noise all the way to the end!
It’s the year of the Badger!
Who do you have, the surprising Bulldogs or the fundamentally sound Badgers? Let me know by commenting below!
Nick Grays is a senior editor at the Sports Bank where he covers the Wisconsin Badgers, Green Bay Packers, Indiana Pacers and Milwaukee Brewers. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here or visit his blog Nick Knows Best.