On Friday evening, the Wisconsin Badgers and Indiana Hoosiers tipped off in an intriguing Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinal match up.
The Hoosiers were looking for a potential path to an NCAA Tournament seed, while Wisconsin was trying to get back on track and gain the “favorite” title after Purdue’s loss against Michigan earlier in the day.
Wisconsin led 33-27 at halftime using a balanced scoring attack and 50% field goal shooting percentage. Bronson Koenig led the way with eight points. Indiana was paced by James Blackmon Jr. with 10 points.
The Badgers controlled the second half to give Wisconsin a comfortable quarterfinal win. Koenig led the way with 16 points.
Let’s take a look at some of what we learned from Wisconsin’s victory.
What We Learned
1. Wisconsin’s Offense Shows Reemergence and Balance.
One of the bigger problems with Wisconsin’s offense during their recent struggles has been a lack of consistent scoring options.
The Badgers relied on Ethan Happ underneath and Nigel Hayes around the block and perimeter. Bronson Koenig was relied upon to hit outside shots.
The problem came when the double teams came. Wisconsin’s offense was bogged down underneath and some outside shots were not falling from Koenig and others.
Over the past couple games, this has been a different story. Wisconsin has shot over 45% from three-point range in its last two games and Happ has reemerged down low with an average of 13 points per game and 12.5 rebounds.
Tonight, Wisconsin also showed a team effort in offensive balance. Well-timed ball movement and cohesion amounted to five players in double figures and 47% shooting from the field. 15 assists were collected on 27 made field goals.
The Hoosiers are not known for their great defense, but after a laborious stretch of 2-6 play, Wisconsin seems to have found a new groove in time for postseason basketball.
2. Indiana Awaits NCAA Tournament Fate.
Undoubtedly, Indiana always head fringe NCAA Tournament hopes by time the Hoosiers headed to the Big Ten Tournament. However, the team’s hope was reignited after a blow-out victory over Iowa yesterday. Unfortunately, Indiana was never able to replicate some of the offensive strengths shown on Thursday.
The biggest problems were pace and shooting. Iowa, not known to slow the ball down during the season, played right into Indiana’s hands yesterday with an up-tempo game plan. Indiana happily obliged with that, and shot over 60% from the field.
That didn’t happen today.
Wisconsin slowed the tempo down and Indiana was forced to play in the half court more than they would have liked. The results were that Indiana scored 60 points and shot just over 40% from the field and long distance.
Most bracketology services out there had Indiana still on the outside of the bubble. A victory tonight would have made things very interesting. As it stands, expect Indiana’s name to be called for the NIT on Sunday. The coaching situation will be the bigger question.
3. Indiana Continues Its Struggles Against Wisconsin.
Wisconsin continues to have Indiana’s number.
With the Badgers victory tonight, they move to 16-2 over Tom Crean in the nine seasons Crean has been at the helm of the Hoosiers.
The kryptonite for Indiana against Wisconsin has been Happ and the pace of the Badgers.
Indiana struggles scoring in the half court and looks for turnovers to turn into transitional baskets. Wisconsin has only averaged 11 turnovers all season, and committed just seven tonight. This pace and care of the ball forced Indiana into an uncomfortable position.
Happ has been a menace for Indiana to deal with during his time in Madison. The sophomore big man has been a persistent thorn in Indiana’s side. He has scored 14 and 12 tonight and has averaged 17.6 points per game and 8.2 rebounds in five career games against the Hoosiers.
With two more years on the books, this problem will likely only get bigger for Indiana.
Wisconsin dealt with a potentially dangerous Indiana team with veteran precision in Washington, D.C. on Friday night. But the Badgers played classic Wisconsin basketball and advanced to a Big Ten Tournament semifinal on Saturday evening.
Indiana could not extend the momentum from Friday’s victory over Iowa. They will, anxiously, and not confidently await the NCAA committee’s verdict on Sunday evening.