It’s Day 2 of my Big Ten men’s basketball NCAA previews, and here I look at Wisconsin as it prepares for Thursday’s opener against Montana. Want to know a little bit more about Montana? My colleague Brent Yarina answers that question while I give you my Badgers review further down in this post. Use the NCAA.com bracket and the BTN scoreboard to track all of the action this tournament.
No. 4 WISCONSIN’S RECORD VS. NCAA FIELD: 6-7
Bo Ryan’s NCAA record: 14-10.
Wisconsin’s NCAA tourney appearances: 15
How far can it go? At the least this team should be a Sweet 16 team. Anything after that is gravy. But the Badgers must beware of their first-round East region matchup with No. 13 Montana. Led by Kareem Jamar, the Grizzlies are a very good team. Montana got off to a sluggish start. Following a loss at Weber State on January 14, the Griz didn’t lose another game. Each team hits the glass and plays defense with equal aplomb.
Survive Montana—a team with little depth–and a date with No. 5 Vanderbilt or No. 12 Harvard would be on tap. Get to the Sweet 16, and a matchup with No. 1 Syracuse may loom followed by a potential meeting with Big Ten foe and No. 2 seed Ohio State in the Elite Eight with a trip to the Final Four on the line. The Badgers and Buckeyes split their season series.
Best second-round matchup: A meeting with Vandy may be good theater from a matchup standpoint. The Commodores are similar to Wisconsin in the fact they use a lot of screens to free jump shooters for open looks. But Vandy is considered to be soft. Could they withstand 40 minutes with bumping and grinding Badgers? You would have to like Wisconsin’s chances. Harvard? The Crimson lacks the edge, size and toughness to hang with the Badgers.
Chance to advance to Sweet 16: Solid. The opening game vs. Montana, whose 14-game winning streak is the longest of any team in the NCAA field, looks potentially more dangerous than a second game vs. Vanderbilt or Harvard.
The Badgers can have a tendency to experience long cold spells that can spell doom. They must avoid that by shooting well, which always is a must if Wisconsin wants to have success in Bo Ryan’s methodical, work-the-shot-clock attack.
Who needs to shine: Jordan Taylor. The senior point guard is like a coach on the court. He’s tough and savvy, having the ability to drain a three-pointer, drive or dish. The brawny Taylor, who averages 14.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists, also is a strong on-the-ball defender who isn’t easily rattled and has dealt with about every conceivable situation on a court.
X-factor: Jared Berggren. The 6-10 junior can bang in the paint and crash the boards with his sharp elbows. But he’s also adept at shooting, hitting 36.9 percent of his three-pointers while averaging 10.5 points and 5.0 rebounds. Most 6-10 players don’t like playing on the perimeter, which gives Berggren an edge on the offensive end.
Tom Dienhart is a senior writer for BTN.com Find Dienhart’s work at www.btn.com/tomdienhart, follow him on Twitter at @BTNTomDienhart, send a question to his weekly mailbag here, and click here to subscribe to his overall RSS feed.