Shane Ryan stole my idea. Earlier this month, Ryan posted an article entitled "Wisconsin: The Most Boring Team in America." I wouldn't have used those exact words (the sole purpose of which were to grab attention, which they did here, in Wisconsin) but the general concept is the same. Since I was planning to write this anyway and you might not feel like reading Ryan's whole article, I'm going to continue my plan and write this blog about the Wisconsin Badgers. Under Bo Ryan, Wisconsin plays a slow, defense oriented style of basketball. It works.
According to ESPN.com, Wisconsin isn't a top 100 team for average points, rebounds, assists, or field goal percentage per game. Their leading scorer is averaging a mere 12.3 points per game. They average 60.2 possessions a game, the 3rd lowest in the country, and rank 345 out of 345 for adjusted tempo, per Ken Pomeroy. They're also ranked number 1 in the country, per Ken Pomeroy.
Don't ask me to try and explain Pomeroy's reasoning behind this, because I can't do it. What I can tell you, though, is that the style of basketball that Wisconsin plays, every statistic mentioned above, is deliberate. Prior to the 2012 recruiting class, Ryan hadn't recruited a 5-star player since Joe Krabbenhoft in 2005. Wisconsin doesn't play for flash and pizazz; they play for efficiency and that's exactly what they end up with. They go back to basics: they cause fouls; they make free throws; and they run the shot clock down. They force the opponents to play good, solid defense and then they play tough defense at the other end of the court. Wisconsin intends to be ranked dead last for adjusted tempo; that's their strategy. It's far easier to slow a game down than to speed it up and when Wisconsin forces other teams to play at their speed, they frustrate their opponent.
Their game plan works. In their 3-point loss to North Carolina, they held the 4th highest scoring team in the nation, averaging 86.1 ppg, to 60 points. This is why Wisconsin has been so effective under Bo Ryan during conference play, acquiring 3 regular season championships, 2 conference tournament championships, and appearing in 13 straight NCAA tournaments (10 under Ryan). They're currently ranked 13 (or 14, depending on the poll) in the nation and will be a definite threat to the Big Ten this season. As always.
Today's blog is named after former Michigan State point guard, Drew Neitzel. Neitzel was the 2004 Mr. Basketball for the state of Michigan. He's ambidextrous, winning a two-handed dribbling competition at age 12. He played for the Spartans from the 04-05 season to 07-08, becoming the school's all-time leader in career free-throw shooting at 87%. Proving that the Wisconsin method of basketball is not always effective, Neitzel's best collegiate game came against Wisconsin, one day after their first (and last) #1 ranking in school history was announced, during which he scored 28 points. After spending 3 years in Europe, Neitzel was put on the 2011-2012 Dallas Mavericks roster with jersey #17.
Be back soon,
The Sports Nerd