MADISON, Wis. - The Wisconsin Badgers have prided themselves all season long in their ability to win games in various ways, having won games this season by scoring in the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and 100s.
While those numbers prove this year's team is different than ones coached by Bo Ryan in the past, Saturday's matchup with the high-powered Oregon Ducks offense in the third round of the NCAA Tournament will be the ultimate test as to whether or not the Badgers truly are capable of winning games of different styles and speeds.
In order to prove they are a new team that can win in more than one fashion, Wisconsin will need to implement the defensive-minded game plans of old.
Unlike Thursday when Wisconsin faced off against a top-10 defense in American, Saturday, the Badgers will be going up against a top-10 offense in Oregon. The Ducks average 82 points per game, seventh best in the country, and have not been held under 63 points in a game all season.
"We have to face a team that gets it up and down, they can score in half court, they can score in full court," Ryan said at a press conference on Friday. "They put a lot of pressure on you. Very athletic. (Oregon head coach Dana Altman) has done a heck of a job with them. That's our task."
In their second-round game against BYU, the Ducks scored 87 points on 50 percent shooting from the field. They had 21 assists on 27 field goals and turned the ball over just eight times. A season-high 49 point performance from their bench was highlighted by Milwaukee-native Elgin Cook, who scored 23 points in 23 minutes, and they attempted 38 free-throws.
When the Cougars cut the Oregon lead to 17-14, the Ducks went on a 9-1 run; when the Cougars cut the Oregon lead to 56-53, the Ducks went on a 22-6 run; and when the Cougars cut the Oregon lead to 67-57, the Ducks responded by hitting 10 of their next 11 shots from the field, including eight in a row.
Leading the way for the offensively-gifted Ducks is 6-foot-2 guard Joseph Young, who averages 18.6 points per game on 48 percent shooting from the field and 41 percent shooting from three-point range. Joining Young in the backcourt is 5-foot-8 senior guard Jonathan Loyd who averages a team-high 4.7 assists per game.
Mike Moser heads the Oregon frontcourt, averaging 13.3 points and 7.9 rebounds per game, to give the Ducks a balanced offensive attack.
"They are a team that likes to drive the lane," Nigel Hayes said of the Ducks. "They have big guys down there as well. We have to not let them establish post presence, (because) once it happens, it forces the guards to help. That will put us in a quandary with them trying to help down and kick out and defending it. We have to make sure we guard that pretty well."
Most teams have struggled against Oregon this season in trying to defend the kick outs to three-point shooters. Oregon is shooting 38.7 percent from three-point range this season, 30th in the nation, and gets an average of 22.8 points per game from beyond the arc.
"When we're shooting it well, we can really get the floor spread, and that enables our guys to drive it at the basket, opens up some driving lanes," Altman said of his team. "We're not a particularly good scoring team in the post. Those guys have finished some plays. We don't throw it in there a lot."
Oregon doesn't necessarily live and die by the three, but it's close.
While the Ducks were able to defeat BYU despite shooting 15.4 percent (2-for-13) from three-point range on Thursday, almost all of their losses this season have come in games where they have struggled to shoot the three. In eight of their nine losses, the Ducks shot less than 36 percent from deep. In four of those eight losses, the Ducks shot less than 26 percent.
The Badgers are going to have their hands full on the defensive end of the floor as they rank 161st in the country in three-point-field-goal defense (34.1 percent).
It will be tough for the Badgers, just as it is for most teams, to go shot-for-shot with the Ducks. After defeating a defensive-minded team on Thursday, if the Badgers are to advance to their sixth Sweet 16 in the past 12 seasons, they are going to have to do so against a team of the completely opposite nature.
"Has anybody ever faced two more opposite teams back-to-back in the NCAA Tournament?" Ryan pondered aloud at his press conference.
Perhaps there hasn't been a team to face two completely different styles in back-to-back tournament games, but if the Badgers have proven anything this season it's that they are a more versatile group than in year's past. In order to prove they are different, however, they'll need to get back to their defensive ways of old.
When and Where: 6:45 p.m. Saturday at BMO Harris Bradley Center
Radio: 1310 AM, 101.5 FM
WISCONSIN BADGERS (27-7)
Coach: Bo Ryan, 318-120 in his 13th season at Wisconsin.
Probable starters (height, year, ppg.)
1 Ben Brust 6-1 Sr. 13.0
12 Traevon Jackson 6-2 Jr. 10.6
15 Sam Dekker 6-7 So. 12.7
21 Josh Gasser 6-3 Jr. 9.1
44 Frank Kaminsky 7-0 Jr. 13.4
Key reserves (height, year, ppg.)
10 Nigel Hayes 6-7 Fr. 7.9
13 Duje Dukan 6-9 Jr. 2.7
24 Bronson Koenig 6-3 Fr. 3.2
Quick hits: The Badgers are 26-18 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, including 17-12 under Bo Ryan. Since Ryan's arrival, the Badgers are tied for 11th in the nation in NCAA Tournament victories…Wisconsin allowed American to score just 35 points in the opening round, the fewest a Wisconsin opponent has scored in the opening round since 1941. Wisconsin has not allowed more than 60 points in an opening round game since Texas A&M-Corpus Christi scored 63 in 2007…Wisconsin's 40-point victory over American was the largest margin of victory in the NCAA Tournament in program history…The Badgers hold a 3-2 record all-time against the Ducks, having won the past two.
OREGON DUCKS (24-9)
Coach: Dana Altman, 97-46 in his fourth season at Oregon.
Probable starters (height, year, ppg.)
0 Mike Moser 6-8 Sr. 13.3
3 Joseph Young 6-2 Jr. 18.6
10 Johnathan Loyd 5-8 Sr. 7.2
20 Waverly Austin 6-11 Sr. 1.8
21 Damyean Dotson 6-5 So. 9.6
Key reserves (height, year, ppg.)
12 Jason Calliste 6-2 Sr. 12.5
13 Richard Amardi 6-8 Sr. 6.6
23 Elgin Cook 6-6 So. 6.8
Quick hits: Oregon defeated BYU, 87-68, in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. The Ducks shot 50 percent from the field and scored 31 points from the foul line…Oregon has not been held under 63 points in a game this season and is 15-3 when scoring more than 80…The Ducks rank sixth in the nation in free-throw shooting (76.8 percent), rank 10th in points per game (82.0) and 29th in steals (7.8)…Only three opponents in the last 15 games have shot better than 32 percent from beyond the arc against the Ducks. Six of those fifteen opponents shot less than 25 percent.
Why you should worry (aside from the offensive numbers): Wisconsin is 23-31 all-time against the Pac-12. Oregon holds a 2-1 advantage over Wisconsin in games played at a neutral site.
Why you shouldn't worry: Six of Oregon's nine losses this season came when it scored less than 80 points. Wisconsin has allowed 80 points or more in a game just five times in 34 games this season.
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