When many sportswriters decided to exclude the Wisconsin Badgers from their preseason top 25 polls, the coaching of Bo Ryan came to my mind. How can a team that doesn’t turn the ball over and plays a slow half-court game utilizing every second for the best look at the basket not make the NCAA tournament?
Wisconsin plays a nearly error free game, and they turn fast break teams into bumbling snails. If the Badgers dictate the tempo, teams tend to fall asleep. Wisconsin will use an inside-outside game. They have big men who can shoot it from the outside, and they have guards who can dribble inside to open up a 3-point shot
Now, with a chance to make the Sweet 16, they have Cornell to contend with. The team styles are nearly identical, and the tempo will be slow. Wisconsin has a NCAA low 8.7 turnovers per game, but Cornell has 7.2 steals per game while forcing 439 turnovers, 13.7 a game.
An advantage for Wisconsin is their patience. Cornell scores 75.4 points per game, but the Badgers allow only 56. A large reason for the low scoring is the clock utilization of the Badgers. They do not take quick shots, and even when they miss, the transition defense is quickly set up on the other end.
Cornell’s advantage will come from the 3-point line. They have over 16 assists per game, and they usually consist of penetrating the lane and kicking the ball out to the shooters on the outside. As a team, Cornell is shooting 44 percent from beyond the arc, while Wisconsin is shooting 36 percent.
Other than those two facets of their games, the two teams are nearly identical, not looking at the different schedules throughout the regular season. If Wisconsin wants to win, they will need to contest the passing and 3-point shooting of Cornell. The best way to do so is to eat up the shot clock and force Cornell to exert energy on both ends of the court.
Cornell isn’t an extremely deep team, and they may tire out and make mental errors on the offensive side later in the game. The Big Red will also have to force turnovers. The Badgers don’t beat themselves, but Cornell players have quick hands to get a quick steal from an inbounds play. If the Badgers don’t turn the ball over, it will be tough for the Big Red to try and break down the Badger defense.
PREDICTION: Wisconsin 56, Cornell 50.