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ATQ & A with Bucky’s 5th Quarter

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Let’s talk Badgers!

NCAA Basketball Tournament - East Regional - Wisconsin v Florida Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

ATQ had the opportunity to ask Jake Kocorowski, managing editor of Bucky’s 5th Quarter, a few questions before the big game!


Who are the leaders of this season’s squad?

It all starts with redshirt senior forward Ethan Happ, the first-team All-Big Ten and second-team All-American. He leads the team in scoring, rebounding and assists, and the offense really goes through him when he’s on the floor. He also has recorded 21 double-doubles so far this season to go with two triple-doubles. Senior forward Khalil Iverson has picked up the pace recently and is probably playing his best ball of his career right now as an inside presence.

After those two, I look at two starting guards for Wisconsin in redshirt sophomore D’Mitrik Trice and sophomore Brad Davison. Both will likely be the leaders for the program after Happ departs, and you can tell their presence on the court around their teammates.


What are the Badgers’ greatest strengths and what was their best win?

For Wisconsin’s greatest strength, it will be its defense that is ranked third in the nation (adjusted efficiency) according to KenPom. The Badgers have held opponents to season lows in points scored in seven of the last 14 contests, and they also allowed the fewest points per game in Big Ten play. You can also say for strengths that Happ creates opportunities in the post or in the paint on the offensive side. His footwork is second-to-none in the nation, and he can create scoring chances for himself with a spin move--or if double-teamed and doesn’t turn the ball over--can pass it out to one of his teammates for a decent look from deep.

Best win this season is likely the Jan. 19 win against then No. 2 Michigan. We’ll get to UW’s greatest weakness(es) but Greg Gard’s squad came off a streak where they lost four of five heading into that matchup. They answered the call and won 64-54 in front of the Kohl Center faithful,


What are their greatest weaknesses and when was their lowest point?

I joke that at times this team doesn’t just have an Achilles’ heel, if you will, but much of the worries come from the offensive side. The team appears to get looks around the rim, but it feels like they often don’t finish as well as they should. Happ finished the second half of the conference semifinal loss against Michigan State shooting just 6-for-13 in those final 20 minutes, which I mean it is Michigan State but he needs to hit at a greater than 50 percent clip since his range is limited. For that matter, Happ also does not shoot free throws well (46.5 percent from the line this season).

The team has actually been shooting below 30 percent from deep since its Feb. 6 road matchup at Minnesota. Trice once shot 60 percent from three-point range earlier this season but has understandably regressed, though he is now shooting around 40 percent. They need to hit the open attempts, but they also need to not rush a shot where it’s not a good look (something that’s happened this season). Against Purdue, turnovers also played a role in an overtime home defeat.

Which goes into their lowest point in late December/early January where they lost four of five games. In two of those games at home against Minnesota and at Maryland, they scored 14 and 15 points, respectively, both defeats (though they were still in both contests and actually led the Terps with under two minutes remaining in regulation).


What does a typical Wisconsin win look like?

We noted the defense already, but that starts it all off. When on its game in this regard, Wisconsin usually constricts opponents opportunities and makes them work for everything. Offensively, turnovers are normally low--below 10 a game--and Happ usually is one of the leading scorers and dishing out assists out of double teams or when defenders work to contain him. There is usually one or two other Badgers in double figures that complement him. Of late that’s been more Iverson than anyone, though Trice, Davison, Nate Reuvers, Aleem Ford, Kobe King or Brevin Pritzl all have had flashes of either being “the” guy scoring when Happ can’t or providing that secondary/third threat that teams leave open.

Also with that defense, there are *DISCLAIMER* some charges called. Davison’s name you’ll hear often (along with Trice in the regard that THEY’RE FORMER HIGH SCHOOL QUARTERBACKS DID YOU KNOW THAT?!?), but he has drawn the ire of those watching college basketball with those charges and sometimes aggressive play. Honestly, I feel his “rep” is just a lot of overreaction, but I digress.


NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Describe what makes Ethan Happ such an effective scorer.

It goes back to that footwork I mentioned earlier. He is smooth, keeping the pivot foot and putting those defenders through a spin cycle. He sometimes has a hook shot, but really it’s his quickness and ability to get around defenders with his moves that really has popped out to me. Again, he will not beat you from 10 feet and beyond with jump shots or from the free throw line, but I think that’s what makes his scoring performances that much more unique and noteworthy. You know what you’re going to get with him, yet he still is averaging over 17 points per game.


After defeating the Ducks in 2014 and 2015 in the second round, were Badger fans relieved when they saw the matchup?

I think the fans were happy to not play someone in the Big Ten after a long conference schedule, but I also think they may have wanted another opponent they maybe haven’t seen before. That’s nothing against Oregon at all, but the two teams have met in the Big Dance what will be three times in the past five years.

On top of that, I think fans are also seeing Oregon playing what appears to be their best basketball in that eight-game winning streak and being one of the hottest teams in the nation. Despite the stigma of this year’s Pac-12 Conference, the way Wisconsin has played offensively at the end of this season combined with the Ducks creating this streak, there is some concern I feel from the fanbase.

Oregon v Wisconsin Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

What is the state of the Big Ten and how do you think they’ll fare in the Big Dance.

Eight teams in the tournament is not a bad thing at all, I must say. I think the top four teams in the league--Michigan State, Michigan, Purdue and Wisconsin--all have significant shots to make something happen and get to the second weekend. With the Badgers, at times they’re so hot and cold offensively that I feel like, combined with their defense, they could make it to the second weekend. Then again, I feel like if they’re shooting poorly, they could dig themselves a hole they can’t get out of and go home on day one.

The other teams, based on the strength of the conference, will be battle-tested and could make an impact to get to the round of 32. However, I think Michigan State (who I feel maybe got slighted as a No. 2 and also was placed in the same region as No. 1 overall seed Duke), Michigan (who I have going to the Final Four) and Purdue all have the best shots out of the Big Ten.


What is your prediction for this Friday’s game?

It really comes down to Wisconsin’s play offensively. Defensively, the Badgers have demonstrated a championship level throughout the second half of the season. If Happ can get started early and often scoring and creating opportunities for his teammates, that will be a positive development. If Oregon and their four 6’9 presumed starters contain him but he can get the ball to players on the perimeter (and most importantly, they make those shots), UW should win.

However, if poor shooting from deep and the line show up, along with the potential for turnovers, it could get ugly for Bucky. For now, I’ll say Wisconsin 66, Oregon 62. The Badgers get by with just enough shooting.