Hughes: Secret to Bo’s, Badgers’ success is basic

first_imgI’ll try to keep this food analogy short, what with Thanksgiving having just ended and a Christmas meal on the horizon.Meat and potatoes. That’s the proverbial course of any bountiful holiday feast. It’s delicious and filling. It’s the go-to source of sustenance. All the rest is just gravy.With gravy, the meat and potatoes just get even better.And right now, Wisconsin’s men’s basketball team has plenty of M&P – in other words, their fundamentals are solid.Not exactly big news for a Bo Ryan-coached basketball team, but not many teams in the country are doing better than the Badgers when it comes to the game’s basics.Wisconsin tops the nation in assist-to-turnovers ratio (1.80) and turnovers per game (8.8). Its 13.6 fouls per game are second. Its free throw percentage (.794) is good for fourth while points per possession (1.19) is sixth, as is scoring defense (54.1). UW also rests at No. 32 in defensive field goal percentage (37.7).Of course, it’s still early in the season. UW hasn’t been rigorously challenged yet, which it will be when the Big Ten opponents start popping in. But not many other teams have taken up many tests yet either in this young season, so the above stats can’t be overlooked.What this comes down to, though, is that solid fundamentals can go a long way in allowing this team to get past this year’s conference giants of Michigan State, Ohio State, Illinois, Purdue and even Minnesota.Those will be some competitive games – even the ones hosted at the Kohl Center – and he who breaks fundamentally will lose. Will a Bo Ryan-coached team break like that? It’s possible, but I wouldn’t necessarily bet on it being a recurring issue.Solid fundamentals are almost uncompromising, too. The assist-to-turnover ratio and points per possession basically go hand in hand. Wisconsin doesn’t overlook passing drills – Ryan institutes them in practice, he says, “more than any other team in the nation.” Next to high-flying teams like Duke, a focus on passing may seem like a focus on, well, baby steps, but you can’t argue with the affect it’s had on the Badgers.Plain and simple, UW moves the ball well. They don’t give it up easily. And you can bet that on any given possession, the Badgers will score. That doesn’t alleviate any pressure on the opposing team’s offense.With Jordan Taylor manning Wisconsin’s offense at point guard, you can bet that detail will remain consistent. The junior point guard came within one assist from the program’s first ever triple-double last Saturday, and all throughout the game, it appeared as if he didn’t even know that he was nearing such an achievement.He’s a mature and selfless point guard that can make a shot anywhere on the floor. And like many of his teammates, Taylor can get to the free throw line and take advantage of the freebies.If you’ve ever subscribed to Sports Illustrated, you know that come tournament time, there’s always a part in the magazine’s preview that lists which players you should foul and which players you shouldn’t in pressure situations. This year, they might want to consider putting the entire team under “don’t foul.” In which case they might just say, “Don’t dig yourself into a whole late in the game against Wisconsin.”Ryan often uses a free throw drill in which the entire team lines up single-file behind the key. Each player takes one turn at the line. Whoever misses, runs. Out of 17 players on the team, only four of them – at most – will run.Of the four Badgers with at least 15 attempts from the line, the poorest free throw shooter is that of Ryan Evans, who’s still converted on 75 percent of his tosses. The other three are hitting at least 80 percent or more. Of all other players who regularly see the floor, only one is converting on less than 75 percent as well.Any team that fouls the Badgers is going to have a hard time keeping pace with them in the long run. That might be a strange thing to say, given the slower and more calculating pace of the offense, but the Badgers could very easily add an extra 20-30 points onto the scoreboard by fouls alone, as long as they can get to the line.So far, the same success doesn’t ring true for the Badgers’ opponents, though. Wisconsin stands at second in the country for fewest fouls per game and sixth in scoring defense. Points are hard to come by against this team and always have been. The Badgers have had a top 10 scoring defense in each of the last four years.As for rebounding, Wisconsin’s numbers aren’t as flashy as the ones listed above, but they could be. Senior Jon Leuer has been a cherry-picker under the glass, nearly doubling up everyone else on the roster with 62 boards.Freshman Josh Gasser is tied for second on the team in offensive rebounds and sophomore Mike Bruesewitz has shown a tremendous amount of effort as well. If Brueser is on the floor, don’t expect any ball to fall in the hands of the opponent without him at least tipping the ball first, just to cause disruption underneath the basket.But considering the size, depth and experience of the Badgers’ frontcourt, the rebounding game has been a little disappointing at times this season.Wisconsin got dominated in that regard against Notre Dame (and ended up losing the game as well) and only out-rebounded South Dakota 37-34.Shooting hasn’t been as consistent as the Badgers probably prefer, but Ryan’s attitude on the matter is sagely and you don’t see any of his players panicking. Shooting can never be totally consistent for every team – everyone has their strides and droughts. It’s as sure of a thing as the ball being dribbled up and down.Besides, shooting is the gravy. It makes everything else look and taste that much better. So far this year, the Badgers know life with and without that ingredient, shooting 50 percent against NC State and 36.2 against Manhattan.Every team is going to have a few struggles scoring points efficiently. But it is possible to avoid failures at the fundamental level. As long as the Badgers remain consistent in that regard, they could hurdle those Big Ten favorites.Because it’s not a feast without meat and potatoes, right?Elliot is a junior with an undeclared major. In the long run, how much do you think fundamentals are worth? Will they help the Badgers one-up their opponents? Send your thoughts to [email protected]last_img


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