Texas is coming off its first loss of the season giving solid effort in a somewhat disappointing outcome vs. Michigan State. Let's face it folks, this was the worst possible matchup for Texas from a pure X's and O's standpoint as well as a timing standpoint. Until Texas has some semblance of a lowpost threat, they're going to struggle offensively against teams that play sound half court defense and dictate tempo with either good guard play, rebounding, or both. Michigan State did exactly what UCLA did to Texas in its second half comeback. They rebounded effectively enough to keep Texas from running and bogged Texas down in a halfcourt setting guarding aggressively on the perimeter with a ton of switching and sending backside frontcourt help at cutters and cutting screeners bothering what otherwise should have been easy buckets. When switching, why would an opponent care if they're left with a 2 on a 5? Why should the helpside 4 worry about giving up low post position cheating on cutters when a ball reversal just means, well, a ball reversal instead of an easy post entry and a layup? The fact of the matter is we have zero post presence and good teams will continue to cheat off that fact. Atleast until we get Gary Johnson, or we can find a way to keep Pittman on the floor. So, on to Wisconsin...
Wisconsin will be a good test for the Horns.
Luckily, in Wisconsin, we face a team that really wants to be Michigan State but doesn't have the horses. Saying they play the same style as Michigan State or Pitt is akin to putting F.P. Santangelo on The Mitchell Report. They certainly shoot the ball better than MSU, or atleast they can put more than one bonafide perimeter threat on the floor. In terms of being able to guard in a halfcourt setting however, the Badgers don't have the athletes to 1) stay in front of Texas' perimeter players as well as MSU, 2)Bother shooting cutters/drivers with the same effectiveness as Sparty's big and athletic frontcourt, 3)Rebound well enough offensively in order to prevent Texas from getting out and running with its superior quickness. Point 3 is most important, given that Duke, a team that's nearly a mirror image of Texas, was able to run Wisky out of the gym and had plenty of success dictating a fast tempo leading to easy transition buckets and open triples. The Devils forced 18 turnovers and got a push in the rebounding category. On to the personnel...
Wisconsin's Back Court.
Starting Guard Trevon Hughes 6-0 sophomore (15.1 points, 2.7/2.9 ast/to's, .363 3P%)
Starting Guard Michael Flowers 6-2 senior (9.1 points, 2.4/2.1 ast/to's, .333 3P%)
Reserve Guard 6-1 sophomore Jason Bohannon (6.7 points, .419 3P%)
Forward Joe Krabbenhoft 6-7 junior (7.6 points, 6.3 rebs)
Forward Marcus Landry 6-7 junior (9.5 points, 5.1 rebs)
Center Brian Butch 6-11 senior (12.9 points, 8.0 rebs)
When Texas is on Defense. It's evident that the Badgers can shoot the basketball when given the opportunity, but the 1/1 assist to turnover ratio shows that Wisconsin can be turned over with a little bit of perimeter pressure, which is just what the doctor ordered for a quick Longhorn squad always looking to run. If Texas isn't effective with its pressure and Wisconsin is able to run its motion offense deep into possessions it could be a long night for Texas. Especially when you consider the fact that Wisonsin averages nearly as many offensive rebounds per game (14.67) as Michigan State.
FP Santangelo on 'roids? Come on.
Look for Texas to run a little less zone in this game, opting instead to extend their perimeter defense, pressuring passes to prevent ball reversal. Wisconsin doesn't have the "blow-by" quickness and athleticism that MSU's Kalin Lucas and Raymar Morgan present, so the Horns can afford to deny the wings and make life difficult for the Badgers who want to pass and cut as much as possible. Don't be surprised to see more liberal substitution patterns for the Horns in an effort to maintain a level of energy needed to effectively pressure the floor. Unlike the game against the Spartans, the lack of matchup problems posed by Wisconsin's personnel will likely mean much more PT for Wangmene, Lewis, and Chapman in an effort to keep guys fresh and force tempo.
When Texas is on Offense. Look no further than this quote from Duke's Coach K. after the Wisconsin game to give you an idea on how Texas will want to attack Wisconsin:
"I told our guys [earlier in the] afternoon, 'Today's a players' game, tonight would be a players' game,'" Krzyzewski said. "They need to be instinctive [because] there wouldn't be much strategy from the bench, and I think our players reacted well to that."
Barnes' philosophy lately has been to give his talented players more freedom to play instinctive basketball without the constraints of running a motion offense or too many set plays. I think this is the perfect strategy when facing a team like Wisconsin, who in Bo Ryan's system, has a strict set of rules for half court defense. For example, all of Wisky's switches are carefully scripted based on situation and personnel. Texas' liberal, some would call it random, screening patterns can make life difficult for kids trying to remember these strict assignments especially when you consider the variables. Is it guard to big, big to big, ball screen, down screen, cross screen? Is it Abrams and not Augustin, James and not Atchley? etc...
In any event, I would assume Ryan will opt for more switching regardless given the aforementioned lack of a bonafide low post threat. To counter this, look for Rick to run a few more sets than normal to take advantage of cheating helpside defense on ball screen and rolls. You'll notice Texas is in a set when you see a faux ball screen with either a quick diving screener or slip screen, followed by a quick ball reversal to the opposite wing, maybe with a skip pass, and then a post entry to either James or Pittman on the low block. You might also see extra passing by cutters receiving the ball, taking advantage of overzealous backside help. Even without any nuance, Texas cutters and drivers should have an easier time with point blank chances than they did with MSU athletic interior. Wisconsin is big, but not nearly as athletic.
Honestly, I think this game will go similarly to the Wisky/Duke and Wisky/Marquette games, because they have comparable personnel to that of Texas. Here's a telling quote from a Duke player after the Wisconsin blowout:
"We pressure the ball -- I think that's a really good thing about our team, and with that, we will get caught in some mismatches like that, but I think that can also be an advantage for us, too," Scheyer said. "We knew they were a bigger team, but if we really pressured them, we could get them out of their motion."
Michigan State was last week folks
If Texas can replicate that type of tempo, they should have even better success than the Blue Devils since Texas is a better shooting club. The problem is Texas isn't nearly as deep so applying that pressure as effectively will be a bit tougher. In any event, Wisconsin will be another great tourney test considering their style of play is Texas' achilles heal. Luckily the Horns get a steroid free version of MSU and Pitt. Figuratively speaking ofcourse.
I like Texas to be able to rebound well enough defensively and force enough turnovers to get this game in the 80's like they want. Since they saw a better version of this style last week and they're at home, I expect the Horns to rebound in a big way. Call it 82 to 66, Texas.