Wofford Set To Play First NCAA Tournament Game in School History

John Hooper@soconjohn22Correspondent IIMarch 19, 2010

2010 NCAA TOURNAMENT GAME PREVIEW: Wofford (26-8) vs. Wisconsin (23-8), March, 19--2:50 PM (EST)

The Wofford men's basketball team is set to make its first-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament and on Sunday, the Terriers learned that they would be traveling to Jacksonville, Fla., as the No. 13 seed in the East Region to face No. 4-seeded Wisconsin out of the Big Ten. It will mark just the second meeting between the Terriers and Badgers, with the only other meeting taking place back in the 2007-08 season, with the Badgers claiming a 70-43 contest at the Kohl Center.

There is a bit of familiarity between the Terriers and the Badgers, as Wisconsin was a 73-56 loss to Davidson back in the 2008 Sweet Sixteen. The team two years ago for the Badgers featured players like Jason Bohannon, Travon Hughes and Jon Leuer, who are the top three players for the Badgers coming into Friday afternoon's first-round contest. It wouldn't be shocking for head coach Mike Young to glean some advice from Davidson boss Bob McKillop before making the five-and-a-half hour trek to face the Badgers in Jacksonville, Fla.

When the Terriers were 70-43 losers to the Badgers two years ago in the only other meeting between the two schools, Tim Johnson and Noah Dahlman were both freshmen while Junior Salters and Corey Godzinski were sophomores.

In that 27-point setback to the Badgers at the Kohl Center in Madison, the Terriers were led by former guard Drew Gibson, who scored 16 points, while current senior guard Junior Salters was also in double figures with 14 points. Dahlman pulled down a game-high nine rebounds in the loss.

A Look At The Terriers

Wofford enters Friday afternoon's game with the nation's second-longest winning streak, with the Terriers having won 13 straight games, including 19 of its last 20 contests. The Terriers are making their first NCAA tournament appearance in school history and have set a school standard with their 26 victories in the 2009-10 campaign. Wofford punched its ticket to the NCAA Tournament with a 56-51 SoCon Tournament Championship win over Appalachian State a little over a week-and-a-half ago.

The Terriers share two common opponents with the Badgers coming into Friday's matchup, having faced Illinois (78-64) and Michigan State (72-60). Though the Terriers are making their first appearance in the college basketball post-season as a Division I member, head coach Mike Young is no stranger to giving big-time opponents headaches when he faces them.

In his eight seasons at the helm in Spartanburg, Young has led the Terriers to victories over: Cincinnati (91-90, 2006), Purdue (69-66, 2006), Auburn (85-78, 2004), South Carolina (68-61, 2009), Virginia Tech (79-77, 2002), Georgia (58-56, 2009) and Air Force (74-61). All those aforementioned victories came on the road except the win over South Carolina earlier this season. The Terriers are 1-6 all-time against Big Ten competition, with the only victory for the Terriers being that win over Purdue in '06.

One of the reasons Wofford has been able to be so successful this season has been their ability to get stops on the defensive end, while also shooting the ball well from the charity stripe (549-of-817, 67.2%) with an aggressive offensive style of play that allows them to get points from the free throw line.

Wofford is led by Southern Conference Player of the Year and tournament Most-Valuable-Performer Noah Dahlman (16.8 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 58.6 FG%). The 6-6, 215-pound native midwesterner (Braham, Minn.) comes into the NCAA Tournament having scored in double figures in 48-consecutive games.

He is the only Terrier averaging in double figures coming into this matchup with the Badgers. Dahlman is a player that plays bigger than his 6-6, 215-pound size. Dahlman has a blue-collar work-ethic underneath the basket and is a player that can score in a variety of ways. He's a solid jump-shooter, while also being a scrapper down low, possessing the uncanny ability to gather in loose balls and score in the paint. He is a very intelligent player and understands the nuances of his role in the low-post, maximizing his skill set and ability to play bigger than he is in the paint.

Another difference-maker for the Terriers in the paint is 6-foot-8 junior forward Tim Johnson (6.1 PPG, 7.9 RPG). Johnson, like Dahlman, is a strong presence inside the paint for Wofford and is a powerful performer in the paint. The Memphis, Tenn., native has had another strong season on the boards for the Terriers, leading the squad pulling down 7.9 RPG. For what Johnson lacks in height, he makes up for with his gerth and overall physicality in the paint for the Terriers.

Cameron Rundles (6.6 PPG, 2.6 RPG) and Jamar Diggs (9.4 PPG, 2.9 APG) have been significant impact players for the Terriers since transferring into the program a couple of years ago and becoming eligible. Diggs, a 6-2, 180-pound two-guard from Minneapolis is a player that will likely draw the unenviable task of trying to lock down Wisconsin's top performer, in point guard Travon Hughes.

The tough, gritty Diggs is a player that is known for his presence on the defensive end of the floor despite being the team's second-leading scorer. In games in which he has drawn the assignment of marking the opponents' top offensive performer, Diggs has been a defensive enforcer for the Terriers.

In two meetings against Furman this year, Diggs was able to do a solid job of stopping one of the league's top offensive players in Amu Saaka, holding the Paladins top scorer to a combined 15 points in two meetings. Saaka ended the season averaging nearly 16 points per game.

Diggs is a player that can also get the job on the offensive end of the floor and enjoyed his best performance of the 2009-10 season back on Feb. 3 against Elon, scoring 19 points in a 72-56 win. Diggs is an effective outside shooter (22-of-59, 40.1%) and enjoyed his best performance shooting from the outside in Wofford's last loss back on Jan. 15 to College of Charleston, knocking down a season-high four triples.

One of the main reasons the Terriers find themselves making their first-ever appearance in the Division I college basketball post-season is the experience and savvy of their lone senior starter, Junior Salters (7.7 PPG, 2.4 RPG). Salters, a local product who attended nearby Broome High School, has been part of the foundation that this current success the Wofford basketball program is experiencing.

The career 1,000-point scorer is a prolific outside shooter and currently ranks second on the program's all-time ledger in three-point field goals made, with 262 triples over his solid four-year career. Salters enters Friday's matchup with 1,190 career points. While Salters' point production has been down compared to what he did last season (15.0 PPG) as a third-team all-league performer, he has the potential to score in bunches if he has the hot hand. Salters hit double figures in 12 games this season.

Point guard Brad Loesing (6.0 PPG, 3.0 APG) will round out the starters for the Terriers and he has been a significant piece to Wofford's inaugural NCAA Tournament team, helping the Terriers lead the league in assist/turnover ratio (1:1), as well as ranking tenth on the league's assists-per-game ledger (103 assists). The sophomore guard from Cincinnati, OH, is coming off a 2008-09 season in which he was a SoCon All-Freshman Team selection last season and has again been effective manning the point guard position for the Terriers yet again this season.

Loesing has started all 34 games for the Terriers this season and ranked fourth in the league in individual assist/turnover ratio (2.1). In his two seasons as a Terrier, Loesing has started all but one game and has plenty of experience running Mike Young's offense, despite being just a sophomore.

Rundles transferred into Wofford from the University of Montana and, like Diggs, has become a integral piece of Wofford's inaugural NCAA tournament qualification. Rundles is a tremendous athlete and is a player that proved himself prior to transferring to Wofford as the native of Minneapolis garnered Big Sky Freshman of the Year while starring for the Montana Grizzlies.

Rundles is a tremendous athlete and he came up big in Wofford's SoCon title win over Appalachian State, scoring a team-high 20 points and garnered first team all-tournament honors. At times, Rundles has proven to be a good outside shooter and is shooting 38.9-percent (28-of-72) from three-point range this season. Rundles is a physical guard that has no problems mixing things up and is one of the best on the team at drawing contact and getting to the charity stripe.

Rundles is the first player off the bench for Young's Terriers. Rundles, like Diggs and Loesing, is a menace on the defensive end and he completes a backcourt trio on the defensive end of the floor that defends the perimeter as well as any of the 65 teams in the tournament.

Loesing's understudy at the point guard position this season has been Jason Dawson (2.9 PPG, 1.2 RPG, 40 assists, 38 turnovers) and he adds instant energy off of the Terrier bench with his quickness, deft passing and the ability to effectively knock down perimeter shots.

Dawson enjoyed his best performance of the 2009-10 season in Wofford's last loss at College of Charleston (70-68) back on Jan. 22, scoring 16 points, with 12 of those points coming on three-point shots. Dawson has connected on 22-of-59 (37.3 %) from three-point range this season and has dished out 40 assists coming off the bench this season for the Terriers. Dawson could see plenty of action in Wofford's matchup with the Badgers, with his quickness and his ability to perhaps help in guarding Travon Hughes of Wisconsin, who sports NBA quickness at the point for the Badgers.

Two backcourt players that could offer a twist to Friday's matchup with the Badgers coming off the bench for Wofford are senior Corey Godzinski (3.7 PPG, 1.9 RPG) and sophomore Kevin Giltner (3.6 PPG). Both players offer Wofford size in the backcourt, each standing 6-foot-6 and both possess the ability to step out and connect on the perimeter jumper.

Godzinski is a good athlete and has been able to provide the Terriers solid play in limited minutes off the bench this season, and with the addition of Rundles and Diggs, has seen his minutes decrease. Giltner, who in his own right is a good athlete and streaky shooter from the outside (39.3% from three-point range) and has the ability to provide the Terriers some scoring punch off the bench.

Rounding out the real significant performers coming off the bench for the Terriers is junior forward Terry Martin (4.5 PPG, 2.9 RPG). Martin will likely see more action than he usually does off the bench for the Terriers, due in large part to Wisconsin's extremely physical nature in the frontcourt. Martin, a 6-6, 235-pound native of Cincinnati is one of the strongest and most physical players in the frontcourt for Wofford. He is a player, that like his frontcourt teammate Tim Johnson, that relies on his strength and ability to out-muscle taller opponents.

A Look At The Badgers

Wisconsin is a team that has again taken on the tough, defensive mindset of its head coach Bo Ryan (216-81), who's in his ninth year at the helm in Madison. Ryan has led to nine of their 12-straight NCAA tournament appearances (One of just six schools that boast an active streak of 12-consecutive tourney appearances) and has a team loaded with experience and talent.

The Badgers enter the tourney with impressive wins a No. 1 seed Duke (73-69, Dec. 2—ACC/Big Ten Challenge) , a No. 2 seed Ohio State (65-43, Dec. 31), No. 4 seeds Maryland (78-69, Nov. 25) and Purdue (73-66-Jan. 9), a No. 5 seed Michigan State (67-49-Feb. 2) and No. 6-seeded Marquette (72-63, Dec. 12). However, five of those six wins came in Madison at the Kohl Center and the win over Maryland came on a neutral floor.

The Badgers enter the 2010 NCAA tournament with a 5-2 all-time mark against the Southern Conference, with wins over current members Wofford (70-43-2007), Furman (68-60, 2001), UNC Greensboro (85-53, 2005) and Western Carolina (89-49). Both losses have to come against Davidson (73-56, 2008/ 68-63, 1980). The defensive-minded Badgers rank fourth nationally in scoring defense, yielding just 56.2 PPG and have held 13 opponents to 50 or fewer points this season. Under Ryan, the Badgers are 55-1 when holding opponents to 50 or fewer points.

Everything goes through Travon Hughes (15.4 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.7 APG) for the Badgers. Hughes was a Second Team All-Big Ten selection by both the coaches and media and was a 2010 Big Ten All-Defensive Team selection. Over his illustrious career for the Badgers, Hughes has started 98 of the 130 games he has played in and has scored in double figures in 66 games in his career, including 26 this season. Hughes is most comparable to a player like Cameron Wells for The Citadel in terms of his point production and his quickness at the point guard position for the Badgers. Hughes scored a season-high 27 points in a 88-84 overtime loss at Wisconsin Green-Bay.

Hughes has a solid supporting cast in the backcourt, led by classmate Jason Bohannon (11.8 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 2.2 APG). The 6-2, 195-pound guard was a 2009-10 Third-Team All-Big Ten selection and has played in 133 career games and is tied for fourth along with Hughes with 66-career starts.

Bohannon is the team's most-prolific perimeter shooter, ranking fourth in Badger history in three-point field goals made (210) and is third in the school record books in three-pointers attempted (548). Bohannon has scored in double figures 57 times in his career, including 21 this season. He had a season-high 30 points in an 83-55 win over Indiana back on Feb. 13. He connected on seven three-point field goals in that win over the Hoosiers.

Completing the trio of starting guards in the Wisconsin backcourt will be sophomore Jordan Taylor (10.2 PPG, 3.6 APG, 3.2 RPG). Like Hughes, Taylor possesses good quickness and has an excellent aptitude and understanding of the game, especially Ryan's intricate offense.

Taylor can play either the point guard or the two guard for the Badgers, making him one of the most versatile players on the Wisconsin roster. Taylor is one of the Badgers' most-improved players, as he his points-per-game average has increased by almost nine points in his sophomore season, as opposed to the 1.6 PPG he averaged as a freshman. Hughes recorded a season-high 23 points in a 73-66 win over Purdue back on Jan. 9 at the Kohl Center.

The frontcourt could be a major concern for the smaller Terriers on Friday, and in particular, 6-foot-10 Jon Leuer (14.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.7 APG). Leuer is not just one of those big players that stands there and takes up space and gets rebounds to kick them back out for perimeter shots, as has become the norm for many teams in Division I college basketball these days.

This guy can play and he can shoot. Leuer has played in 87-career games and has started 32 of those contests in his Badger career. Leuer has been limited some this season due to an injury, but returned two games ago and is averaging 16.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG and 2.5 APG since returning to the starting lineup for the Badgers.

Wisconsin is 16-4 with Leuer in the starting lineup this season. Leuer recorded his season and career highs of 26 points in that overtime road setback at Wisconsin-Green Bay. Leuer has scored in double figures in 33 games in his career, including 18 this season.

Joining Leuer down low and rounding out the starting five for Bo Ryan's Badgers is junior Keaton Nankivil (8.6 PPG, 4.8 RPG). Nankivil, a 6-8, 245-pound is strong in the paint for the Badgers and like Taylor, is another one of the team's most-improved players, improving his points-per-game average from 2.9 PPG last season to 8.6 PPG this season.

Nankivil has started all 31 games for the Badgers this season and is Wisconsin's most physical player in the paint. He shot 52-percent from the field during Big Ten play, which was good enough for sixth in the Big Ten. He scored a season and career-high 28 points in a 60-57 setback at Purdue.

Junior wing guard/forward Tim Jarmusz (2.7 PPG, 3.1 RPG) is one of the top players off the bench for Ryan's Badgers. Jarmusz is averaging 22.4 minutes-per-game this season and has appeared in all 32 games, starting the first 27 games of the campaign for the Badgers. Jarmusz is a three-point shooting specialist, as 76.3-percent (61of 80) of his shots this season have come from three-point range and is connecting on 35.3-percent (41-of-116) of his three-point tries for his career. Jarmusz has not scored in double figures this season, however, came close in the season-opening win over IFPW, finishing with nine points.

Two other impressive players off the Wisconsin bench this season have been Rob Wilson (3.2 PPG, 1.6 RPG) and freshman Ryan Evans (3.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG). Wilson is an extremely good athlete and at 6-4, 200 pounds, is one of the Badgers' most physical backcourt players. Evans, a freshman wing forward/guard from Phoenix also has good athleticism and could cause matchup problems for the Terriers.

Final Analysis

With two teams that play virtually the same style, it's hard to get a good feel for this game. One thing is for sure I think and that is this game should go down to the wire, based upon the simple fact that both teams enjoy the same pace and are both defensive-minded. If the Terriers can effectively control the boards and limit what Bohannon and Hughes do from the perimeter, they have as good a chance at upsetting the Badgers as Davidson had in doing the same thing back in 2008. That being said, I think that the Badgers are a tad better and their physical style will wear down the Terriers, winning a game that could very well come down to the final possession.


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