Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Badgers getting ready for the tournament


Greg Gard sounded more like a traffic cop than the associate head coach for the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team earlier this week when he explained what the Badgers need to do on offense to be efficient and avoid scoring droughts.
"You've got to know how to drive the speed limit," Gard said. "Drive 65 in a 65 — not 90, and not 40. So you've got to find where to set the cruise control at."
Too often this season, UW has found itself stopped at a red light for what seems like an eternity. The clock ticks away, yet the Badgers' point total remains the same.
Those slumps may ultimately be what keep the Badgers from making an extended run in the NCAA tournament. In other words, one drought and fourth-seeded UW (24-9), which opens against 13th-seeded Montana (25-6) on Thursday afternoon at The Pit, might be out.
"We've got to try to avoid those situations as best we can," sophomore guard Josh Gasser said. "Because if they happen, unfortunately we don't get another chance to play."
There's no universal definition of what constitutes a drought, but UW fans certainly know it when they see it.
Three times in Saturday's 65-52 loss to Michigan State in a Big Ten Conference tournament semifinal, the Badgers went at least five possessions without scoring. One stretch lasted nine possessions and 7 minutes, 49 seconds; another lasted seven possessions and 4:57.
UW had at least one stretch of five or more possessions without a point in 16 of the 20 games it played this season against Big Ten opponents. The longest, in the first half at Penn State on Jan. 31, covered nine possessions and 9:04. Remarkably, UW found a way to win that game.
If fans think stretches like those are tough to watch, imagine being one of the Badgers trying to find a way to make the light turn green.
"You can feel it," UW senior Jordan Taylor, "so it's just a matter of trying to keep the other team on their heels and make them make decisions."
No drought is the same, either. Some have been caused by the Badgers, a team filled with streaky shooters, going cold from 3-point range.
In Saturday's game against Michigan State, Gard noted sloppy play and poor shot selection had a lot to do with the 7:49 drought that came after UW had used a 13-0 run to pull within 46-40 with 12:17 remaining in the game.
During the nine possessions that followed that spurt, UW had three turnovers and missed four times from 3-point range. Three of those misses were by junior forward Ryan Evans, who entered the game shooting 19.2 percent from beyond the arc.
UW's offense is at its best when players are moving without the ball and making hard cuts through the lane. On the flip side, the Badgers are at their worst when the offense goes stagnant and there's a lot of standing around as they pass the ball around the perimeter.
Dissect the Badgers' worst droughts this season and one finds much more of the latter than the former.
"You still have to be aggressive, and I think this group has done a good job of growing in that area, of being smart, being efficient but still staying aggressive," Gard said. "We've become better at that, I think more consistent with that.
"If you become too cautious, then you start to play hesitant, then you become passive, then you stand around and become stagnant. If you become too aggressive, then you end up charging, turn the ball over."
Both Taylor and Gasser said the Badgers need to do a better job of finding ways to get easy baskets to break the ice. UW doesn't push the ball up the floor very often, but that's one way to break out of a scoring rut.
Most of all, UW needs to be mentally tough during slumps and not let the previous possessions affect the current one.
"We can score the ball," UW senior swingman Rob Wilson said. "But when those droughts come, when it's 1, 2 minutes, we've got to pick it up and not let our last shot affect our next shot."
Gard admitted the Badgers don't have a large margin for error to begin with because of their style of play. This time of year, that margin gets even smaller.
"There's not a lot of mulligans that you can pull out of your pocket," he said. "You have to cash in any time you can. So you can't waste opportunities."
I sure hope the Badgers can make it to the sweet sixteen.  GO BUCKY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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