After watching two teams race out to 8-0 leads against the Wisconsin Badgers (3-1) this past week, it was fun to watch a 12-0 Badgers run to start a game for a change.
However great that was to watch, there were a few alarming moments in Wisconsin’s 74-62 victory over the Tennessee Volunteers (1-2). Chief amongst the concerns were the 18 turnovers committed by Wisconsin.
While one game of bad turnovers isn’t alarming on its own, it is the style of play and the “why” that is alarming. So is the growing trend of the Badgers being a turnover-prone team, and that is something that no one that has seen this team in the past 16 years are used to seeing.
Following Monday’s win, the Badgers are averaging 14.5 turnovers per game and have a -4.5 turnover margin early on this season.
In this game, Tennessee used its zone defense to speed up the Badgers and create most of those 18 turnovers. Luckily for the Badgers, the Vols turned those 18 turnovers in to just 15 points or things could’ve been ugly.
“But Tennessee, I thought, did a good job at the right times of trying to speed us up,” said Gard after the game. “And it’s a matter of not so much what they were doing as what, how we responded to it. And it’s more the pace that it forces some people to play at that needs to be slowed down a little bit.”
When the Badgers did just that in this game it all went right. The 12-0 run to start the game came from patient offense that worked the ball until someone was open, same for the 12-0 run that re-opened a big lead in the second half.
Speeding things up has been a formula that worked for Creighton earlier this season. It is also the formula that will be used regardless of whether it is Georgetown or Oregon ahead for the Badgers. Both teams employ a 3-2 zone look, the same zone that gave the Badgers plenty of trouble against the Vols.
The good news is Gard knows what went wrong, who Wisconsin is about to face and how to get things figured out.
“It has to be reduced drastically. We know it,” said Gard. “We’ll continue to work on it. And they (the players) understand it. They understand that if we want to become the best we can be throughout the course of the season, that’s 18 shots we don’t get at the basket. So it will be constantly reinforced and continue to work on it.”
Let’s see if that message is received and executed on the court by this experienced Badgers squad.
Volunteers head coach Rich Barnes believes that the Badgers experience was a massive help down the stretch against his team that features 13 underclassmen.
“Wisconsin has a nice team. They’ve got experience,” Barnes said. “I thought in the last four minutes that experience showed up for them in the fact they got what they were looking for and were patient enough to get that done where we didn’t, especially against their zone.”
UW’s ability to figure it out quickly is a nice translation to what happens come March, so let’s see if the players can quickly fix the biggest problem it has faced all season long.