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Wisconsin’s New Offense Within The Old Offense

Brian Spurlock- USA TODAY Sports

The Wisconsin offense under Bo Ryan is not flashy.  It is built off of good, smart passes, aware cuts, making open three pointers and not turning the ball over.  This only works when all five players are confident and dependable.  One weak ling will break the proverbial offensive chain.

As much as any conference, the Big Ten fits the Wisconsin style of offense.  The media loves to over discuss the “toughness” of Big Ten basketball.  They do indeed still call fouls in the Big Ten, as much as idiots like Dick Vitale will try to tell you the opposite, as he tries to pander to the old fashioned basketball fan.  The players are not any tougher than players in the SEC or Big East.  But, the style of play is generally slower in the Big Ten, over the past decade or so.  The slower pace of play allows Wisconsin’s uber-slow offense to work.  They have taken the methodical offense and perfected it.

Ryan consistently takes teams with inferior athleticism and wins with his slow offense.  By slowing the game down, Wisconsin can cancel out the opponent’s athleticism advantage.

But, what happens when Wisconsin plays against great defensive teams?

They did that, when they beat no. 2 Indiana, on Tuesday by a score of 64-59.  Indiana has one of the best defenses in the country.  They combine a stellar central rim protector (Cody Zeller) with superb perimeter defenders (Victor Oladipo, Will Sheehey, Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls).

In the first half they played decent defense, but allowed Wisconsin to do what they wanted on offense.  However, down the stretch, in the second half, Indiana ratcheted up the defensive pressure.  The Badgers had possessions where they could not even get the ball inside of the three point line for more than a few seconds.  As Indiana made their run, getting the game to within one point, Wisconsin looked to be in peril on offense.  The lack of a clear offensive creator compromised the Wisconsin offense.

In years past, Jordan Taylor would have been able to create a shot for himself.  Taylor, while being able to run the offense flawlessly, could also make offense from scratch.

With Taylor graduated, who was going to be the player to step up?

It ended up being Ryan Evans, who knocked down a big off-balanced jumper over Oladipo, followed by a made jumpshot off of a loose ball by Traevon Jackson.  It was not pretty for Wisconsin, but they did find a way to score against an aggressive defense, that pressured the ball above the three point line.  There was no one guy who took the ball and put the team on his back.  Jackson would make a play, then Evans, then Sam Dekker or Mike Bruesewitz would make a play.

Wisconsin does not have that one guy anymore, at least not yet.  That is forcing them (allowing them?) to figure out who is going to make the big plays as the game goes on.  There is not pressure on a single individual to score on iso’s in crunch-time.  Instead it is a collective effort.  The offensive identity of Wisconsin will never change under Ryan.  However,  when you throw systems out the window, every team needs to be able to create offense for themselves.  You need a guy, who with the bal in his hands can beat his defender, right?

How Wisconsin will play offensively in crunch-time for the rest of the season is unknown, but they have shown that they do not need one designated player to takeover.  They can take turns.  How long that concept will work for is unknown, but Tuesday night it did work, and Wisconsin knocked off no. 2 Indiana without one go-to player.