A thought from Hunter S. Thompson (adapted) for the game
"We were warriors then, and our tribe was strong like a river. That river is still running. All we have to do is get out and run, and we will wash those Badgers out of the building..."Hat tip to MU Chi_IL, with apologies to the original HST Essay.
In October, we did a preseason roundtable that was a lot of fun. When we're not busy creating fabulous Cracked Sidewalks content (or something like that), the CS team occasionally likes to trade IMs about the team. We had some time to kill on the eve of the big game. Here's our chat session.
Rob - Okay guys, I guess I'm kicking this off? Who's ready for tomorrow?
Kevin - I am not ready. I will be ready when Fulce and Otule are.
Tim - Rob, your numbers show this game is a tossup.....but does home court factor into those figures in any way?
Rob - No, there's not enough data for away games yet to do the numbers
Tim - Historically, what is the advantage?
Rob – Looking at the numbers for how UW played last year at home vs on the road, they were (no surprise) a better team both offensively and defensively at home. Efficiency margin of 18 at home versus an efficiency margin of 11, which means they were an 89% winning team at home and a 78% winning team on the road.
Yeah, there's some expected worsening from playing on the road, but will it be a real road game?
Kevin – Depends on how many MU season ticket holders have given in to the dark side, and given their tickets to UW fans.
Tim - Tell you what, UW has a group of terrific three-point shooters so far this season (Leuer, Hughts and Landry). Landry is one tough matchup for Lazar. That creates a ton of tough matchups for MU. Leuer, Landry and Krabbenhoft are all bigger mobile players -- MU could struggle to contain that bunch.
Rob – Agreed. We have to expect UW will launch and make more threes than MU. Although, something that's slipped notice is that the MU 3-point defense is getting better again. Anyways, I forget who said it (maybe Rosiak), but UW has their own matchup issues too. Each team has clear strengths and doesn't match up well with the other’s strengths
Tim - Correct
Rob - What do you think are the keys to the game tomorrow?
Kevin - Fouls. If MU is in foul trouble, we will lose. We're just not deep enough to absorb many PFs. Second .. shooting %. If we're below 37-38% .. we're cooked.
Tim - Limiting Wisconsin's ORBs and for Lazar to deliver against this team. Wisconsin has a deep, skilled group of forwards -- Lazar's production is vital.
Rob – My keys, in order of relative importance. Force TO's, limit UW’s eFG%, get ORs, shoot well, protect the ball
Rob – How about in-game issues? Dayton did a great job of limiting touches in the paint. Think Bo will be able to do something similar? I feel like our offense goes haywire when the players can't get into the paint at some level
Tim - Since MU does not have a legitimate post presence, that won't be tough for a deeper Badger team to do
Kevin - Bo's entire game plan will be to clog the lane, make us shoot.
Tim – That’s all the more reason why Lazar is key. I mean, Dwight Burke has more fouls than rebounds this year....and far more fouls than points scored. Lazar has to hold his own. And lets see if Wesley can continue to polish the glass, particularly on ORBs
Kevin - Rebounds? Please. The biggest factor for a MU victory is how many Badger fans are in the Bradley Center.
Rob - Expect a LOT.
Kevin - And if Where the Streets Have No Name is played or not. If Pintens spins Fat Boy Slim again, this game will be over before it starts.
Tim – So… if Bo will likely clog the paint and make MU shoot......what about pace?
Rob - I think this pace ends up somewhere in the middle. UW goes about 61 possessions per game and MU at about 76. Actual game pace will be about 68 possessions.
Tim - 70 possessions and MU wins?
Rob - Pace doesn't really seem to matter in my model. It's not statistically correlated (yet) for either team's offensive or defensive efficiency. It would only really matter if one team were better from an efficiency margin perspective - but they're so evenly matched on the numbers.
Rob - Who do you ultimately pick to win?
Tim - MU wins because Wesley Matthews is the best player on the floor, and I think, the toughest matchup for either coach to contend with.
Rob - I think this matchup is 50/50 according to the straight stats. Therefore, the other variables for me are coaching (advantage UW), system (advantage UW), and home court (advantage MU). Unfortunately, I think there will be a bit too much red in the stands for it to be a road game, so I'm thinking MU fans (including me) go home unhappy. UW by 5-6 points is my fear.
I just don't believe in this team's defense.
Tim – It’s impossible to believe in their defense based on what we have seen to date this year.
Rob – And since the first two keys for me are defensively driven...
Tim - MU is a poor defensive team, and UW runs an effective system.
Rob – But you still think MU wins?
Tim - I can tell you are trying to talk me out of my optimism (which took real effort to bring to this conversation). I'll stick with MU winning a tight game based on the matchup quandary and the home game.
Kevin – I’ll stick with MU winning for a very clear reason: Homerism. And if UW wins, I hate having to cancel Christmas.