NCAA Preview: How far can Badgers go?

Wisconsin may be under-seeded as a No. 5, but it could be pushed by No. 12 Ole Miss and Marshall Henderson in the opener. The Rebels are hot, coming off the SEC tourney title. This team can score. But good defense typically trumps good offense. And no one does defense like the Badgers.

Let’s take a closer look.

[ RELATED: Read all of BTN.com's NCAA coverage ]

BADGERS’ NCAA HISTORY
Bo Ryan’s NCAA record 14-10
NCAA tourney appearances 19
Record 25-17
Final Fours 2
Titles 1941

How far can the Badgers go? It would not be a shock to see this team in the West Region final playing a rematch of the Big Ten tourney title game vs. No. 2 seed Ohio State for a berth in the Final Four. The Badgers aren’t an overly talented team, but they are a veteran team. Players like seniors Jared Berggren, Mike Bruesewitz and Ryan Evans could take this team far. And Ben Brust is a shot-maker who has limitless range. But it’s defense led by Berggren and Evans that makes Wisconsin special. The Badgers defend the perimeter like few teams—and they don’t foul.

Best third-round matchup: Playing No. 4 Kansas State, which is coached by former Illinois boss Bruce Weber, would be interesting and fun. Frank Martin left Weber a stacked roster—and Weber took K-State to a share of its first league title since 1977. This isn’t a great shooting team, but it is a threat from 3-point range. Guarding the arc is a Wisconsin strength, however.

OPPONENT: OLE MISS LEADERS
Points: M. Henderson 20.1
Rebounds: M. Holloway 9.6
Assists: J. Summers 3.7
FG%: M. Holloway 55.7%
FT%: M. Henderson 88.0%
3P%: M. Henderson 35.7%
Steals: M. Holloway 1.6
Blocks: R. Buckner 2.7

Chance to advance to Sweet 16: Good. The Badgers have a favorable draw in what most feel is the weakest region in the field: the West. For Wisconsin to have success, it must impose its will on opponents. What’s that mean? The Badgers need to have the game played at their slow, methodical and plodding pace. Bo Ryan’s team works the shot clock, making foes defend for almost the full 35 seconds. If Wisconsin can keep the game in 50s or 60s, it has a chance. If it gets caught in a shoot-out, it’s likely sunk.

Who needs to shine: The Badgers need to have their big men hit some shots. That’s when this team is good. When guys like like Berggren, Evans and Bruesewitz are lofting bricks, the team can get sideways. We saw that in a few ugly losses this season. The 58-43 defeat at Michigan State on March 7 was a perfect example. And the 69-56 home loss to Purdue before that was the same deal.

X-factor: The point guards, Traevon Jackson and George Marshall. They must play well, limiting turnovers, distributing the ball and hitting the open shot when they get it. The duo also must play good defense. Jackson is capable, but Marshall remains a work in progress on the defensive end.

[ RELATED: NCAA West Region matchups | Badgers team page | NCAA.com interactive bracket ]

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About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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1 Comment

Your Opinion?
Show Comments (1 Comment)
Delmar Jones on 3/18/2013 @ 4:54pm EDT Said:

In order for the Badgers to go far i like you believe that the senoirs have to play well. They do not play good against OSU in the Big ten title game. It’s a must if they want to get to the second round. Kstate won’t be much of a problem with Weber a the helm the Badgers should be able to bet them. After that it a crap shot, who knows.

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