We checked in with Drew Hamm the managing editor for Bucky’s 5th Quarter to get a glimpse of Wisconsin before tonight’s game. Let’s get it started!
1) Wisconsin was solid as usual this season. Fighting near the top of the Big Ten all season long. Give us your thoughts on this past season?
The funny thing is, heading into the season it was a legitimate question as to whether or not Wisconsin would even MAKE the NCAA Tournament, let alone win a game. While the media picked Wisconsin to finish No. 10 in the league during the preseason, the most optimistic staffer at B5Q probably had them...all the way up at No. 8. The expectations for this year were very much “let’s build towards something NEXT season and see how a bunch of new faces gel together this season.”
Instead, Badgers fans were treated to a Maui Invitational title, a regular season Big Ten title, Johnny Davis exploding on the national scene and winning Big Ten Player of the Year, and a 3-seed (in Milwaukee) in the NCAA Tournament. It exceeded even our wildest expectations, to be perfectly honest. Now, that’s not to say that Wisconsin is some juggernaut that rolled through their schedule with shocking ease. Oh no, that is not to say at all! The Badgers have played, roughly, eight dozen close games this year and have managed to win most of them. They’ll play close games with teams worse than them, they’ll play a close game with the ‘96 Bulls, they’ll play a close game with anybody.
Wisconsin ended the season with a shocking home loss to Nebraska, which lost them the outright Big Ten title, and then lost in their opening Big Ten Tournament game to Michigan State. Davis was banged up with an ankle injury as well, so there were definitely some questions heading into the game against Colgate. In a surprise to absolutely no one, the Badgers and Raiders played a close game, which Wisconsin pulled out at the end, and Davis looked mostly healthy.
While the Badgers are favored to go on to the Sweet 16, and there will certainly be disappointment if they don’t, this season overall is a huge positive for Greg Gard and the program.
2) Brad Davison seems to be a bit of a player opposing fans hate but a guy you would love to have on your team. What makes Davison so special to the Badgers and what is one way Iowa State can really look to hold him at bay?
Hoo boy, ok, this is a loaded question. Davison is definitely a player that opposing Big Ten fan bases will be ecstatic not to see next year. He straddles the line of “tough play/dirty play” expertly, but has gone too far to the “dirty” side on more than one occasion. Now, having said that, I think he also has a (well earned, mind you) reputation that causes some officials to assume a foul on Davison when it actually wasn’t. He is still getting into great position to take charges, but it is more likely to be called a block over the past two years and I think that is because refs have it in the back of their mind that Davison is a “guy to watch.” I wouldn’t defend any of Davison’s past actions that have resulted in a suspension, but I do think he has cleaned his game up this year and opposing fans, and refs, go into games with Wisconsin assuming the worst about him and looking for something dirty that isn’t necessarily there.
Now, as far as his actual game play...there isn’t a whole lot special about him to be quite honest. He’s a decent shooter, and if he gets hot he can be quite dangerous but that doesn’t happen often, but good, solid defense can keep him in check. He’s a solid defender, but he isn’t some lockdown specialist that will completely take your team’s best player out of the game. He rebounds well for a guard and plays harder than anybody, but he has taken on a complimentary role for the Badgers this year (behind Davis and Tyler Wahl and even Chucky Hepburn sometimes) and it suits him far better than being a top offensive option.
3) What are the things Wisconsin does well and what is one thing that Iowa State should do to limit Wisconsin on Sunday night?
The Badgers don’t turn the ball over much, but the Cyclones will certainly challenge them in that regard. They don’t get rattled easily, so even if ISU goes on a run, Wisconsin is never out of a game. They are a bad shooting team from deep, but don’t seem to know that. Iowa State should allow Wisconsin to shoot threes until the Badgers prove that they can make more the 30% of them. Wisconsin does have a number of good post players, most notably Wahl who is an old-man wizard around the basket. Davis is also good with his back to the basket and is smart about passing out of double teams. While every starter for Wisconsin (except Wahl) is a decent three point shooter, Iowa State should be ecstatic if the Badgers are settling for those shots early. If I were ISU, I might even play off of Steven Crowl or Hepburn at the beginning of the game and see how they’re shooting. And if Wahl lines up to shoot a three...let him.
4) I will fire back the same question that you had for us, Give us one under-the-radar player for the Wisconsin who could have Iowa State fans cursing his name for eternity if he helps the Badgers to a win?
The Badgers are so starter-heavy in their minutes that there aren’t too many under-the-radar players for them. A player that people might not be as familiar with though is freshman point guard Chucky Hepburn. He is a pitbull on defense, he almost always makes the correct decision when passing the ball on offense and he can knock down a three or two, although he is much more efficient on mid-range jumpers and at the rim.
As far as a DEEP under-the-radar player, I might say Chris Vogt, who is Wisconsin’s backup center and can score a little around the basket and grab rebounds. Although, Wisconsin fans may be just as likely to be cursing his name after then game as Iowa State fans.
5) Prediction and thoughts going into the game
This is going to be a game that neutral fans won’t enjoy. It’s not going to be pretty, or pleasing to watch, or fluid on offense, or any of those other lame things that people want out of their basketball. It’s going to be ugly, and there are going to be wrestling matches for loose balls, and both offenses are going to set the game of basketball back a few decades, but whatever! At the end of the game, one of our teams will be moving on to the Sweet 16.
I do think that team will be Wisconsin, but the game will be close and you should bet the under.