Wisconsin-Indiana: Outside Shooting Essential for Badgers

Sam OlesonCorrespondent IFebruary 10, 2010

BOISE, ID - MARCH 22:  Guard Trevon Hughes #3 of the Wisconsin Badgers goes up for a shot against the Xavier Musketeers during the second round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the Taco Bell Arena on March 22, 2009 in Boise, Idaho.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

We all knew it was coming. It was just a matter of time.

Wisconsin's reliance on the three-ball finally spelled doom for them in Tuesday night's home loss to Illinois. Shooting only 26 percent in the second half, including only 5-18 from three-point land, was what did the Badgers in.

We all knew the risk of that strategy. I knew it. You knew it. The Badgers knew it. And it finally caught up to them.

But, that's the game plan Wisconsin has employed all year long and one loss is not going to change Bo Ryan's strategy. When Wisconsin welcomes the Indiana Hoosiers into the Kohl Center Saturday afternoon, I still am predicting a forecast calling for a small chance of inside play with a downpour of three-pointers.

The difference in this game as compared to the one against Illinois is that Wisconsin now has no margin for error. If they want to stay in the Big Ten race, they virtually need to win out. They are now one full game behind Big Ten frontrunners Michigan State and Illinois and can't afford anymore losses.

Luckily for Wisconsin, Indiana isn't quite the team that Illinois was.

The Hoosiers sit at just 3-7 in the conference (9-13 overall) and have lost four straight (they play Ohio State Wednesday night).

However, other than their big win against Michigan State last week, Wisconsin has had their struggles in the Kohl Center recently. It's hard to even imagine the Badgers playing poorly in Madison, but that's been the case.

Not only did they lose to the Illini last night, but they barely squeaked by Big Ten cellar-dwellers Michigan and Penn State two weeks ago.

As far as their opponent, Indiana is led by sophomore guard Verdell Jones III, who is averaging 14.9 points and is their primary offensive threat after freshman guard Maurice Creek went down with an injury a month ago.

The Hoosiers have only one good inside presence, 6'9" freshman forward Christian Watford (12.4 points a game), and Wisconsin should try to use that to their advantage. But they won't. No matter how many times Wisconsin has had the chance to post up Keaton Nankivil and try to get their opponent's big men in trouble, they just refuse to do it.

Maybe they don't trust Nankivil with the ball inside. Maybe it's just something Bo doesn't feel would work in his offense. Whatever the case, Wisconsin's inside presence has been lacking all year long. And that probably won't change against Indiana.

So, if once again Wisconsin plans on relying on outside shooting, they better make them. It's pretty simple. You can't expect to beat any Big Ten, much less Illinois, when you only shoot 26 percent in the second half.

Jason Bohannon was the only Badger who shot well last night and we saw what happens to Wisconsin's offense when Jordan Taylor shoots 3-9, Nankivil goes 4-14, and Trevon Hughes shoots only 4-16. It sounds basic, but based on Wisconsin's offensive strategy, for them to play well, their starters just need to make shots.

Nothing could be more obvious in basketball, but in Wisconsin's case, that's all it really comes down to.

If you don't try to work it inside and barely use your bench, as was the case last night, your starters have to be on.

If Wisconsin wants to avoid a second straight home upset loss, let's hope they get it together by 1:00 p.m. on Saturday.