I have always had a lot of respect for the Wisconsin Badgers approach to playing the game of basketball. Dick Bennett, who coached the Badgers to their last Final Four appearance in 2000, deployed a deliberate style of basketball that was sometimes frustrating to watch by some fans, but was equally frustrating to play against for opposing teams. To me, it was beautiful basketball the way Bennett’s teams executed on both ends of the floor. Imagine being a team that wanted to play up-tempo ball, only to draw a team like Wisconsin early in the NCAA Tournament. Post-season games, no matter the sport, seem to be played at slower pace more often than not. The Badgers blue-collar style of play took full advantage of this fact. They’re execution was usually flawless, also, which gave them even more of an advantage against teams that were more talented.
Dick Bennett’s system was so good, I often wondered how good could his teams have been if he had more talent to work with. It looks like current head coach, Bo Ryan, may have that team Bennett never had. Don’t get me wrong. The Badgers have had lots of good players, but this team is more talented collectively than any other Badger team. This Wisconsin team has a lot of the same tendencies Bennett’s teams had in the past. Ball movement, and the use of high-ball screens are usually the keys to get players like leading scorer Frank Kaminsky the ball, but this team has more options to score, and in a more variety of ways.
This year’s version of the Badgers have four players that average double figures in scoring. There are two others that average 8 or more points per game. Bo Ryan’s team isn’t the deepest, but they get a lot of bang for they’re buck with who does play. The Badgers, while being more effective than they usually are on offense, is still stingy on the defensive end. Wisconsin, gives up around 63 points per game.
In they’re game against Kentucky, it’s hard to argue the Wildcats aren’t more talented overall, but they’re youth could be a detriment against a team like Wisconsin that executes at such a high level. Just ask Arizona. That version of Wildcats has it’s share of youth, also. Wisconsin, simply made a few more plays than Arizona down the stretch. Even though Kentucky has grown up immensely in this post-season, in a close game, the advantage has to go to the Badgers.
The Wisconsin Badgers, have never missed the ‘Big Dance’ in the 2000’s. This season marks their 17th NCAA tourney appearance in the last 18 years. With 1998 being the only year the Badgers were not invited to the tournament. An incredible run that’s included; seven Sweet 16, three Elite 8, and now two Final Four appearances. Their only other Final Four run came way back in 1941. Will this Badger team make their 3rd appearance the charm? We’ll soon find out. One thing’s for sure. Whomever beats them, will have to earn it…..