This week I spoke with Drew Hamm of Bucky’s 5th Quarter to get a better sense of what Wisconsin brings to the table this season. The Badgers have lost two straight games, so confidence is not terribly high at this time.
BTP: How has the offense changed now that Ethan Happ is gone? Is there a go-to guy or is it more of a committee approach?
B5Q: The offense is definitely different. When Happ was on the floor everybody knew where the ball was going to eventually end up. This year? Sometimes I don’t even think the Badgers know where the ball is going to end up. Wisconsin works the ball around the perimeter well but often settles for a tough three-pointer. Currently, the closest thing to a “go-to guy” would be center Nate Reuvers. He is much more in the mold of a classic Wisconsin big man who can drift out to the perimeter and still be a weapon. Reuvers struggles to take control of games though, whether that is through his passivity or his teammates’ inability to get him the ball in positive situations is a question where “both” is probably the answer. When the shot clock is winding down, Brad Davison or D’Mitrik Trice are the guys to run at if you’re N.C. State.
BTP: What do you think is the ceiling for Wisconsin this year?
B5Q: After an abysmal showing in Brooklyn last week at the Legends Classic, featuring back to back losses to Richmond and New Mexico, the ceiling is caving in a bit on the Badgers. Wisconsin beat Marquette earlier this year, which is a good win, but has lost three non-conference, neutral site games to mid-majors that leaves me with scant hope that they’ll be able to even compete with Ohio State or Michigan State or Michigan in true road games. As it stands right now, the Badgers probably aren’t a Tournament team. That could change once big man Micah Potter is eligible in the second semester and once the roster has more time to slot into their respective roles...but I’m not holding my breath.
BTP: When the Badgers have struggled, what have been the most glaring problems?
B5Q: The Badgers are legendary for scoring droughts that last longer than five minutes. They’ve been doing it, quite literally, for decades. It is mind-bending the number of games I’ve watched in my 34 dumb years on this Earth where a graphic flashes on CBS saying “Wisconsin hasn’t scored in 5:45...5:46...5:47.” This year Wisconsin shoots an awful lot of threes but doesn’t make nearly enough of them. They are shooting 30.8% from distance which is well below the D-1 average of 33% and ranks No. 242 in the nation. Depth is also an issue. Wisconsin doesn’t have a backup big capable of handling very many minutes and Reuvers, our only competent big, gets in foul trouble regularly. Manny Bates and D.J. Funderburk may have their best game of the season.
BTP: Where do you think Wisconsin will give NC State trouble?
B5Q: The Badgers are an excellent free throw shooting team this year, which is a fun change of pace from last season. They are shooting 81.1% from the charity stripe as a team which is No. 7 in the nation. If Bates and Funderburk continue to be foul prone, Wisconsin will make the Wolfpack pay from the line. The Badgers are also very good at defensive rebounding because, even though they aren’t tall, everyone on the court is looking for the ball to make sure their opponent doesn’t get a second chance.