Wisconsin Badgers: 6 Reasons They Will Make It to the Final Four
Not many fans outside of Badgerland gave No. 4 seed Wisconsin much chance at a deep NCAA tournament run.
Wisconsin looked vulnerable following a gruesome 36-33 loss to Penn State in the Big Ten tournament. As people filled out their brackets, taking No. 13 seed Belmont over Wisconsin in the round of 64 was a popular upset pick.
But Wisconsin had little trouble in defeating the overwhelmed Belmont squad, 72-58.
Even after that convincing win, the Badgers were expected to struggle against Kansas State's up-tempo offense.
But Wisconsin battled back from a late six-point deficit and rallied past the Wildcats for a 70-65 win, reaching the Sweet 16 for the fourth time since 2000.
Once again, Bo Ryan has taken Wisconsin on a successful tournament run. How deep will the Badgers go in the 2011 NCAA tournament?
Here are six reasons to believe the Badgers can make it to Houston for the Final Four.
Jon Leuer, Keaton Nankivil, and Tim Jarmusz provide steady senior leadership for the Badgers
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Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan typically recruits players that fly under the radar of other top programs. He targets recruits that are willing to learn the system of basketball that he teaches and stick around to reap the long-term results.
Wisconsin players are almost never one-and-done NBA types, and their current roster includes several seniors who see significant playing time.
From Jon Leuer to Keaton Nankivil to Tim Jarmusz, the team boasts players with the experience to remain calm and show remarkable poise in big-game pressure situations.
Because of Wisconsin's senior leadership, the team is well-positioned to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament.
Elimination of No. 1 Seed Pittsburgh
No. 1 seed Pitt couldn't believe its tourney run was over so soon.
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The Pittsburgh Panther's loss to Butler in the round of 32 opened the door to the Final Four wide open in the Southeast region.
The four remaining teams are evenly matched, and each have the ability to make a run to the Final Four.
Pittsburgh spent most of the year ranked in the top five nationally, including some time in the top spot. With the Panthers out of the bracket, there is no clear favorite to win the Southeast region.
Wisconsin's Trademark Efficiency
Jordan Taylor leads the country with a 4.18 assist to turnover ratio.
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Wisconsin ranks second in the nation in offensive efficiency, measured by field goal percentage, turnovers, offensive rebounds, and free throws. Wisconsin leads the nation in free-throw percentage.
Standout junior point guard Jordan Taylor leads the country with a 4.18 assist to turnover ratio.
The only team more efficient than Wisconsin is Big Ten champion and overall No. 1 seed Ohio State. Wisconsin beat Ohio State on February 12 by playing within their means, even though they lack the star power of Buckeye freshman phenom Jared Sullinger.
Wisconsin even finds ways to win when one of their key players is struggling.
Jordan Taylor had a rough night offensively against Kansas State, but still made the play of the game when he blocked Jacob Pullen's 3-point attempt which would have tied the game.
Despite shooting a mere two-of-16 from the field, Taylor contributed by making all six of his free throws. Other players such as Jon Leuer also stepped up to make up for Taylor's shooting woes.
Wisconsin Can End Butler's Hopes of a Second Consecutive Cinderella Run
Butler experienced two wild finishes so far in the NCAA tournament.
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Butler has played in two highly emotional and closely contested games. The Bulldogs beat Old Dominion on a tip-in at the buzzer and squeaked past Pitt with a winning free throw in the final seconds of a wild thriller.
It seems the crazier the game, the more likely it is that a Butler player will step up to play hero. The Butler squad is due for an emotional let-down, and games with Wisconsin are rarely exciting.
With a slow and methodical pace, the Badgers grind teams down with their relentless efficiency and a nationally-best turnover rate.
This matchup favors the Badgers, and Butler's hopes of a return trip to the championship game will come to a premature end.
Wisconsin Can Can Slow Down Any Attack
Keaton Nankivil leads the Badgers with 1.2 blocks per game.
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Wisconsin makes no excuses for what many complain is a boring style of play. "If we're that boring, change the channel," said Jordan Taylor.
Kansas State's game plan against Wisconsin in the round of 32 was to run its up-tempo offense aggressively and force the Badgers into making errors.
However, Wisconsin stuck to its game plan under coach Bo Ryan.
Even though Wildcats guard Jacob Pullen had an excellent game, the Badgers shut down the rest of Kansas State's offense and effectively controlled the pace of the game.
The Badgers play stingy defense and were the last team in the country to allow an opponent to score 70 points in a game.
No team, no matter how hard they try, will find it easy to force the Badgers to abandon the comfort zone of its methodical style of play.
Wisconsin Can Beat BYU or Florida in the Elite Eight
Jimmer Fredette has carried BYU on his back in the NCAA tournament.
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If Wisconsin reaches the Elite Eight, it will face either BYU or Florida. The Badgers would have a good chance at beating either team.
BYU isn't as good as it was when Brandon Davies was leading the team in rebounds. Sure, Jimmer Fredette is still one of the nation's best players and has played lights-out basketball in the tournament so far.
But Wisconsin's ability to force any team to conform to its slow and controlled style of basketball would be a major asset against Fredette and BYU.
This would give Wisconsin the best chance of any team so far to succeed in slowing him down and defeating the Cougars.
Meanwhile, Florida is vulnerable and not as good as their No. 2 seed indicates. Florida was crushed by Kentucky in the SEC championship. In that game, they struggled to shoot with any accuracy, making just 22-of-57 shots.
They could ill afford anything like that performance against Wisconsin. Teams have to make the most of their scoring chances with the Badgers, who protect the ball well and limit their opponents opportunities to score.
Florida may have more talent than Wisconsin, but the disciplined team play and focused attack of the Badgers would help them prevail.