Although the Big Ten Conference has had its erratic fluctuations between it’s top five contenders, there is one program that stands tall and above the rest despite being ranked third in conference play. While the Wisconsin Badgers have had moments of inexplicable regression in the middle of the season (they went 4-8 in January), they have since skyrocketed back up to being legitimate conference contenders as they are currently on an impressive six game winning streak (half of those wins were against ranked opponents). Despite the Badgers inconsistencies on the offensive side the ball, this team has proven that when their underrated roster is firing on all cylinders that they can beat any team at any time.
While the Badgers don’t necessarily have a singular shooting star who can score 20 or more points per game, they have one of the most balanced starting line ups in college basketball that can shoot perimeter shots just as well as they can from within the arch. By far the Badgers most reliable offensive contributor is their dynamic guard Josh Gasser. Although Gasser’s overall field goal percentage has taken a slight dip over the last couple of years (he shot 47.2% from the field during his freshman year, he now shoots 45.8% from the field), his outside shooting prowess has only continued to develop into a miraculously clutch ability (he shoots 46.3% from beyond the arch).
Speaking of sensational perimeter shooting, the Badgers have a plethora of reliable outside shooters that can demoralize any defense when they are on a hot streak. While the Badgers field goal shooting in terms of their starting roster isn’t spectacular (they average 45.7% from the field) their lights out three point shooting is unquestionably this teams biggest strength offensively (they average 38.8% from beyond the arch).
However, while the Badgers explosive offense is predicated on streaky perimeter shooting, their intriguing defense has done an exceptional job at stifling opponents to allow their uniquely driven offense to score with confidence down the stretch. Although the Badgers struggle to rebound the ball proficiently on offense, defensively this team has used its immense strength and size to garner several defensive rebounds during critical games. While the badgers average about only about 33 RPG as a whole (264th in NCAA), their defensive efforts more than make up for their wavering tenacity when it comes to playing the offensive glass. In their last six victories, the Badgers have held their opponents to just 64.2 PPG, which has allowed them to put up only adequate winning score totals as they have averaged 72.7 PPG in their last six outings (slightly below their season average of 73.4 PPG).
Without question, the Badgers physical make up and impressive defensive capabilities have allowed this team to excel where they normally would have suffered a bitter defeat in the past. Although their defense may never get the credit it deserves due to the likes of Virginia and Florida, it has been a key attribute to the Badgers repertoire of their unique athletic capabilities. What makes this team so dangerous to go up against is their unpredictability from not only game-to-game, but from half to half as well. In their most recent win over the Indiana Hoosiers, the Badgers only managed to score a measly 19 points in the first half at home. However, in the second half, the Badgers came out of the locker room fired up and emboldened as they went on a three point shooting barrage and ended up putting up 50 points in the second half. Although it’s unfortunate that the Badgers haven’t been able to put up these types of miraculous numbers throughout the course of an entire game, the fact that they have this type of vigilance to flip a switch at any moment to catch their opponents off guard is what makes this team so effective even when they aren’t playing consistently. While the overall numbers may not be the best indicators of how ruthlessly driven this team is, their game to game accomplishments tell a different story of a team that can grind out hard fought wins while being able to prepare for the next intimidating test that comes their way.
In the end, the Badgers have the athletic gifts and coveted intangibles of a team that could not only win their conference tournament, but that could also just easily be a under the radar final four contender. Although the Badgers inconsistent ways may cause some to pause with trepidation, they have at least accepted this identity and have used it to their strategic advantage to lull their opponents into a sense of false security before unleashing the fury of their underestimated offense. While the Badgers fate may be impossible to determine, their desire to win and their likeable team chemistry could be more than enough to carry this team farther than even they could have predicted.