The Wisconsin Badgers held on for a nail-biting victory over Vanderbilt tonight as higher seeds continued to rule the East region. Despite a valiant effort tonight, though, the outlook for the Badgers looks grim as they head to a Sweet 16 meeting with top-seeded Syracuse.
Despite Wisconsin’s size in the frontcourt, the Badgers were outrebounded by Vandy, 32-27. Rebounding is Syracuse’s easiest weakness to exploit, but the Badgers will need a better showing than they got tonight from players such as Mike Bruesewitz (three boards and as many personal fouls).
Even more worrisome was Wisconsin’s inability to handle a zone look from Vanderbilt. When the Commodores shifted into a 2-3 for part of the second half, the Badgers seemed lost as to how to handle the scheme.
Vanderbilt is mostly a man-to-man team, but Syracuse plays the best 2-3 zone in the nation. Obviously, Bo Ryan will have the next week to work on attacking the zone, but he’s going to have a tough time overcoming his players’ apparent instinct to stand around rather than cutting in and out of the heart of the zone.
To be fair, the Badgers defense did play an outstanding game—holding the great John Jenkins to 3-of-13 from the floor—and another effort like that one will keep them competitive with any team, including the 33-2 Orange. Nevertheless, Syracuse is one of the few teams in the country equipped to win a defensive struggle with the Badgers.
Wisconsin isn’t going to get blown out by any stretch of the imagination. Unless their offense improves by a substantial margin before Thursday night, though, the Badgers also aren’t going to get past the Sweet 16 this year.