The Wisconsin Badgers Men’s Basketball team has a problem.
They lack a “traditional” big man.
Offensively, they have been great. All five players can shoot the basketball, and most can drive inside. When Ben Brust and Josh Gasser are hitting 3 pointers, and Dekker is slicing his way through the paint, the Badgers are a tough team to stop. Then add in Nigel Hayes being dangerous from 17 feet and in, with Frank Kaminsky being effective inside with his much improved footwork, and deadly range from behind the arc, and this offense can score with the best of them.
The offense is just fine without that “traditional” big man. It’s defensively that they struggle.
Frank Kaminsky stands 7 feet tall but he only weighs 234 pounds. Vitto Brown, who saw his most extended playing time at Minnesota, is 6’8, 237 pounds.
The Badgers have given up 70 or more points the last 5 games, including Minnesota’s 81. Minnesota shot 58.9 % from the field, due in large part, because they had 48 points in the paint. They only took 7 threes all game. They also out rebounded Wisconsin 32-22.
When do you remember a Bo Ryan coached defense that had so many miscommunications at this point in the season? Why are there so many wide open mid-range jump shots or arena shaking slam dunks?
Partly, because their isn’t a player on the Badgers that causes teams to fear going in the paint. Kaminsky is an improved defensive player, but he doesn’t strike fear in people. Hayes has the potential to be a really good defensive player and he weights 250 pounds, but he stands 6’7. They have the 7 footer and the 250 pound guy, the issue is that they don’t have it in one complete package.
It has been astounding watching Indiana, Michigan, and Minnesota get bucket-after-bucket in transition. It was one guard after another driving into the paint and putting in a layup or stopping for a five-foot jump shot.
The reason that the current team, which has now lost 3 straight games for the first time since the 2011-12 season, seems so different than the one that started a program best 16-0 is because they are playing stiffer competition that can take advantage of the Badgers’ weaknesses. It was evident against Iowa that this Badger team was vulnerable, and Indiana, Michigan, and Minnesota figured out just how exactly they could use that vulnerability to their advantage.
This can get better. You have to think that Bo Ryan can find a recipe for success, as he has done so many times before. But can he fix the problem? He may not have the personnel. What also has fans concerned is that it’s almost February. If this team is going to improve their defense, they better do it in a hurry.
This team has the offense to go on at least a Sweet Sixteen run. The question is, will a lack of a “traditional” big man that takes up space on defense, stop this team in its tracks?
By Reid Magnum