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Wisconsin Basketball: Keys to Badgers' 2012 NCAA Tournament Run

Richard LangfordCorrespondent IMarch 12, 2012

Wisconsin Basketball: Keys to Badgers' 2012 NCAA Tournament Run

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    The deliberate Wisconsin Badgers will look to slow games down in the NCAA tournament as a No. 4 seed. 

    The Badgers are not a team that can be taken lightly. They finished a tough regular season schedule with a 23-8 record and followed that up by going 1-1 in the Big Ten tournament. 

    Wisconsin is at their best when they can keep the score down. They finished the season ranked No. 1 in points allowed at 51.9 per game. 

    Only once all season did they allow a team to break the 70-point barrier. This sets up for interesting matchups, as many teams have a hard time adjusting to the slower pace of play. 

    Wisconsin is not going to be an easy out, and if they can hit their shots, they'll be able to make a deep run. 

Superstars Who Must Shine

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    Wisconsin thrives by playing as a team—on offense and defense. But that certainly doesn't mean they are not without their leaders, and the following guys are going to have to be at their best for Wisconsin to have a shot at making a run to the Final Four. 

     

    Jordan Taylor

    This senior guard is the exact kind of player every team wishes they had for the tournament. He leads the Badgers in points and assists per game at 14.6 and 4.1, respectively. 

    He is also only turning the ball over 1.5 times per contest. Taylor is a good decision-maker, and he knows how to run this offense. 

    He is also a solid shooter. He hit 35.2 percent of his threes during the regular season.

     

    Ryan Evans

    Evans is the Badgers' best weapon down low, and he is going to have his work cut out for him. At 6'6" and 210 pounds, he is going to be facing a steady diet of bigger players. 

    He is certainly used to that, though, and that didn't slow him down this year. He averaged 10.7 points per game and was Wisconsin's leading rebounder with 6.9 boards per game. 

    He is going to have to be extremely active in this tournament run. 

Role Player Who Must Emerge

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    Tournament runs aren't all about stars. It takes a team effort, and with almost every champion, you will find a role player that outperformed previous expectations to give their team a big boost. 

    Ben Brust needs to be that player for the Badgers. 

     

    Ben Brust

    The sophomore guard played 22.6 minutes per game this year, and he contributed 7.7 points per game in that time. 

    He is a streaky shooter and scorer. When he is on, he can score points in bunches, and this adds a huge dimension to Wisconsin's bench. 

    He needs to get that stroke going. He slumped at the end of the season and averaged just 2.9 points per game over Wisconsin's last nine regular season games. 

Offensive Strategy to Watch

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    Wisconsin's offensive strategy is apparent essentially every time they touch the ball. They are going to slow down, get into their sets and work for good looks. 

    When they get into their sets, they like to run a swing offense. This loads the perimeter up with four players and one man down low. 

    They want to use spacing in these sets and will send players in motion for screens and cuts to create open looks. 

    They will try to get the ball down low for high percentage looks, but also won't hesitate to free up players for outside looks. 

Defensive Strategy to Watch

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    Wisconsin's defensive strategy is simple: They are going to take a man and stick on him. 

    There is nothing fancy here except the results. 

    The Badgers are not in the habit of giving up easy buckets. Every player on the floor is going to take pride in their defense, and they are going to make their man work for everything he gets. 

Biggest NCAA Tournament Hurdle

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    The Badgers are staring at a Sweet 16 matchup with Syracuse. That is a lot to ask of any team. 

    The Orange had an amazing season, and they enter this tournament as the No. 2 team in the nation. Syracuse's zone defense is not a particularly good matchup for the deliberate Badgers, but then again, the Badgers' slow-down game and fantastic defense should give the Orange fits. 

Last-Second NCAA Tournament Prediction

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    Wisconsin will be able to cruise past Montana in the first round. That will set them up to play the winner of the Vanderbilt-Harvard game in the dreaded No. 12 vs. No. 5 seed matchup. 

    Harvard plays a similar style to Wisconsin, but they don't do it as well. Wisconsin would be able to easily handle Harvard. 

    Vanderbilt would be a different story. Having played Harvard in their first game, they will be ready for the slow down attack. 

    Still, Wisconsin's shooters will lead them to a win there. And that will set them up to get clobbered by Syracuse in the Sweet 16. 

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