Sweet Sixteen: Three obstacles to overcome against Notre Dame

What was once an unassailable deluge of roadblocks that lay in the Badgers’ path to the Final Four in Houston has been narrowed down to so few that the end destination is now in sight. Should Wisconsin manage to control these three factors, an Elite Eight appearance is more than possible. Allow me to identify them for you.

1. Notre Dame’s Pick & Roll

The pick and roll is seldom utilized in the college game compared to the NBA game. This is due to the fact that its effectiveness relies on a tandem of a lightning quick guard with infallible decision making abilities and an athletic big man with deft scoring touch, a tandem that rarely exists in the college game. Notre Dame’s Demetrius Jackson and Zach Auguste are the exception to that rule. Jackson has pro-level speed and takes care of the basketball, while the 6’10” Auguste exhibits unrivaled leaping ability around the rim and scores with stunning efficiency from in close. Their pick and roll is the basis of an offense that ranks seventh in the country in adjusted efficiency and top-20 in lowest turnover percentage. Wisconsin has seen this twice before this year in the form of Indiana’s Yogi Ferrel and Thomas Bryant, and struggled to defend it both times. Jackson and Auguste are on another level entirely and their partnership could spell trouble for the Badgers, seeing that they have no obvious matchup for the dynamic Irish guard.

2. The Luck (Shooting) of the Irish

The Nebraska fluke aside, Wisconsin’s only recent loss has come at the hands of a Purdue team that knocked down eight first-half threes at a 67% clip to pull away early and put the game out of reach. This Notre Dame team has the potential to do that and more. The Irish play a 4-around-1 offense with shooters lining the perimeter around Auguste, and with Jackson’s ability to find them they are capable of getting the long-range bombs dropping early and often. Stretch-4s V.J. Beachum and Matt Ryan are two of the top 3-point shooters in the country at upwards of 38%, while starting 2-man Steve Vasturia can fill it up from deep as well. Jackson himself has been known to get in an unconscious zone of three-point shooting, and if Wisconsin allows open looks to stem from the Irish’s penetration or offensive rebounding, this game could sadly resemble that early March beatdown in West Lafayette. Fortunately for the Badgers, they have covered the three-pointer exceptionally well since Greg Gard took over. That will need to continue on Friday night.

3. Poor Wisconsin Shooting

Not a single team left in the East regional will let the Badgers get away with what happened against Pitt. You can laud the defense that they were able to play in that game all you want, but no type of defense against any of the three teams remaining will prevent a loss during a high-40s or low-50s offensive performance. You can argue the Pitt game was a fluke, but the fact that the same shooting woes surfaced against Nebraska the week prior to that suggests that possibility that this Badgers team could be plagued by them on any given night, and could send themselves crashing out of the tournament.

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