Penn State–Wisconsin Preview
At the start of this year Wisconsin was my pick to win the Big Ten if MSU or Purdue didn’t win it. Wisconsin always plays tough defense, has solid shooters and plays with a high basketball IQ. Give Bo Ryan 4 players and he’ll coach them up until you’ll feel like you’re playing against 10.
The Badgers haven’t done anything so far that would change my opinion and currently boast a 11-2 record. Trevon Hughes and John Leuer make up the heart and soul of the Wisconsin offense as they both average 16 points a game. The 73-69 win over Duke has been by far their most impressive effort this season but losses to Green Bay and Gonzaga have shown the Badgers to be a beatable team.
Coming off a tough game in a loss against the Gophers in Minnesota, Penn State will look to rebound in the confines of the Jordan Center and beat a Wisconsin team that was one of the few Big Ten teams to beat the Lions at home last year. While Penn State has shown fight all season, they have yet to put the pieces together and get over the hump and win a close game. If Talor Battle’s performance so far is any indication of what is to come this Big Ten season he could quietly make a case for an All American spot. Already averaging 19 points a game Battle’s ability to maintain a high level play will be key to Penn State having any chance at winning games in the Big Ten. Thats not particularly insightful but it is part of the puzzle to getting a shot at some sort of postseason.
Winning is going to come down to three things, offensive balance, intensity and good defensive pressure.
Offensive Balance: Drew Jones showed up for the last game posting up 12 points while going 6- of 10 from the field; Jones will need to maintain that level of play in order to keep the Badgers from focusing on one aspect of the team (*cough* Talor Battle.) The more the Lions spread the ball around the better chance they have of winning; it’s easy to play 1 v 5, but chances are that you wont win that game.
As far as the stats are concerned Penn State is the deeper team on paper. The Lions have 7 players averaging 7 points or more whereas the Badgers only have 5 scorers over that same average. It is admittedly a little misleading as most of the Badger players over that average have between 8 and 16 points a game, but it does go to show that the more foul trouble you can get the Badgers in the better. The bench will be key in doing this and the team that can get the most from the guys on the pine will have the best chance to win. Andrew Ott has been a good source of drawing fouls, but he’ll need to score buckets while the clock is running to truly be a factor.
Defense Wins Championships- In fairness to the Lions, they’ve been playing pretty solid defense. The start of second half against Minnesota was some of the best defense they’ve played all season so it’s a good sign that they’re learning what it takes to have a chance to win. Wisconsin is talented from behind the arc as well as in the paint so not focusing on one aspect of the game will be pretty important. Trevon Hughes is talent from just about everywhere on the floor so you have to respect him when he has the ball no matter where on the floor he is.
Intensity- For whatever reason the Lions always have a better second half than the first. If they can somehow get going out of the gate it could really go a long way in putting the pressure on other teams. We’ve heard a lot of talk about coming out in the second half and setting the tone and taking the first shot in the so called “boxing match” but if the Lions want to stay in the mix it is going to take a high level of intensity for 40mins rather than 20-25.
Beating Wisconsin comes down to fundamentals. If you play with a high level of basketball IQ then you have a chance to win.