Preview: No. 2 UW vs. No. 15 AU

MADISON, Wis. - It isn't often the Wisconsin Badgers go into a game against an opponent with better defensive statistics. It also isn't often the Wisconsin Badgers go into a game against an opponent that shares the ball more than they do. Both, however, will be the case on Thursday when the No. 2 seed Wisconsin Badgers face off against the No. 15 seed American Eagles in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Eagles come into Thursday's game with the eighth ranked defense in the country, allowing 58.6 points per game.
"I think one underrated aspect of them (is) defensively, they're pretty strong," Josh Gasser said. "Even if you look at the schedule and scores, they limit opponents to a pretty low amount. That means they're a pretty good defensive team."
American allowed its opponents to score more than 70 points in a game just five times this season, the same number of times it held its opponents to under 50 points. In three Patriot League Tournament games, the Eagles conceded 50, 46 and 36 points in the quarterfinals, semifinals and championship games respectively. Those three point totals were an average of 28.59 points below their opponents' season average.
"They beat a pretty good Boston (University) team, a real good Boston University team, and only held them to 30-some points in the game," Bo Ryan said of American's defense. "So that gives you an idea. It doesn't surprise me that (the selection committee) put American up against us in that match-up. That's not a surprise."
In their lone game against a Big Ten opponent this season, the Eagles limited Ohio State to 63 points on 35.7 percent shooting from the field and 18.8 percent from beyond the arc.
Offensively, American's implementation of the Princeton offense is part of the season why it leads the nation with assists on 65.7 percent of its field goals. The Eagles' 15.1 assists per game rank 37th nationally, 179 spots higher than the 216th ranked Badgers and their 12.1 assists per game.
"As long as we don't get beat backdoor, that's the biggest thing," Zach Bohannon, who knows the Princeton offense from his time at Air Force, said. "You can watch any Princeton team, the whole system is predicated on the backdoor cut and 3-point shots.
"You don't have to know what's coming," Bohannon continued, "But long as you stick to the three or four principles you have, you'll ultimately be successful."
Bohannon isn't the only one on this Wisconsin team with experience in dealing with the Princeton offense.
Petey Carril, the father of the Princeton offense, was born in Bethlehem, Pa. and coached for 12 seasons at Easton High School and Reading High School in Pennsylvania during the 1950s and '60s. Ryan coached in the same areas of Pennsylvania shortly thereafter, during the 1970s, and faced off against what he calls, "Princeton-type high school teams," due to the Carril disciples left in the area.
"I didn't see the Princeton offense as a youngster when I went to the Palestra, but I did see it later on and some of the people who were running it in the '70s in Pennsylvania," Ryan said. "I would say American runs it better than any team I've seen."
Bohannon and Ryan's familiarity with the Princeton has now extended to the rest of the team thanks to countless hours of preparation both in the film room and on the court.
"We've got a couple practices under our belt now with them," Frank Kaminsky said. "I feel like we're way more familiar with them than we were (before). It's been nice to be able the see them, watch the video on them. We'll be ready for them."
Game Info
When and Where: 11:40 a.m. Thursday at BMO Harris Bradley Center
Radio: 1310 AM, 101.5 FM
Coach: Bo Ryan, 317-120 in his 13th season at Wisconsin.
Probable starters (height, year, ppg.)
1 Ben Brust 6-1 Sr. 12.9
12 Traevon Jackson 6-2 Jr. 10.4
15 Sam Dekker 6-7 So. 12.7
21 Josh Gasser 6-3 Jr. 9.2
44 Frank Kaminsky 7-0 Jr. 13.6
Key reserves (height, year, ppg.)
10 Nigel Hayes 6-7 Fr. 8.0
13 Duje Dukan 6-9 Jr. 2.6
24 Bronson Koenig 6-3 Fr. 3.2
Quick hits: This is Wisconsin's 16th consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. It is tied for the 5th-longest active streak and 7th-longest streak in NCAA history…The Badgers are 9-4 against the NCAA Tournament field. They are the only team with two wins over No. 1 seeds (Florida, Virginia) and the only teams with three wins over No. 1 and No. 2 seeds (Florida, Virginia, Michigan)…Wisconsin has won six of its last seven opening-round games and is 10-2 in the opening round under Bo Ryan overall.
AMERICAN EAGLES (20-12, 13-5 Patriot)
Coach: Mike Brennan, 20-12 in his first season at American.
Probable starters (height, year, ppg.)
0 Darius Gardner 11.5
1 Kyle Kager 6-8 Jr. 5.9
14 Jesse Reed 6-5 So. 13.9
22 John Schoof 6-5 Jr. 11.4
34 Tony Wroblicky 6-10 Sr. 12.2
Key reserves (height, year, ppg.)
5 Marko Vasic 6-5 So. 4.0
12 Yilret Yiljep 6-7 Fr. 2.4
20 Charlie Jones 6-5 Fr. 2.1
Quick hits: This is American's first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2009. They are 0-2 all-time in the tournament…Mike Brennan was an assistant on last season's No. 2 seed Georgetown team that lost to No. 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast…The Eagles have 11 players listed as 6-foot-5 or shorter on their roster…American won the Patriot League tournament title this season after finishing 10-20 last season.
Why you should worry: Three times in the past two seasons has a No. 15 seed defeated a No. 2 seed.
Why you shouldn't worry: Wisconsin is 5-0 all-time against the Patriot League while American is 1-22 all-time against the Big Ten.
For more Wisconsin Badgers news, notes and discussion, follow Zack on Twitter.