Examining Wisconsin's 13-0 Start

12/30/13 in NCAABB   |   EdIsaacson   |   15 respect

Over the past few weeks, I have been taking a look at teams that have gotten off to great starts for the season. Some were surprising, some were not. While Wisconsin is a top-level team, it has been somewhat surprising to see them still among college basketball’s unbeaten as the New Year comes around.

Dec 28, 2013; Madison, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers guard Josh Gasser drives ball to the basket as Prairie View A&M Panthers forward Rasi Jenkins (right) looks on at the Kohl Center. Wisconsin defeated Prairie View A&M 80-43. Mandatory Credit: Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY SportsCoach Bo Ryan has built a system based on efficient offense and stingy defense, regardless of what players filled out the roster. What’s required is that the players buy in fully to what Ryan expects from them, and year after year, his teams do.

The 13-0 start this year though is a Wisconsin-best, and as many teams tried to adjust to how the game is being called by refs now, Ryan’s team didn’t need it. The season started with wins against St. John’s and Florida, as well as wins against Saint Louis, Marquette, West Virginia, and Virginia. They’ve won games scoring 103 points and they’ve won games scoring 48 points. This team has bought in.

On top of that, the Badgers have one of the best young prospects in the game in sophomore wing Sam Dekker, who is leading the team in scoring (14.5) and rebounding (6.2) per game. 

Let’s try and break down the different factors that have given Wisconsin 13 wins so far this season:
  • Bo Ryan’s offense has always been very good at providing multiple options to score out of every set, but this year’s team has been one of the most efficient teams in the country during their 13 and 0 start to the season. The Badgers are averaging over 1.17 points per possession on over 50% from 2-point range and 43.6 from three-point range.
  • As mentioned above, the Badgers are shooting almost 44% from three-point range, and they aren’t shy about taking them. Over 34% of Wisconsin’s scoring comes from behind the arc, and they have five players who have hit at least 12 and at least 35%. Ben Brust leads the way having hit 37 of 84 for 44% so far this season.
  • The Badgers have usually been very careful with the basketball under Ryan, but this year has been one of their best yet. They average less than 10 turnovers per game, with a turnover rate of just 13% (4th in the country) and an assist to turnover ratio of almost 1.6 to 1, a remarkable rate. Junior Traevon Jackson emerged last season after an injury to Josh Gasser put him out for the year. Now Gasser is back, but Jackson is still running the show and getting the team quickly into their offense.  The Badgers don’t have many assists, but they get the ball into optimal position for their guys to score.
  • The emergence of 7-foot junior Frank Kaminsky has been a big factor on both ends of the floor in Wisconsin’s start. Kaminsky made his first major statement with a 43-point game against North Dakota, and has been a steady inside-outside presence for the Badgers. On the year, Kaminsky is averaging 14 points on 56% shooting, including 43% from three. He also adds 6 rebounds and almost 2 blocks per game.
  • The defense has been its usual stingy self. The Badgers don’t create many turnovers, about 11 per game, but they guard man-to-man as well as any team in the country. Opponents are hitting just 42% from the field and 32% from three so far against Wisconsin. On top of that, the Badgers don’t foul much and teams just don’t get to the line often against them.  Through 13 games, the Badgers commit just over 15 fouls per game, 4th in the country, and teams only get 15% of their points against them from the line.
The Badgers start Big 10 play on Thursday against Northwestern followed by games with Iowa, Illinois and Indiana. The nonconference slate wasn’t as tough as many teams, but it did get the team into a good rhythm on both ends of the floor. The biggest challenge going forward will be dealing with teams that know Ryan’s system well and have the athletes to try and force Wisconsin out of their comfort zones. Still, 13-0 start or not, you know the Badgers will be one of the most dreaded game on Big 10 teams’ schedules. 
Notify me by email about comments that follow mine. Preview