If the Wisconsin Badgers are to keep moving on in the 2017 NCAA tournament it might just be because of their defense and/or ability to rebound.
At least, that’s what the advanced statistics from this season show.
According to TeamRankings.com, the Badgers rank 16th in the nation in opponent points per possession (PPP) at 0.919. For comparison’s sake, last season Wisconsin held opponents to a 0.967 PPP, which ranked 56th. Believe it or not, the Badgers are better in this category than either of their recent Final Four teams. In the national championship 2014-15 season, the Badgers held opponents to a 0.948 PPP (68th) and the year before 0.988 (94th).
While Wisconsin ended on a sour note against Michigan, which averaged 1.218 PPP, the Badgers’ defense had been clamping down recently, holding the previous four opponents to under a 1.000 PPP (see chart below).
There aren’t many teams who rebound as well as the Badgers.
Wisconsin is 16th in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage (77.4) and 24th in offensive rebounding percentage (33.8).
Why do we use percentages instead of per game? Here’s one example:
In the recent loss at Michigan State, the Spartans had 11 offensive rebounds and the Badgers 15. So Wisconsin did much better on the offensive board, right? Well, it’s even close than you think. With the percentages, we look at the percent of rebounds grabbed not the total number. So while Wisconsin had 15 offensive boards, Michigan State had 31 defensive rebounds. Thus, the Badgers grabbed 32.6 percent of the possible rebounds on their offensive end. On the flip side, Wisconsin had 23 defensive rebounds, meaning Michigan State corralled 32.4 percent — so basically even despite the Badgers holding the plus-4 advantage on the stat sheet.
By the way, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin’s first-round opponent, ranks 324th in offensive rebounding percentage (21.2) and also 324th in defensive rebounding percentage (78.8). If you’re looking for something which could be the difference in the Badgers-Hokies game, well there it is.
Of course, not everything has gone great for Wisconsin this season (as evidenced in part by getting an 8 seed). In particular, shooting, turning the ball over and being consistent in scoring.
Wisconsin ranked 113th in the nation in effective field-goal percentage (eFG%) — which adjusts for 3-pointers, seeing as how those shots are worth an additional point — at 51.7 percent. Last season’s team that went to the Sweet 16, though, ranked 234th (48.5). The Final Four teams were very strong in eFG%. In 2014-15, UW ranked 16th (55.0) and in 2013-14 ranked 32nd (53.3).
Those struggles to put the ball in the basket have led to fewer points per possession. While Wisconsin ranks 54th this season (1.076), it is a far cry from the Final Four years when the Badgers led the nation in 2014-15 (1.191) and were seventh in 2013-14 (1.135). For what it’s worth, Virginia Tech is 23rd in the nation in PPP (1.106) while Villanova ranks fourth (1.156).
Lastly, an area Wisconsin has struggled in the past two seasons has been turnover percentage (or, turnovers per possession). The Badgers led the nation in 2014-15 with a 12.2 TO percentage and were second in 2013-14 at 12.5 percent.
To put that a little bit in perspective, this season Wisconsin has had just seven games in which it had lower than a 12.5 turnover percentage. However, things may be looking up as four of those occurred over the last eight games. Overall, the Badgers this season have a 16.4 turnover percentage, which ranks 58th in the nation.
Here’s a game-by-game look at advanced stats for the Badgers this season: