Wisconsin reached the Final Four despite playing teams with superior athleticism, but the Badgers never let that kind of disadvantage hurt them. When you play UW, you play UW’s style, and a Bo Ryan team never, ever wanders from its plan.
The team’s discipline is a sight to behold. This also is a squad that can put points on the board, and there is some serious experience on the roster, the kind not normally seen in a Final Four team from a major conference. Remember, UW lost to Kentucky by one in the Elite Eight last season, and there are a lot of Badgers who feel there is unfinished business.
Strengths: Frank Kaminsky is as talented a big as you’ll find in the college game. He has an array of moves he can use inside, he can step outside and knock down the three, and he’s a great passer who does a good job of finding teammates cutting through the lane. He’s fearless inside and wants to close his career on a high note. That can mean a lot in the Final Four. But Kaminsky isn’t a one-man band.
Forward Sam Dekker is playing the best basketball of his career and can score inside and out. He’s a physical guy in the paint who is willing to battle for everything. Forward Nigel Hayes scores and rebounds, and he can shoot the three well enough to make opponents respect him. Wisconsin only runs about eight deep, but UW’s ability to slow the pace keeps guys fresh on the floor. UW can put points on the board, and the Badgers don’t turn the ball over often.
Weaknesses: Wisconsin has been missing a consistent, creative scorer in the backcourt since Traevon Jackson went down with a foot injury midway through the year. Jackson is back, but he’s not playing many minutes. He might be more of a presence in the Final Four with a few more days to get back to his old self, but Wisconsin won’t be the most athletic team in Indy by any stretch even if he’s fully healthy.
UW can be a bit streaky from the perimeter, and there isn’t much of a presence when it comes to blocking shots. A lack of size beyond Kaminsky and Dekker hasn’t been a huge problem this season, but if those two get in foul trouble, UW is in a hurt.
How They Beat Teams: Wisconsin makes you play their game, and the Badgers are disruptive enough defensively to make opponents make mistakes. When the turnovers come, UW doesn’t miss many chances to make teams pay. They force teams to think a lot on the court, and Kaminsky’s ability to finish at the rim through contact can take some of the life out of opponents.
This is a team that never gives up and can come at teams from different directions, and Dekker’s ability to hit clutch shots has been special during this tournament. Wisconsin’s confidence allows the Badgers to finish teams off late, and their execution is special with the shot clock winding down.
How They Get Beat: Kaminsky has to stay out of foul trouble. Wisconsin is at its best when he is active inside, but the Badgers struggle when he isn’t on the floor for an extended period of time. UW also can’t afford to get beat on the defensive boards, especially vs. teams that like to turn misses into transition opportunities.
When the Badgers let off the gas defensively, they can give up a lot of points in a hurry. In losses to Duke and – inexplicably – Rutgers this year, Wisconsin gave up 40-plus points in the second half. If UW hangs its head and doesn’t get back on defense, that could be trouble for the Badgers.