Jon Crispin, BTN men's basketball analyst, November 15, 2015
The upsets we saw in the first day of the college basketball season rivals that of the last two NCAA tournaments combined. Many coaches and players are already getting back to work in hopes of fixing correctable errors and restoring confidence as the college basketball season is a marathon, not a sprint. On Friday night, I got to call the Wisconsin-Western Illinois game and walked away with a few thoughts for the Badgers and a little perspective for The Grateful Red.
In the broadcast, we talked a bit about the youth and what was lost to the NBA from last year?s NCAA Finalist team, but it?s important to explain why experience and continuity are parPutting ticularly important to Bo Ryan?s Badgers. Last year, Wisconsin?s offense was nearly impossible to stop when three-point baskets were falling. Yes, there was Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker but it was the fact that all five players on the floor knew where to be at all times that made them so difficult to defend.
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Bo Ryan?s offense today is less of a set offense with pre-planned action and movements.The offense has evolved to create freedom and spacing which opens up driving lanes, creates mismatches and forces the defense to scramble and react to the unpredictable movement. The young team we saw on Friday night struggled to find rhythm on the offensive end and had difficulty with spacing as well.
This is not something to hang your head about if you are a Wisconsin player, coach or fan. Persistence and patience will pay dividends as these are simple growing pains with a young and inexperienced bunch. Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes showed an ability to make tough shots in this game but the more the newcomers are able to learn the spacing and flow of the read and react offense, the better it?s going to be for everyone on the floor.
The defensive struggles are yet another example of growing pains. Bo Ryan?s most successful teams have all carried the same theme. They do not beat themselves. They don?t foul, they don?t turn the ball over, they don?t give up easy baskets and they rebound the ball well. Outside of taking care of the ball on offense, those all come down to being in good defensive position and communicating well as a unit. Last year's Wisconsin team didn?t foul because they always had defenders in position. They didn?t give up easy baskets because help was in position before the drive occurred.
Lastly, they rebounded the ball well because every offensive player they were defending was occupied and the guards all contributed on the glass. Communication and positioning seemed to be one of the issues Wisconsin faced against Western Illinois. Far too often a forward or center would get caught too far from the basket or switched onto a driving guard which led to attacks to the paint for drive and kick threes and layup opportunities at the basket.
The more this young team plays together and the more Coach Ryan and his staff are able to teach their defensive principles in the film room and on the floor, the quicker you?re going to see this group develop. It also didn?t help that Western Illinois had one of the best shooting nights they?ll have all year. Sometimes it does simply come down to missing or making tough shots.
This Badgers team has two stars who were key components of the NCAA Finalist team last year. It has a number of high-level young players who I?m excited to see develop as the season progresses. Bo Ryan and his staff will have this team ready to compete by the start of Big Ten play and in no way would I ever count them out. If anything, I see the loss in their season opener as an opportunity to put last year?s team in the past and gel as a new unit with achievable short and long term goals to help the Badgers succeed throughout the course of a long season.