How to Get the Best of the Badgers

18 Mar

After the Wildcats’ 73-68 win over Utah State on Thursday night, it’s one win down and four to go. Senior guard Jacob Pullen said he wants K-State to remember him for bringing the school a national championship, and on Saturday the team will have an opportunity to get another step closer as it faces Wisconsin in the third round of the NCAA tournament.

With even 4-seed vs. 13-seed and 3-seed vs. 14-seed games coming down to the wire this tournament, it’s almost a sure thing that a 4-seed vs. 5-seed matchup will be even more intensely competitive. That, as we all know, is why yesterday and today are probably the least productive workdays of the year across the United States.

Some of the stats on the Wildcats give us a little insight on what they need to do to be successful in this next game:

  • K-State is 22-4 when leading at halftime this season. Simply put, it’s imperative that the Wildcats start strong. They have to come out with energy and get some shots and stops early to get into a rhythm. Taking advantage of momentum is much easier than trying to create it once you’re in a bad situation. While the latter option is not impossible, it’s difficult and exhausting, and the opponents a team faces in the NCAA tournament are going to inflict enough hardship; this isn’t the time to make things harder on oneself with careless mistakes.
  • Wildcats are 20-6 when outrebounding their opponents. This isn’t surprising in the least, of course, because defense rebounds deprive opponents of possessions and facilitate fast breaks and offensive rebounds give current possessions new life. As senior Curtis Kelly has become more comfortable on the blocks after missing 9 games in the earlier portion of the season, and as sophomore Jordan Henriquez-Roberts has become stronger and more aggressive at the rim, K-State’s frontcourt has been surprisingly effective, even with Freddy Asprilla and Wally Judge, who quit the team in January.

After watching Wisconsin whip Belmont yesterday, I’ve compiled a few observations about the Badgers. These are some of the aspects the Wildcats will have to watch in order to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.

  • The most obvious one: They can shoot the roof off the place if you let them. Against the Bruins on Thursday, the Badgers hit 12 of 22 from 3-point range, and they make 82 percent of their free throws. That’s the best in the country, just in case you’re wondering. I’m interested to see if the Wildcats will utilize a few different defensive sets to try and keep the Badgers guessing and disrupt their offensive rhythm. As for that lethal accuracy from the charity stripe, it would be prudent for the Wildcats to avoid any bonus situations for as long as possible.
  • The Badgers can make runs. Their game with Belmont was very close for probably the first 15, 17 minutes of the game. Then Wisconsin went on a tear to close out the first half and followed it up with another to begin the second half. The takeaway from: K-State is going to have to hunker down and be sharp and energetic for the duration of the game. The instant someone takes a play off because he’s tired, Wisconsin will take advantage. Because of this, expect head coach Frank Martin to sub fairly often, as he has been doing recently.
  • Wisconsin takes care of the ball. The team averages only seven turnovers per game. Last night, Belmont forced the Badgers into seven in the first half, and that played a large role in how close the game was to that point. The Wildcats will need to do likewise on Saturday.
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