The Wisconsin Badgers (4) will face-off against the Vanderbilt Commodores (5) Saturday afternoon at 6:10 p.m. ET. The Badgers defeated the Montana Grizzlies while the Commodores beat Harvard Crimson to advance to the third round of the 2012 NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament.
Wisconsin tore up Montana on offense and held them to a staggering 49 points. Vanderbilt on the other hand had a little bit more difficult time against Harvard but eventually took care of business by defeating the Crimson 79-70. The Badgers and Commodores did not play each other during the regular season which will pose as a challenge for both squads.
Wisconsin: The Badgers average 63.9 points and 11.7 assists per game while converting 42.4 percent from the field. Bo Ryan’s offensive style is to whittle down the shot clock with accurate passes to create high-percentage shots and simply wear down opposing defenses. Wisconsin did this effectively against Montana and I do not see anything changing against Vanderbilt. Against the Grizzlies, the Badgers as a team converted 47.9 percent from the field, 52.6 percent from behind the arc and 89.5 percent from the foul line. Wisconsin is more than capable of hitting a high-percentage of three-pointers and if they are able to get to the foul line consistently Vanderbilt is in trouble.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores are 59th overall in the NCAA with an average of 73.0 points per game while 68th overall with a 46.0 percent field goal percentage. Vanderbilt hits a high-percentage of shots from behind the arc (39.1 percent) which is exactly what they will have to do against Wisconsin if they want any chance of winning the game. If the Commodores slip into a shooting funk where they are unable to get a clean shot off they are in trouble because the Badgers offense will use up the play clock on every possession as they normally do.
Advantage: Vanderbilt. This is a close call but the Commodores will have a slight edge offensively. They will have to constantly be moving the ball around in order to avoid trap defenses and intense man-to-man coverage by Wisconsin.
Wisconsin: This is Ryan’s bread and butter when it comes to coaching. Defense is something the Badgers do exceptionally well and the statistics prove it. Wisconsin is ranked 1st in the NCAA in scoring defense as they have held their opponents to an impressive 52.9 points per game. The Badgers have only allowed opposing teams to shoot 38.3 percent from the field which is good for 9th in the league. The big matchup to watch will be Vanderbilt’s three-point shooting against Wisconsin’s three-point field goal defense. The Badgers are ranked 6th in the NCAA in three-point field goal percentage with 28.9 percent. Against Montana the Badgers held a team that averages 70.6 points per game to 49 which impressive no matter whom you are facing.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores’ defense could very well be the downfall for them in this game. They allowed a team that averages 65.4 points per game to score 70 on them. I understand it is only five points but Vanderbilt should have wiped the floor with Harvard. They will have to figure out a way to stay in position for the entire play clock and not allow the Badgers to have success in the middle. The Commodores must also figure out how to defend the three-point shot as almost every player on Wisconsin is capable of hitting behind the arc. This will be a tough task but if Vanderbilt can somehow stop Wisconsin’s flow on offense they could very well win the game.
Advantage: Wisconsin. Wisconsin has been outstanding on defense all season and there is no reason to believe it should stop now. Their ability to swarm and double team ball handlers while also forcing difficult shots will frustrate Vanderbilt’s offense to no end. The Badgers ability to block shots in the paint will force the Commodores to take outside shots, playing right into the Badgers’ hand.
Outcome: The Badgers ability to slow down the game on offense and prevent opposing teams to score on defense will create numerous problems for the Commodores. Bo Ryan will have his team fired up and ready to play intense, aggressive defense. I expect Wisconsin to defeat Vanderbilt 65-61.