Big Ten Wonk
Thursday, March 16, 2006
Wonk 360: Wisconsin in Philly
A look at the teams competing against Wisconsin in Philadelphia this weekend to make it to Minneapolis and the Sweet 16.

(9) Wisconsin Badgers (19-11, 9-7 Big Ten)
Feast your eyes: The Badgers' luck on offense may wax and wane but they play consistently tough defense. And, like most Bo Ryan teams (but perhaps somewhat surprising for a group this long), UW is borderline-fanatical about taking care of the ball. If the pre-2006 playoffs Pittsburgh Steelers were a college basketball team, they'd be Wisconsin: ball control and tough D.

Look the other way: Wisconsin struggles to score. Alando Tucker has the heart of a gladiator but he is just one player--and a not very good shooting one at that. Opposing defenses have quite sensibly formed a cordon sanitaire around Tucker and ignored the rest of the Badgers almost entirely. UW has yet to prove it can counter that. The vaunted spacing of Ryan's famous swing offense is much less spacious when there's no outside threat.

Etc. Lest anyone doubt Ryan's coaching ability or his players' will and determination, consider the following two numbers: 201 and 46. Wisconsin ranks 201st out of 334 Division I teams in effective FG percentage--these guys can't put the ball in the basket if they're given a ladder and an empty court. Yet the Badgers still have the number 46-ranked offense in the country, thanks to their lack of turnovers, their offensive rebounding, and their trips to the line.

(8) Arizona Wildcats (19-12, 11-7 Pac-10)
Feast your eyes: The Wildcats force opponents to commit turnovers in abundance. In tempo-free terms, Chris Rodgers and Hassan Adams both rank among the top 20 players nationally in steals. And Arizona needs those steals, because....

Look the other way: This team's FG defense and defensive rebounding are both horrific. And remember what I said about Wisconsin not being able to shoot (above)? Arizona's even worse--240th nationally in effective FG percentage. There could be a lot of rebounds in the game between the Badgers and the Wildcats. (Get ready for the announcers to rave about the superhuman effort displayed by some lucky big man who hauls in 15 or so boards.)

Etc. Arizona's three-point shooting is woeful and thus the 'Cats (rightly) devote only 21.9 percent of their shots to attempts from beyond the arc. Only one team in the country shoots fewer threes: Maryland.

(1) Villanova Wildcats (25-4, 14-2 Big East)
Feast your eyes: Where to begin? This offense is poetry in motion. While the Wildcats' shooting appears at first glance to be surprisingly average (see below), they take better care of the ball than even Wisconsin and they do a fair job of crashing the offensive glass. Like Ohio State, 40 percent of 'Nova's shots are threes--but the Wildcats make more of them. This team looks a little like Illinois in 2005: Randy Foye, Allan Ray, Kyle Lowry, and Mike Nardi are all efficient with the ball. And on defense Villanova is solid but not spectacular across the board--which means this is one of the 20 best defenses in the nation. Limit your turnovers and play good D. That will win games. It has won games for Jay Wright and 'Nova.

Look the other way: Villanova's 2FG percentage is horrible: just 45.2 percent. Remember the defense that Ohio State played against Illinois in Columbus last year? Sort of a counterintuitive but highly effective clog-the-arc kind of thing? That could be what's needed defensively against Villanova.

Etc. The Wildcats don't extract a lot of turnovers from their opponents--with the exception of the admirably felonious Lowry. Opposing guards with the ball will want to locate him at all times.

(16) Monmouth Hawks (19-14, 12-6 NEC)
Feast your eyes: The Hawks play good FG defense. And point guard Tyler Azzarelli is adept at creating turnovers and headaches for the opponent.

Look the other way: Monmouth's offense isn't very good.

Etc. Hawk reserve John Bunch, listed (no doubt correctly) at 7-2 and (possibly with more tact than accuracy) 320, is probably the largest human in the tournament. (Larger than Errek Suhr and Tanner Bronson combined!) Had he played enough minutes he would rank above even Erek Hansen in blocks nationally.

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