Thursday, January 3, 2013

Badgers' Big Ten Season Begins

Yesterday I wrote about the Illinois–Purdue matchup, and opined that an Illinois loss would prove that they are a fraud. Illinois lost. They are a fraud. And by that I mean that I think they will finish below Wisconsin in the Big Ten standings.

Now, about Wisconsin, which opens up tonight at home against Penn State. This is not the Badgers team I was hoping for this year. Mainly this is due to the loss of Josh Gasser, who was probably their most indispensible player. But I've also been disappointed in the play of George Marshall. There were rumors that he was something special, and he may well turn out to be. But he isn't there yet—at least not as a point guard. I have been impressed with his shooting (he has hit 20 threes, more than anyone else but Brust, and trails only fellow freshman Sam Dekker in 3P%) but he is not ready to run the offense, and probably isn't ready to play Big Ten defense up to Bo Ryan's standards. Nor is Trae Jackson. So those are real problems.

But this is still Wisconsin, and they are still coached by Bo Ryan. Even with their four losses, Kenpom has them ranked 17th, and the Sagarin Predictor as them ranked 20th. Wisconsin also benefits from a relatively favorable Big Ten schedule—they play Indiana (road) and Michigan (home) only once, don't have to travel to Purdue, and get a good chance at a road win at Northwestern.

They also get to ease into the season a bit, with their first three games against Penn State, at Nebraska, and at home against Illinois. This is probably their easiest three-game stretch of the conference season (except for possibly their late-season stretch that goes @NW, Nebraska, Purdue).

A lot of people are giving up on the Badgers. For example, Seth Davis says "This is not your older brother's Bo Ryan team," and urges us to "sell" our stock in the Badgers. I'm holding. But these first three games are crucial. The Badgers absolutely have win the first two, obviously, and really need to win the third as well. If they don't, I may have to concede that Seth Davis was right. And you have no idea how very painful that would be.

Anyhow, here's my super-prediction of the Badgers' conference season:

1/3: Penn State— W, 75-50
1/6: @Nebraska— W, 65-50
1/12: Illinois — W, 71-65
1/15: @Indiana— L, 80-70
1/19: @Iowa— W, 69-68
1/22: MSU — W, 65-61
1/26: Minn. — W, 60-56
1/29: @OSU — L, 73-60
2/3: @Illinois — L, 70-61
2/6: Iowa— W, 80-60
2/9: Michigan— L, 65-64
2/14: @Minnesota— L, 65-59
2/17: OSU— W, 65-64
2/20: @Northwestern— W, 70-60
2/26: Nebraska— W, 70-50
3/2: Purdue— W, 65-50
3/7: @MSU— L, 59-49
3/10: @Penn State— W, 71-59

That's how I get to 12-6.

I have put in bold the season's Seven Crucial Games. The first is the home game against Illinois on Jan. 12th. Since Illinois is not for real, the Badgers must beat them at home, and I expect them to. But if they don't, then you can subtract at least three other wins off this list.

The other six in bold are the Swing Six™—the six games that could go either way. Luckily, four of the six are at home, where the Badgers rarely lose. This is the main reason I have the Badgers going 4-2 in these games. But they could easily go 2-4, as well, if the ball doesn't bounce their way.

As you can see, we will know a lot more about the Badgers by the end of this month. The three-game stretch @Iowa, MSU, and Minn will be crucial. My 3-0 prediction there seems, I admit, optimistic, and I would certainly be happy with 2 out of 3. But it should be fun to watch.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. I did not intend to remove this comment. Maybe Chorlton did it. I believe the comment was that I'm downgrading my prediction to 11-7 and calling a loss at Iowa now.

  2. I was only able to catch parts of the PSU game on a grainy 20 year old TV at a bowling alley. My guess is when I rewatch the game I won't be very happy. I'll post some comments tomorrow.

  3. Just finished watching the PSU game again, and I'm not unhappy at all. UW completely dominated the game, they just missed open shots. There are going to be games like that, and probably more than usual given the team they have this year.
    UW was +11 in turnovers, +4 in offensive rebounds, and +25 in free throw attempts. I will take those numbers any day.
    They let PSU saty in it with 13 missed free throws (13-26) and 3-17 on 3-point attempts. If they shoot the ball poorly, instead of horribly this game is a blow out.
    That leads me to the question, how well can this team shoot? If this turns into a season long problem then UW will be in trouble. If Evans continues to shoot at the volume he is now, then scoring could coontinue to be an issue. I liked how aggressive Brust was against PSU. I hope he continues as he will not shoot that poorly all season.

  4. I think your analysis is sound. The bug question about this team remains, after the Nebraska game: Can our Badgers shoot?