Wisconsin’s last opportunity to notch a significant non-conference win is tonight against Syracuse. Losing to Creighton on the road and North Carolina in Maui, the Badgers missed on both earlier chances (to defeat a ranked opponent at least). I guess, although unranked, Oklahoma is still looming.
Wisconsin-Syracuse is a rematch from last year. The Badgers won (in overtime) at the Carrier Dome, 66-58. All-time, each program has won two games, and Wisconsin, in particular, is 8-9 all-time in ACC/Big Ten Challenge games. How do the teams matchup for the rubber match?
Battle of the Boards
Wisconsin and Syracuse are pretty prolific rebounding teams, at least so far this year. Wisconsin holds a +14.6 rebound advantage over opponents, and Syracuse a +8.6 margin.
Wisconsin on the offensive glass vs. Syracuse on defense could be the key matchup. Syracuse must limit Badger possessions to one-and-done. The Badgers aren’t a prolific offense, and have struggled as shooters (more on that later). Limiting second-chance opportunities is critical for the Orangemen.
Looking at more key numbers, Wisconsin holds a 93-to-50 advantage on the offensive glass, and the Badgers have outscored opponents 86-41. Nearly half of Wisconsin’s total positive point differential this season can be attributed to its second-chance point advantage.
Beyond the Arc
Opponents matter, when it comes to analyzing statistics, so does sample size. Syracuse hasn’t yet played a ranked opponent and it’s only five games into the season. But, the Orangemen are shooting 41 percent from three (47-for-107). Three guys have taken 71 of those threes, and they’re shooting a combined 42 percent. (Andrew White III, at Nebraska last year, leads Syracuse with 38 attempts and 14 makes.)
Wisconsin has allowed opponents this year to shoot 35 percent from three. How these statistics reconcile could indicate who wins the game. Wisconsin’s struggled to defend three-point shooters, and Syracuse has been somewhat prolific.
The inverse could be tough for the Badgers. Syracuse only has allowed its opponents to shoot 20 percent from beyond the arc, while Wisconsin is only shooting 31 percent. Again, it’s about context. Syracuse hasn’t played the toughest non-conference schedule to date, and they’re five games into the season.
Wisconsin has struggled with turnovers so far this year. It’s highly uncharacteristic. The team’s averaging just over 13 per game. In fact, Greg Gard has returned to, with strict discipline, pulling guys immediately after a turnover.
What’s more puzzling is the experience on the roster. 99 percent of the roster’s minutes and scoring returned from the previous year. These guys know how to play with each other, and should be more comfortable in their roles. Yet, at times, the offense has been stagnant and sloppy.
Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig have had great moments this year, but they’ve also struggled prolifically at times. Hayes is shooting 29 percent from three, and Koenig 24 percent. Although they’re both averaging double-figures (14.4 and 11.6 points per game respectively).
Both of them have been much more effective taking the ball to the basket, Hayes especially. His game is far better when he starts as a driver/creator, and picks his spots from the perimeter.
Koenig is also great off the dribble. He can finish around the rim, and even pull and create space for his midrange jumper. It just seems like they’d both be more effective attacking off the dribble first, and finding opportunities on the perimeter second.
In case you need to plan your evening, or set your DVR, Wisconsin-Syracuse tips off at 6:30 PM CST on ESPN. For Wisconsin, it’ll be the fifth game in nine days, and they’ll get a three day breather before hosting Oklahoma on Saturday.
Running out of opportunities to chalk up significant non-conference wins, this is a big one for the Badgers.