Apparently last year's 36-33 PSU win in the BTT was more agonizing to play in than watch judging by Jordan Taylor's reaction. (Photo by Chris Chambers/Getty Images)
|Who:||#19 Wisconsin Badgers (17-5, 6-3)|
|When:||Tonight, 8:00 PM|
|Where:||Bryce Jordan Center|
|TV:||Big Ten Network|
|Radio:||Affiliates, Sirius - CH 92, XM - CH 191|
Wisconsin comes to State College on a 5-game winning streak, after starting just 1-3 in Big Ten play. They are ranked #2 in Pomeroy's ratings, #6 in Jeff Sagarin's ratings, and #24 in the RPI. Their best wins are at home to UNLV and Indiana, and on the road at Purdue and Illinois. All of their losses have been to Top 25 teams except for a rare home loss to Iowa.
It took Ed DeChellis eight years to finally defeat a Bo Ryan-coached Wisconsin team, but last year PSU actually won 2 of 3 from the Badgers. The first was a key 56-52 home win in front of a big crowd, while the second saved PSU's dancing hopes in the infamous 36-33 Big Ten tournament game. However, even with last year's success, Bo Ryan is still 15-4 against Penn State since he's been in Madison.
Last year with Jon Leuer, Keaton Nankivil, and Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin had the most efficient offense in league play. Those first two guys have graduated, but Taylor continues to lead the Badgers. However, Taylor's production has dipped from his incredible season last year, and Wisconsin's offense has suffered. They still fit the bill for a Bo Ryan swing offense, rarely turning the ball over and taking good shots. However, this year's team cannot shoot as well as most Ryan teams, and obviously the production has suffered.
Despite the regression on offense, Wisconsin's defense has dramatically improved from 1.09 PPP last year to 0.96 PPP. Wisconsin is holding their opponents to nearly as bad of shooting percentages as Penn State's shot in conference play. Teams have only attempted 25% of their FGA from behind the arc against Wisconsin, the lowest figure in the league. But even though all of the action is inside, Wisconsin doesn't foul, holds you to 43% shooting, and then grabs a respectable percentage of defensive rebounds (71%). Their toughness and slogging pace forces teams out of their comfort zone and into bad shots.
While Wisconsin had to replace a good amount from their 2010-2011 team, the slack has been picked up by many familiar faces. There is only one freshman in Bo's 8-man rotation, and he only plays 20% of the available minutes (Frank Kaminksy). Guys like Jared Berggren, Ryan Evans, and Mike Bruesewitz (formerly known as Carrot Top) have made big improvements in their games.
Penn State's perimeter defense is going to have to remain disciplined, since Wisconsin has five guys that can hit the three. Any rotational breakdown will likely result in some swing action that will end with an open 3PA. However, Wisconsin has had some 3-point struggles in Big Ten play, only hitting 32% from 3 compared to their 40% mark in non-conference action. Any shooting woes on the road for Wisconsin will only help Penn State's chances. It would also help if PSU can force some turnovers, but Bo Ryan's teams are always one of the best at taking care of the ball. It remains to be seen, though, if some Pat Chambers attitude can force the Badgers into some miscues.
As far as Penn State's offense is concerned, they're just going to have to find ways to grind out buckets. Any inside production from Jon Graham or Sasa Borovnjak will be needed, but Jared Berggren has proven to be a formidable interior defender (6.2 Blk% and only 3.3 FC/40). The matchup everyone will be looking at will be Tim Frazier and Jordan Taylor, but how each player's team produces will determine the outcome. Hopefully Cammeron Woodyard can shoot like he usually does in the BJC, and Jermaine Marshall can get back some of his mojo.
I don't see how this game doesn't turn into another ugly Penn State-Wisconsin affair. The first to 50 points will likely be the winning team. Vegas has Wisconsin as an 8 point road favorite, while KenPom also likes Wisconsin by a 60-48 margin.
STUDENTS: Go to the game to get some cool PSU hoops snapback hats and some dollar hot dogs.
*Also, show some respect to Bo Ryan and his Wisconsin program for stopping by the Paterno statue today to pay their respects. If you didn't know, Bo Ryan is from Chester, PA (and not too far from Chambers' Newtown Square hometown).