Following a dominant week with two wins facing established programs in No. 22 Syracuse and NCAA Tournament-perennial Oklahoma, there’s one theme of Badgers men’s basketball that’s isolated itself: these boys can score from anywhere on the floor.
What’s more, the team trusts one another to perform in any scoring situation. If Nigel Hayes collapses the defense on a strong drive to the cup and decided to kick it out to an open Bronson Koenig, Zak Showalter, Vitto Brown, or D’Mitrik Trice, Hayes has confidence in their ability to knock it down. If Koenig is handling the ball beyond the perimeter, and lofts a soft pass to an isolated Ethan Happ or Hayes in a post-up situation, he has confidence in their ability to convert. This inherent trust and high common denominator of scoring ability make Wisconsin a dangerous offensive threat across the board.
Point per game statistics are all fine and good, and the Badgers boast impressive ones, with three starters averaging over 13 points a game. But the versatility at which said points are accrued make a team special. Each facet of scoring is present up and down the roster. Koenig, Showalter, Trice, Brown, and Hayes all shoot over 30% from three. Happ and Iverson are formidable scorers in the post, Happ a polished presence scoring off a myriad of hook shots, floaters, put-backs, and shot fakes. From mid-range, considered by some to be a lost art, Hayes has a respectable turnaround jumper and showed prowess as a facilitator from inside the arc, one point away from a triple double against Syracuse’s zone.
The luxury of being able to rely on a multitude of shot creators is one that no team will turn away from. That being said, problems of efficiency still loom independent of scoring talent. Nigel Hayes has had his struggles from the field, shooting 43.2%, 68.9% from the line, and 33.3% from three. Bronson Koenig, while a beautifully gifted shooter, is shooting 31.6% from three. This could have something to do with the volume at which he takes threes, as he leads the team in three point attempts by 41. Regardless, efficiency still trumps volume as it relates to wins.
Efficiency issues aside, in a conference like the Big Ten, arguably one of the best conferences in NCAA basketball, where all teams are solid competition, the weapon to trust the majority of the rotation with a scoring burden is invaluable. Balanced scoring forces a defense to respect every player on the floor, and as a result, makes the prospect of double teaming or switching on pick and rolls an advantage for the Badgers as it either leaves a capable shooter open or allows them to exploit a double team. While both of those concepts exist in basketball regardless, when each player could, with a designed offense, be the teams leading scorer, those slight openings in the defense become a large gap as scoring flows easily.
With expectations for a deep tournament run this March, the weapon of versatility could be the ultimate tool when defenses become more aggressive in the postseason.