We meet again, Wisconsin. For the second straight year, the Ducks will take on the Badgers with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line. Last year ended in disappointment after Oregon blew a 12-point halftime lead in an 85-77 loss to Wisconsin.
This year, Oregon has an almost entirely new roster that will once again have to overcome the odds if they hope to keep their season alive. We spoke with Phil Mitten from Bucky's 5th Quarter, SB Nation's Wisconsin Badgers blog, on the matchup and some key aspects to watch for.
Addicted to Quack: This Wisconsin team was among the nation's elite this year with only three losses, two of those coming against Duke and Maryland, both some of the top teams in the country. What did Duke, Maryland and Rutgers do right against the Badgers to take them down?
Bucky's 5th Quarter: Basically the only glaring commonality in those games was that the opponent out-shot Wisconsin significantly from the field. Duke shot 65 percent from the floor, in fact. You're not beating Duke when that happens. Other important factors to mention would be that, Wisconsin did not have a noticeable advantage at the free throw line, nor in the turnover column in those three losses. Both areas are traditional strong suits of the Badgers.
And if you hadn't heard by now, Kaminsky didn't play against Rutgers and Traevon Jackson missed the final 15 minutes or so after getting injured, which is exactly when the bottom fell out. Even so, 6-9 senior Kadeem Jack played one his best offensive games of the year for the Scarlet Knights in that game; both Duke and Maryland got good play from their post players as well.
ATQ: Obviously, when looking over the roster of this Wisconsin team, Frank Kaminsky looks like he could cause some problems for the Ducks. Only once this year did Kaminsky fail to hit double figures in scoring. What does Oregon need to do in order to contain him?
B5Q: The game plan would be complex because of Kaminsky's versatility. First, put a mobile big on him that won't be afraid to follow him out to the three-point line and prevent easy looks there. Personally, I would force the ball out of Kaminsky's hands by running an immediate double-team at him in the post as well. Kaminsky is an adept and willing passer, however, so there is a chance that this backfires and Wisconsin starts canning all of the open threes. Being physical with Kaminsky on defense and on the boards is the best bet.
ATQ: If this Wisconsin team has a kryptonite that Oregon can go after, what is that weakness?
B5Q: In Joseph Young, Oregon has a weapon that can do serious damage to Wisconsin's perimeter defense. Senior Josh Gasser will likely draw the assignment, but he really is a more dogged off-ball defender in some ways than an on-ball defender. A quick first step can give him trouble. If Young can break down the Wisconsin defense on the perimeter and relentlessly attack the rim, he will force the Badger big men to rotate over and help. Dumping the ball down on those plays could result in some easy buckets for Oregon's interior guys. And perhaps Young can draw fouls on Kaminsky or Hayes on the help defense to send them to the bench. That is the real kryptonite for Wisconsin, because it exposes Wisconsin's lack of depth and takes irreplaceable players off the floor.
ATQ: Wisconsin's top scorers this year were on the team last season when the Badgers defeated Oregon in the tournament. Do you think this gives the Badgers any kind of advantage or will that experience not play as big of a role as one might think?
B5Q: Each game is it's own animal in my opinion, and because Oregon has so many new faces, it doesn't feel like a traditional "rematch" per se. Yet, that entire run Wisconsin made lack season has instilled a backbone of true self-confidence and knowing you can come back at any point against a team like Oregon in last year's tournament, or Michigan State in this year's Big Ten tournament is a huge boost. I really think that confidence is a major factor in playing calm, which of course contributes to Wisconsin having the lowest turnover rate in the country.
ATQ: The Badgers have the nation's top offense according to Ken Pomeroy's efficiency rankings, averaging 124.7 points per 100 possessions. Oregon also knows how to score, ranking 24th in the nation in scoring with 75.7 points per game. Do you think this game will turn into a track meet, or do you think the Ducks and Badgers will try and slow things down a bit?
B5Q: I doubt the Ducks will try to slow things down. The Badgers might. This is one of the most enjoyable things about Wisconsin over the past couple years -- the team can beat opponents many different ways. If the Ducks want to run, Bronson Koenig and Sam Dekker can push tempo a bit. But Koenig can also settle into that traditional Badger grind, directing traffic in the half-court to get one solid look through the post. Unfortunately, I think the officiating plays a big role in the pace also. If a lot of contact is being called, it might be to Oregon's advantage even if it appears to slow the game down.
ATQ: Prediction time. Who wins and why?
B5Q: Experience matters at tournament time and Wisconsin has it. And in a battle of two headliners, Kaminsky is the best player on the court, even if he's not scoring as much as Young. I'll take Wisconsin, 74-68.
If you're on Twitter, be sure to give Phil (@hoopsmarinara) and Bucky's 5th Quarter (@B5Q) a follow. Oregon and Wisconsin will tip-off today at approximately 4:45 PT, following the conclusion of the Kansas-Wichita State Game.