Badgers face drastically different foe in Oregon
MILWAUKEE — Wisconsin’s basketball team spent three full days preparing to square off against a tortoise. Now, the Badgers have less than 48 hours to plan for a speedy hare.
No. 2 seed Wisconsin (27-7) plays No. 7 seed Oregon (24-9) at 6:45 p.m. CT Saturday in a Round of 32 NCAA tournament West Region game at the Bradley Center. And the Ducks’ tendencies could not be more starkly different in comparison to the Badgers’ opening-round opponent.
During Wisconsin’s 75-35 victory against American, the Badgers faced a team that ran a slowdown Princeton-style offense and ranked tied for 346th out of 351 Division I teams in possessions per game (61.0). Oregon, meanwhile, ranks 30th nationally in the same category (71.4). The Ducks downed BYU, 87-68, in their first tournament game Thursday.
"It’s crazy," Badgers guard Josh Gasser said. "They are just completely opposite in their philosophies, in what they’re trying to do, even their personnel. But you know what? We’ve played a lot of different teams throughout the year. We’ve played teams that like to slow it down. We play teams that like to push it in transition. We’re pretty much used to anything by now."
Oregon averages 82.0 points per game, which ranks eighth in the country. And while many will note this is the highest scoring team coach Bo Ryan has ever had in 13 seasons at Wisconsin, the Badgers’ 73.6 points per game still rank No. 90 in the country.
Defensively, Wisconsin allows 63.7 points per game, while Oregon allows 73.8 points.
So, which team will impose its will best?
Ducks point guard Johnathan Loyd said Wisconsin’s tempo reminded him of Pac-12 opponent Washington State, while the team’s physical nature resembled Arizona. Oregon swept Washington State this season and split a pair of games against Arizona, which earned a No. 1 NCAA tournament seed in the same region as Wisconsin and Oregon.
"I never really saw Wisconsin play," Lloyd said. "Just saw a couple highlights on ESPN and stuff. Yesterday when they were out there and they were smacking American like that, I was just like, ‘OK, man, they can play.’"
Oregon’s game plan, Loyd said, won’t come as a surprise. Run. And then run some more.
"We’re definitely going to try to speed them up a little bit," Loyd said. "I’m going to get in the point guard full-court, make him show his handles off and then try to speed them up as much as we can. We’re still going to play our game at the end of the day."
Wisconsin has done well in recent years to slow up-tempo teams, but the Badgers haven’t had enough offensive firepower to complement that defensive effort. Two seasons ago, the Badgers held North Carolina’s high-octane offense to 60 points in a three-point loss. And last year during the NCAA tournament, Wisconsin held Ole Miss 20 points below its season average in a 57-46 opening-round loss.
As for Wisconsin’s comparable up-tempo opponents this season, Big Ten foe Iowa likely provides the best representation. The Badgers handled the Hawkeyes twice this season, though both games were decided by a total of nine points and finished in the 70s.
The fact Wisconsin has to absorb a different scouting report in so little time was not lost on players.
"Defensively, they try to wear you out, work deep into the shot clock and get an easy shot at the end of it," Wisconsin forward Sam Dekker said of American. "With Oregon, they just want to punch you right away and get up the court and go. It’s obviously going to be a little bit different, but I think we have a group that can react."
Badgers coach Bo Ryan challenged media members Friday to name another team that had to deal with two opponents that played such different styles in consecutive NCAA tournament games.
"I think our team might be the biggest contrast in preparation," Ryan said. "I’ll just throw it out there until somebody finds two other teams in back-to-back games."
Familiar face: Wisconsin hasn’t played Oregon since 1990, but the Badgers have played one of the Ducks’ starting forwards. Mike Moser, a 6-foot-8 redshirt senior, transferred to Oregon from UNLV. Two years ago, Moser recorded four points and 11 rebounds for UNLV during a 62-51 loss to Wisconsin at the Kohl Center. Moser shot 2 of 7 from the field and played 27 minutes.
Moser, a Portland, Ore., native, is second on Oregon’s team in scoring (13.3 points per game) and first in rebounding (7.9).
"He’s a good player," Badgers junior center Frank Kaminsky said. "He goes inside, outside. He’s going to be a tough matchup for anyone. Hopefully, we can match up with everyone else on their team and make them beat us 5-on-5."
Brown in action: Badgers freshman forward Vitto Brown spent time this week at the Kohl Center practicing with the first-team offense before the Badgers left for Milwaukee. Though Brown has played sparingly this season, he did see action in Wisconsin’s first NCAA tournament game.
Brown played the final six minutes of Wisconsin’s blowout victory against American and missed all three of his field-goal attempts and one free throw. Nerves, Brown admitted, played a factor.
"It was definitely exciting," Brown said. "I was a little uncomfortable since it’s been a while, as you can see with my shot percentage. But it was definitely fun being out there and just trying to go my hardest."
This season, Brown has appeared in 12 games and has scored a total of six points with 12 rebounds. But coaches think highly enough of him that he could be a regular rotation player next season.
"I’m not usually that shot-hungry," Brown said. "But the shots were open, so I figured I’d take them. I usually knock them down. Next time."
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