Thursday, January 31, 2008

Preview: Indiana vs. Wisconsin

This is what we've been waiting for: a matchup between two Big Ten heavyweights. Indiana and Wisconsin face off tonight in Madison with both teams coming off of tough losses this past weekend. This game should tell us a lot, as both teams seem to be lacking much data in the quality win category, although the Badgers' win at Texas was quite impressive.

I said this was a matchup of heavyweights, and it certainly is, as the game features two of the conference's top 3 offenses and defenses. Indiana has gotten a lot of national pub because of super-frosh Eric Gordon (who hurt his non-shooting wrist in practice this week), but Wisonsin has been a bit under the radar, despite being #13 in both polls. As Ken Pomeroy pointed out, given the Badgers' stellar defense, they might be undervalued and under-rated.

But let's not be too abstract. Let's talk about how these teams stack up against each other.

When Wisconsin has the Ball
The Badger O is no slouch (and now I have Caddyshack quotes in my head) on its own merits, being the 3rd most efficient O in the conference. They are a team that seems to be pretty good, but not excellent, in almost every statistical category offensively. The one place where they do excel is in getting offensive rebounds. That big front line of theirs hits the glass hard on missed baskets, and they come up with a lot of them. Ultimately, they make most of their hay inside the arc, as they attempt very few 3-pointers.

Those qualities collide with Indiana's strengths on defense, which are defending 2-pointers and keeping teams off of the offensive glass.

So the battle of the boards could prove critical to Wisconsin's offense, given that Indiana is likely to force a good number of missed Wisconsin shots. It seems like the fact that Indiana's opponents make only 62% of their free throws feeds their defensive efficiency, which might give Wisconsin a slight edge, given that the Badgers don't go to the line a whole lot.

When Indiana has the Ball
Indiana comes in with a slightly more efficient offense than Wisconsin's. The Hoosiers are good at making shots from all over, but they excel inside the arc. They also get a ton of their offense from the free throw line, getting there more than all but 12 teams in the country. Indiana is also pretty adept at grabbing their own misses.

Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, the Badgers's D is even more stingy than their own, ranking 3rd in the country overall. Even worse news for IU is that Wisconsin's players play that good D by contesting lots of shots, keeping their opponents off the glass, and not sending their opponents to the line.

So, much like in the UConn-Indiana game, Wisconsin's defensive strengths stand directly opposed to Indiana's offensive strengths, espeically when it somes to defending 2-pointers and not fouling, ranking 12th and 9th nationally in those categories, respectively.

What it all Means
I think it means that Indiana will be hard-pressed to win this game. That's not a surprise, as it's pretty hard to win road games all over the country (just ask Kansas). The Hoosiers might be looking to "right a lot of wrongs tonight," and the need to make up for a tough home loss to UConn might help them, but I don't think it will be enough.


Anonymous said...

Wisconsin will win this one; hard to beat them at home. Contrary to your comments, Wisconsin usually goes to the line more than their opponents and certainly will at home. I dislike Wisconsin's coach a lot, he looks so supercilious most of the time. Sort of smirks like GWB. Glad to see you guys start this blog. Go IU!

Anonymous said...

previous post was by Don. Why make it so hard to leave a comment.

Abs said...

Sorry about the comments, Don. We want the word verification to try to cut down on comment spam. I think it will work pretty easy if you use the "Nickname" selection.

I think Bo Ryan tosses some haughty looks (you sent me to the dictionary for supercilious), but he's a darned good coach. You are right that the Badgers go to the line more than their opponents, but that's as much because they never commit fouls as it is because they go to the line a lot (last night's game notwithstanding). Their free throw rate on shows them as 98the in the country. I think that qualifies as not a "whole lot." However, your point is a good one, and quite prescient.