Wisconsin men’s basketball is just two years removed from a Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker-led team that made it to the finals of the NCAA Tournament in 2015. The team has a new identity now, and many of the guys on the 2014 and 2015 Final Four teams are seniors. With that being said, Wisconsin is one of the most experienced teams in the tourney. While the Badgers play through their defense, their offense has struggled recently. Here are the keys to success, if Wisconsin wants to win on the offensive end – and maybe even more than just once.
5. Stay patient with perimeter shooting.
Vitto Brown surprised the Big Ten last season by shooting 40% from behind the arc. If the Badgers want any hope at racking up a few wins, Brown is gonna need to get back into a groove and improve upon his current rate of 30.4% from downtown. Additionally, Nigel Hayes’ jump shots may be the determinant to the Badgers’ offensive success. Hayes has struggled throughout the season to find his groove outside, so maybe getting more aggressive in the paint could be beneficial.
4. Help Happ in the double.
The month of January was fruitful for Ethan Happ, as he averaged 17.6 points per game. However, as the calendar shifted and film tapes roared into coaches offices, Happ was being double-teamed like he had never been before. Over the past four games, Happ has averaged just eight points. It is clear that Happ needs to dribble out of trouble and find the open man. If the Badgers can help Happ and follow tip #5, one should not be rule out a deep run in the tourney.
3. Stay healthy.
Luckily, Wisconsin hasn’t been plagued by injuries this season. Despite this, seniors Bronson Koenig and Vitto Brown have been battling nagging injuries all season. Koenig suffered a leg injury and missed the game against Michigan, which resulted in a loss. Brown, on the other hand, has been fatigued by a right knee injury. Staying healthy often times is pure luck, but it’s essential for the Badgers’ success in the post season.
2. Contribution from the bench.
D’Mitrik Trice, Brevin Pritzl and the rest of the bench will have to play well if the Badgers want to keep winning. Trice and Iverson, who is still dealing with a loss in the family, have been major role players all season, but Pritzl’s playing time has risen dramatically in a few short months. It appears that Gard loves using Pritzl as a replacement for senior Zak Showalter, a player that despite not showing up a whole lot in the box score makes huge contributions on the court. If Pritzl can elevate his playing capabilities when the lights are shining on him the most, Wisconsin’s opponents will be in trouble.
1. Shoot well from the line.
Wisconsin, as a team, is currently shooting a dismal 64.3% from the line. Happ and Hayes are shooting worse at a 54.8% mark combined. Hayes is the interesting case here, as he shot 74.% from the stripe last year. This is Wisconsin’s biggest weakness and will be exposed late on in the games. Happ’s poor free throw shooting might result in less playing time down the stretch of tight games when he is too much of a liability to be kept in. Free throw shooting doesn’t improve overnight, but Badger faithful has to hope that this glaring statistic can only increase.