The Wisconsin Badgers came out absolutely on fire this season. Starting the season 16-0, the Badgers were one of the hottest teams in the country. However, a tough stretch of conference games caused them to lose three straight.
On Saturday the Badgers got back to their winning ways with a 72-58 win over the Purdue Boilermakers.
The Badgers, now 17-3, are currently fourth in the Big Ten with a 4-3 record and have shown they are vulnerable. The Badgers are extremely talented. The only question is: Should they be worried about their recent struggles?
There is no sure-fire answer to this question, but ultimately no, Wisconsin is absolutely fine. Everyone goes through some struggles, and the Badgers did just that.
Coming off two big wins against Iowa and Illinois, Wisconsin had three more very tough battles and dropped all three of them.
The Indiana, Michigan and Minnesota losses all had one glaring similarity: problems on defense.
Wisconsin and Bo Ryan are known for their stout defense, but that was missing in these games. In each of the three losses, Wisconsin’s opponent shot greater than 50 percent from the field.
Bo Ryan’s team has allowed 75 or more points in just five games this season and, coincidentally, three of those games were its three losses.
Another issue the Badgers encountered was cold perimeter shooting. Wisconsin is usually lethal from downtown, but over its losing streak, they did not shoot as effectively as they normally do.
Ben Brust and Frank Kaminsky, who both shoot over 40 percent from three-point range, went a combined 5-for-20 from deep in the three-game stretch, just 25 percent.
Neither Brust or Kaminsky got hot from three in their win over Purdue, but the Badgers' defense was back to normal. Wisconsin held Purdue to 35.4 percent shooting and just 17.6 percent from behind the three-point line.
The reason the Badgers are fine is because their defense is back. If Bo Ryan’s defense was a no-show against Purdue, it would have been an issue. But it appears they are back to their normal ways.
The Badgers shooting will return. Brust, Kaminsky and others will not stay cold forever, and that will be huge for them.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: No one is coming out of the Big Ten without at least one loss. Michigan is the last undefeated team in the standings but will go down soon enough. The conference is just too tough to escape without falling once.
The Badgers were shown just how tough the conference is when they had to travel to Indiana and Minnesota. Although the losses hurt now, the high level of play in the Big Ten will ultimately help this team.
According to kenpom.com, Wisconsin has had the sixth-toughest schedule in the country this season, so being able to go 17-3 in those games is extremely impressive.
Unfortunately for the Badgers, the schedule is not getting any easier. After they host Northwestern on Wednesday, the Wisconsin’s next six opponents are Ohio State, Illinois, Michigan State, Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa and Indiana.
With that upcoming schedule being so incredibly challenging, it is going to be essential for the Badger defense to continue to perform at the high level it did against Purdue.
The other key will be for the team's shooters to find their stroke again. If the Badgers can do both of those things, they will be just fine.
Wisconsin has no need to be worried. Its shooting will come around, and Bo Ryan will keep his team playing at a high-level defensively.
The Badgers will still be an extremely dangerous team come March and one of the top 10 teams in the country.
All stats via sports-reference.com unless otherwise stated.
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