What to Expect: Wisconsin

  • 01/04/2016 12:42 pm in

Indiana continues Big Ten play on Tuesday night as the Wisconsin Badgers travel to Assembly Hall. Wisconsin is coming off of a 79-57 win over Rutgers and is 9-6 this season.

The undefeated 1976 national championship team will be honored at halftime. The game will be televised at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN with Mike Tirico and Dan Dakich on the call:

Indiana’s season appeared to be coming off of the rails following a 94-74 blitzing at the hands of Duke on Dec. 2 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Hoosiers looked to be in even more trouble on Dec. 19 when down 16 in the second half to Notre Dame in the Crossroads Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

And at times in its first two Big Ten road games against inferior competition, the Hoosiers looked shaky. But since that lopsided defeat over a month ago in Durham, the reality is this: Indiana is 7-0 with a win over the Fighting Irish and a pair of Big Ten road wins.

Has the competition been elite? Certainly not. But Indiana has taken care of business. At 12-3 overall, 2-0 in the league and with four of its next five games at Assembly Hall, the opportunity to continue building momentum is there.

The next challenge is Wisconsin, which looks much different than it did the last two seasons when it reached consecutive Final Fours. The Badgers have had IU’s number for several years, but Bo Ryan is gone and the program is in transition under interim coach Greg Gard. With an Assembly Hall crowd that should be juiced to honor the ’76 champs, Tuesday’s game couldn’t set up more favorably for IU. Can the Hoosiers deliver an eighth straight win?


Ryan might have retired, but the Badgers aren’t starting from scratch with new leadership. Gard, a longtime Ryan assistant, took over following Wisconsin’s 64-49 win over Texas A & M Corpus Christi on Dec. 15. The Badgers have gone 2-1 since with wins over Green Bay and Rutgers and a loss to Purdue at the Kohl Center.

The two carryovers who played major minutes on last year’s national runner-up team, Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig, give Gard a solid foundation.

The 6-foot-8 Hayes is the team’s leading scorer at 15.7 points per game, is second in rebounding (6.7 rpg) and also leads the club in assists at four per game. However, he’s really struggled with his shooting through 15 games as he’s hitting just 29.4 percent on 3s for an effective field goal percentage of 42.4. Last season, he finished with an eFG% over 55.

Hayes has been solid from the left wing, where he’s hitting 47 percent of his 3s. He’s been just average in spot-up situations, according to Synergy Sports, scoring just 46 points in 57 possessions. Hayes is too talented of a player to continue shooting so poorly and if he breaks out in Bloomington, it could be a game-changer for the Badgers.

Koenig hasn’t been great, either, but he’s hitting 37 percent on 3s on 92 attempts. Unlike Hayes, he’s been great in spot-up situations with 61 points in 47 possessions, per Synergy Sports. Koenig is second on the team in scoring at 13.9 points per game. His shot chart, per Shot Analytics, shows two areas where he excels from distance:


The third option for Wisconsin is redshirt freshman Ethan Happ, a 6-foot-9 forward who should continue to get better as he gains experience. Happ is leading the team in rebounding at 8.1 per game and his defensive rebounding percentage (23.6) is very good. Happ is finishing 53.7 percent of his 2s and has yet to attempt a 3 this season.

Junior guard Zak Showalter, a former walk-on, is coming off a 21-point game against Rutgers where he hit all eight of his shot attempts including 4-of-4 on 3s. Showalter is a low usage player (13.2 percent of possessions while on the floor), but is the team’s most efficient shooter (58.1 eFG%) who rarely turns it over. In 500 minutes, he has just 23 turnovers.

Forward Vitto Brown saw spot minutes on last year’s team as a sophomore, but has been a bit of a disappointment thus far as a junior. He’s been solid on the glass (9.8 OR%, 18.7 DR%), but is finishing just 41.8 percent of his 2s and is shooting less than 30 percent from 3. As his shot chart shows, Brown shoots a lot from the midrange:


Wisconsin’s bench is very inexperienced with three freshmen and a sophomore rounding out the nine-man rotation. Freshman guard Charlie Thomas averages 3.7 points and 3.1 rebounds, but is shooting just over 35 percent.

Another freshman, Khalil Iverson, looks like a promising athlete, but is a player that would have been redshirted on previous Badger teams. Iverson is making 45.5 percent of his 2s. Sophomore guard Jordan Hill has played in 10 of 13 games and is shooting less than 37 percent.

The headliner off the bench going forward might be freshman foward Alex Illikainen, who was an IU recruiting target at one point. Illikainen is playing much more since Gard took over. He’s averaged 15 minutes over Wisconsin’s last three contests and had 10 points against Purdue.



Wisconsin’s 2014-2015 team had the nation’s most efficient offense and also the most efficient Big Ten offense of the KenPom era. So it was inevitable that the Badgers would experience a dropoff after losing five key contributors and that’s exactly what has happened.

Still, there are plenty of surprises in Wisconsin’s profile. The Badgers have ranked in the top five nationally in taking care of the ball since the 2008-2009 season, but are currently 98th in the country in turnover percentage. The 3-point shooting has been average (34.1 percent) and the 2-point shooting has been bad (45.8 percent). The one strength of the Wisconsin offense right now is offensive rebounding. The Badgers are rebounding 37.9 percent of their missed shots, which could give Indiana problems.

Defensively, Wisconsin isn’t forcing many turnovers and is struggling to guard the 3 as opponents are hitting 37.7 percent of their shots from distance. On paper, both of those numbers are favorable for the Hoosiers.


Pomeroy favors Indiana by eight with a 78 percent chance of victory, the Vegas line opened at 8.5 points and Sagarin likes the Hoosiers by 10 in Assembly Hall.

As we’ve seen through two Big Ten games, teams are going to have to score to beat Indiana. The Hoosiers scored 79 points at Rutgers and didn’t play particularly well and then at Nebraska scored 79 again after a strong second half. Indiana typically shoots it better at home and is currently 8-0 at Assembly Hall.

Still, the struggles the program has had with Wisconsin over the years certainly will have some worried about the matchup. With Hayes and Koenig, the Badgers have two of the best players in the league. Hayes in particular is an important player for Indiana to contain because he’s played poorly so far and seems overdue to get things rolling.

It should be the best crowd yet this season in Assembly Hall with the 1976 team taking the floor at halftime, but as we saw over the weekend in West Lafayette as Iowa spoiled Rick Mount’s homecoming, there’s no such thing as a guarantee in this year’s Big Ten.

(Photo credit: Mike McGinnis/Getty Images North America)

Filed to:

  • UncleM

    Collin will start the game guarding Hayes. He has started guarding the other’s team best players several times to begin second half of games this year. No reason to wait for the second half now that he is in the starting lineup.

  • John D Murphy

    Troy, like the rest of this team, is a terrible on-ball defender. He gets beat with ease by players who are not nearly as quick. However, Troy is able to use his athleticism to recover and turn many of those shots into more difficult shots with the threat of a block. He is also our best weak side help defender and by far the best defensive rebounder.

  • UncleM

    Troy needs to stay on the bench anytime he has 4 or more turnovers in a game. Maybe eventually he will learn to play fast and smart. That’s his only chance to improve by the end of the year. Can’t understand why coach can’t see that.

  • John D Murphy

    RJ has stunk the last two games. Completely agree. But I threw up a little in my mouth when you said TW can play the 2. His TO% as a primary ball handler in the 1/2 court has to be close to 50%.

  • FU2

    Coach Crean doesn’t seem to recognize much. After all it was only after the debacle in Hawaii that he admitted they had a TO issue that was something “they’d have to take a look at.” Still can’t believe that statement.
    If Troy gets benched it seems as though his mommy might pull him outta school and send him elsewhere… Honestly I think he’s one of the teams most overrated players. In three years he’s made minimal developmental strides and still exhibits ball handling and turnover issues that freshman do. I’m so tired of hearing what an “elite athlete” he is because I see very little if anything I would consider elite (so what if he jumps high or runs fast).

  • BL

    Nasty, throwing up in mouth. Yah, I just don’t see a better option than to play TW and use the bench as motivation when necessary. Naturally, want YF to handle the rock and playing with a larger front line would limit TW’s options for dribble drives where he gets most of his TO’s. Would really like to see him coming off screens vs. the one-on-one type plays. Could go with NZ but I don’t like his one dimensional game (no D, no rebounding). Bottom line, I’m not ready to remove TW from the starting lineup. Don’t want to lose his energy, athleticism and positive game changing abilities. That said, if he doesn’t settle down and play smarter, ultimately we need to move on.

  • cooper

    It’s not his choice to pick the next coach. And who does he owe more too: an assistant or the kids he recruited? They deserve the best coach possible and it wasn’t his place to chose who that is.

  • IUBizmark

    Agreed. I’m so sick of Crean’s obsession with his high powered offense. It’s as dialed in as it can possibly get and any further returns come at an inordinate amount of time, which should be spent on shoring up our less than average defense.

    I’m starting to think Crean is using IU has his little experimentation for his own NBA cache. Get outside the bubble Tom and realize it’s the defense, not the offense that needs help. Listen to his pressers. He spends nearly the whole time talking about offense. That’s a direct reflection of how time is spent in practice, no doubt!

  • Ole Man

    Well said.

  • Ole Man

    For me, until he plays stiffer competition the jury is still out.
    Also, have to disagree that he’s better than Troy at the 3 or 4.
    And sorry, I take TB and what he brings to the team any day over OG.

  • BL

    Definitely a better 4 with his size. Betting he challenges TW as a better overall player by end of BIG season (3 or 4). Wasn’t suggesting I’d take OG over TB, our only true center. Was making the point that you could take the same approach with TB; ease him along as a freshman by starting Max.

  • marcusgresham

    He’s over 6’8, I’m fairly sure. I’m a bit under 5’8 so I don’t seem like I’d be a good judge of height, but I’m thinking back to guys we had at USI–Chris Bowles was a legit 6’10 and Ilo Mutombo was 6’9+. Bryant and Anunoby walked within a foot or two of me on their way to sign autographs and I’d put Thomas right there with Bowles, a true 6’10. OG isn’t two inches shorter than that.