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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Men’s basketball: What you need to know about Wisconsin’s NCAA first round opponent Pittsburgh

Expect slow-paced game in which both teams trade blows, starve for offense at times
Jason Chan

Wisconsin men’s basketball will go dancing for the 18th straight year.

As a No. 7 seed, the Badgers (20-12 overall, 12-6 Big Ten) will take on No. 10 Pittsburgh (21-11 overall, 9-9 ACC) in its opening round matchup of the 2016 NCAA Tournament March 18. The position Wisconsin finds itself in will not be fortuitous for a third-consecutive Final Four run, but Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard and his team will treat the situation the same as any game — one at a time.

The Badgers’ first round opponent hasn’t fared nearly as well as UW this season though. Here’s what you need to know about the Panthers.


Big games, big losses

The Panthers are 1-7 against ranked teams and barely squeaked by Syracuse in the second-round of the ACC Tournament, winning that game 72-71 before falling to North Carolina in a demoralizing 17-point loss in the quarterfinal.

On average, the Panthers lose ranked games by about 13 points, but have an impressive 14-point win over then-No. 15 Duke. Though one game is not enough to classify Pittsburgh as a “big-game team.”

On the other hand, Wisconsin is 5-5 against ranked opponents, which included four top-15 wins.

The Badgers, however, are fresh off defeat to Nebraska in the Big Ten Tournament —  in which they shot just 30.2 percent — and riding a two-game losing streak. But Gard and his players have reiterated since then that they are looking to correct their mistakes and return to fundamentally-sound basketball.

Men’s basketball: Nebraska’s tough defensive effort down Badgers

Slowing it down and making the most of it

Both Wisconsin and Pittsburgh play slow basketball, managing the clock and looking to make the most of each possession. The Panthers average an adjusted 66.3 possessions per game, two higher than the Badgers’ 64.3 per game.

Their slow tempo makes each fall around the 300-mark in terms of the fastest teams in the country. But that has become a defining characteristic of Wisconsin basketball over the past few seasons and has paid out well for the Badgers.

It’s going to be a duel

The Panthers do maintain a slightly better offensive efficiency rating than the Badgers (112.7 to Wisconsin’s 110), but it’s a negligible difference since both teams fall relatively close in those rankings. Pittsburgh is the 33rd most-efficient, while Wisconsin is at No. 67.

What the Panthers do have over Wisconsin is the fact they are a slightly better shooting team, edging the Badgers in field goal percentage by .03 percentage points. Pittsburgh knocks down .460 percent of shots and drops slightly below Wisconsin’s mark when shooting threes, .348 percent compared to the Badgers’ .358 percent.

But what Wisconsin gives up on offense, they make up for in team defense. The Badgers defensive efficiency is 95.3 points Pittsburgh’s checks in at 99.8.

Since both teams are similar in strategy and boast advantages in different areas, the game has all the makings of becoming a strategic duel between Gard and Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon.

Men’s basketball: A quick look at what Wisconsin is up against in the East region

Pittsburgh player to watch: Michael Young

Young, a junior, is one of, if not the most athletic player on Pittsburgh’s roster. Standing at 6-foot-9, he presents an immense challenge to a Wisconsin team that’s shown embarrassing interior defense at times this season.

He averaged a team-high 16 points and seven rebounds and sits at third-best for assists, blocks and field-goal percentage.

Despite his size, Young is a nimble player. He consistently makes smart reads on passes, which lead to steals and his agility can beat defenders off the dribble, ending in emphatic slam-dunks more often than not. He has also showcased a repeated ability to beat trailing opponents on fast breaks while dribbling.

Wisconsin’s big men will have a tough time containing him given their past experience with players of this type. Look no further than last weekend’s defeat against Nebraska, where Shavon Shields had an all-around marvelous game.

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