In today’s 57-46 loss to the Ole Miss Rebels, the Wisconsin Badgers showed once again that they will never make a run to the final four or even the elite eight in the foreseeable future. For the Rebels, it was their first tourney win since 2001. For the Badgers, it was another painful example of their offensive incompetence and hardheadedness.
The Badgers are one of the better defensive teams in college basketball, no question about it. They are able to stifle opponents with high-speed offenses while forcing poor shots on others. Defense has been the Badgers’ bread & butter for basically all of Bo Ryan‘s time as head coach. The problem has always been that the effectiveness the defense has seems to have never transferred to the offense.
The main problem here is that the Badgers’ offensive philosophy is so flawed that it still baffles me that some kind of change hasn’t been made after all these years. The Badgers play a tough, physical, and controlled defense. However, they play an offense that is obsessed with three-point shooting while not being good at it. It showed once again today when the Badgers shot 25% from the field and 7/30 from the three-point line. Also, it was the fifth time in the last month that the Badgers were held under 50 points in a game.
Today wasn’t an isolated incident. This season wasn’t just an off year for the Badgers’ shooting. This has been going on year after year after year. Nothing has changed and the results have remained the same: tremendous defense, inconsistent offense and an early exit from the NCAA tournament. Even last year’s exit in the Sweet 16 could be blamed on this offense not having what it takes at the end of a close game against a top-level opponent.
The other thing that really bugs me about this is that the problem is easily fixable.
The Badgers recruit guys that can play this tough, effective defense, but they’re also asked to be long-range shooters. Considering most college basketball players aren’t the best at long-range or three-point shots, this seems like a lot to ask, especially when it’s on a defensive team whose defense is a complete 180 from their offense.
So what is the solution? Play offense more like you play defense. Get tough and get close. I don’t even have a huge issue with the four corners kind of passing the Badgers use, if it resulted in more points. If you are a team whose players know how to be physical, and you enjoy burning the clock while passing the ball around attempting to set up a shot, then why not work the ball inside instead of staying outside?
It may not be the best fix, but I guarantee it would result in more points. Even if the Badgers only did this half the time, that means that half of their shots would be closer to the basket and more likely to go in. The players that Ryan recruits to play for him are not three-point shooters, nor are they guys you are going to see putting up high scoring totals game after game. There’s always one or two, but it’s not even as regular that you see players like that in Madison. This is a solid team with a great defense. But their offense is attempting to be flashy and high-scoring, and failing at it.
To me, it’s just seems ridiculous for a team to continue using an offensive strategy that is obviously not for them. This is the Badgers’ dilemma. And without addressing it, what happened today is very likely a glimpse into the Badgers’ NCAA tournament future for years to come.