Wisconsin Badgers v. Xavier Musketeers
Sunday, March 20, 8:40 PM
On Friday night, Xavier came out in the Scottrade Center in St. Louis ready to begin the NCAA tournament. They pounded the basketball, making it known to Weber State that they were a real threat this tournament season. Wisconsin, on the other hand, did not come ready to play basketball. They trailed Pitt and could not seem to get any grove going. They squeaked out a win. It wasn’t pretty, but at the end of the day, the tournament is about surviving and advancing. Xavier will be a team much more physical and fast than Pitt, and Wisconsin needs to come out ready to play basketball. Both teams are tough, physical team. This game might just turn in to a bloodbath, but it will make for a great March Madness game to watch.
Match-Up to Watch
Ethan Happ is going to be facing both of Xavier’s big men, James Farr and Jalen Reynolds. Senior James Farr comes in at 6’10’’ and 247 pounds. Jalen Reynolds, a junior, comes in to the game at 6’10’’, 232 pounds. Happ is 6’9’’, 230 pounds, so he’s close to the two in size. However, both Musketeers are upperclassmen and very comfortable on the court. Happ is just a redshirt freshman, still growing in to his role on the team. Happ has really grown this season, but sometimes he becomes soft and fades in to the background. He can not do this on Sunday. Happ must remain strong in the paint, and keep fighting for rebounds. This is going to be a physical game, and Happ has shown that he can remain strong at the rim.
X-Factor for Wisconsin
Xavier plays both man-to-man and zone defense. As most Big Ten teams tend to play man-to-man defense, Wisconsin always struggles to run an offense against a zone defense. Wisconsin must keep moving the ball around. The swing offense will help with this, but in some games this season, especially Wisconsin’s game on Friday, the team has a hard time setting up plays on offense. Wisconsin must either make shots from behind the three-point line or be able to make layups around the rim to force Xavier to play man-to-man defense. Wisconsin must set up offense and keep swinging the ball, it is the only way the Badgers can beat the zone defense.
X-Factor for Xavier
Xavier’s players are very big and athletic. They are a physical team that can really wear down their opponents. Their team is much older than Wisconsin as well, meaning they are more confident on the court. Xavier must wear down Wisconsin, whether this is through the zone defense or by pounding the ball to the net on offense. If the team comes out as they did against Weber State, Wisconsin will have a tough time keeping up with the speed and physicality of Xavier. Xavier is a strong team on offense and defense, and if they can play hard throughout the game, the Badgers may have a tough time keeping up.
Even though Xavier is such a big team, the Wisconsin starting lineup collectively weighs 68 pounds more than the Xavier starting lineup. Xavier’s starting lineup is taller than the Badgers’, though. Against common opponents which include Michigan, Georgetown, and Marquette, Xavier is 5-1, compared to Wisconsin’s record of 1-2. Xavier has had more chances against these opponents because they have played these teams more, however, it is significant to note that Xavier has a winning record and Wisconsin does not. Wisconsin played Marquette and Georgetown in the beginning of this season when the Badgers were a very different team than they are today. Regardless, Xavier has beaten the same teams more than Wisconsin has. This can give fans an inkling of how the game will go on Sunday night.
This game is going to be a bloodbath. Both teams have a lot to prove. If Wisconsin plays the basketball it was playing on Friday, the Badgers will lose the game by a lot. Wisconsin was not clicking together. The offense could not make a shot, and players were struggling to make defensive rebounds. Against the Xavier physicality, the Badgers will really struggle, especially because Xavier is so strong on offense and defense. If Wisconsin comes out and plays tough from the get go, the Badgers have a chance to win the game. Wisconsin has a spark that can only come from the youth and perseverance of a young team. This spark is often what propels lower-seeded teams farther in the tournament than their higher-seeded counterparts, because these teams really have nothing to lose. At this moment, Wisconsin has nothing to lose, and this tournament is a chance for the younger Badgers to help make Wisconsin a basketball empire. Hopefully Wisconsin will channel the team that was present at the end of the Big Ten regular season and not the one that came to play at the Big Ten Tournament and the game on Friday night.
University of Wisconsin, Class of 2019