St. Johns (0-0, 0-0) vs WIsconsin (0-0, 0-0)
7:00 PM EST
Line: Wisconsin -4
Series Record: Wisconsin leads 3-0
Last Meeting: Wisconsin won 80-70 (2002)
Blog Representation: Bucky's Fifth Quarter | Rumble In the Garden
Bo Ryan receives a ton of hate from pretty much every non-Wisconsin fan in the Big Ten. Like legitimate "I hate him more than John Calipari and any other controversial high profile coach combined" level of hate. Maybe it has to deal with the slow, mundane style of play Wisconsin participates in. Maybe it's because Bo Ryan routinely beats everyone in the conference regardless of how good or bad his Badgers play. Or maybe it's jealousy because no matter how good or bad Wisconsin is (and how good or bad the league is), Wisconsin always finds a way to finish in the top four in the Big Ten. Of course I'm sure their shortcomings in the NCAA Tournament would amuse a lot of these people, but their hate for Bo Ryan seems to only grow year in and year out.
So what should we expect from Wisconsin? Ryan has been teasing the possibility of the team running a more up-tempo offense that actually attacks and doesn't just sit on the ball for 30 seconds a possession. Of course that could just be offseason talk and we could see the same old Badger team playing slow, fundamental basketball that is low on mistakes (and points). It's this style of play that is both Wisconsin's biggest strength and weakness. On one hand, their technical understanding of the game allows them to stifle opposing offenses and compete with absolutely anyone. On the other hand, it puts too much pressure on the shooting of a team that has issues with going cold. The Badgers lack of scoring usually means that while they can beat anyone, they can lose to almost anyone as well.
This season will see the return of Josh Gasser and there's a high level of anticipation over Sam Dekker breaking out as well. Dekker showed major signs of promise in his freshman season, but seemed hesitant at times and struggled with consistency to some extent. The Badgers front court might look a little bit different with the departure of Jared Berggren and Mike Bruesewitz. Of course Bo Ryan has simply reloaded time and time again here in Madison. There's no "rebuilding" under Bo Ryan, just more bodies that understand the game and what is expected of them.
So with that being said, Wisconsin will be featured in the most notable Big Ten game of the night. While I might be a bit more interested in the Nebraska/Dunk City game, the Badgers will face off against a St. Johns team hungry to return to the NCAA Tournament after two disappointing seasons under Steve Lavin. It's actually kind of weird to realize that the Red Storm have only made one NCAA appearance since 2002, though the team looks to be improved heading into 2013.
Coming off of a 17-16 season St. Johns will retain almost all of their roster from last season, a roster that has featured numerous big recruits and plenty of Lavin's own guys. Now entering his fourth season in Queens, the time is now for Lavin if he wants to prove that he's the guy for the Red Storm. The team is loaded with potential and talent, though it's unknown how it will pan out. One of the biggest areas in need of improvement is the Red Storm's perimeter offense, as they finished 343rd in three point shooting percentage. If that doesn't improve it could lead to another one dimensional St. Johns team and could provide plenty of bricks in what could turn into a slow halfcourt game with Wisconsin.
The team does feature sophomore JaKarr Sampson, a forward in the frontcourt that should be heading to the NBA in the near future. Lavin has plenty of talent down low and it should allow St. Johns to be physical here, winning out on the glass and picking up easy buckets down low. Facing a Badger frontcourt that has some questions heading into the season, this will be the key for St. Johns if they want to knock off the Badgers. The Badgers have a sizeable advantage in the backcourt and will likely try to force St. Johns to beat them outside. The end result is we could see a game featuring outside shooting by a number of guys that have struggled there in the past.
Tonights game out in South Dakota could easily be a race to see who reaches 60 first. If Wisconsin can hit 60, I don't see a plausible scenario where they fail to pick up the win. St. Johns needs to put the ball in the hands of their bigs but Wisconsin will likely crowd the lanes in attempt to force St. Johns to shoot up plenty of threes. The Red Storm were one of the nations worst three point shooting teams and if that doesn't change tonight it'll likely be a very, very long night.