Scouting the Final Four: Wisconsin Badgers

More scouting reports: Florida | Connecticut | Kentucky

When watching a game or looking at statistical trends, we might figure out one or two ways to slow down Wisconsin’s half-court offense or score against Florida’s multiple defenses. But that’s obviously not the whole story. But what about the guys who get paid to break down that stuff; what are they thinking?

During the regular season, we broke down eight potential title contenders, one each week since mid-January. Of course, only one of those teams reached the Final Four. With the four national semifinalists now set, though, it’s time for an in-depth scouting report on each team. I will talk to four or five coaches who played those teams this season, and get in-depth insight into each team.

Can Connecticut win it all? Why is Florida the favorite? And what about Kentucky and Wisconsin? We’ll find answers to each of those questions, and much more.

Style of play

“They’re slow in tempo. They’re not trying to play fast, but they can. They did against Oregon, they had a game in the 80s. When they played Virginia, that game was in the 40s. They can contrast styles because of their ability to shoot. They’re never out of it. They have guys in Ben Brust and No. 21 (Josh Gasser), they can really, really shoot. They’re 12th in the country in defensive rebounding, and that will be tested by Kentucky. That will have a lot to do with the outcome. They also don’t turn it over. You don’t get to the foul line against them. One of the best teams at playing defense without fouling.”

“They’re a very good offensive team. They’re going to do what they do. They’re not going to deviate from what they’ve done the whole season. They’re going to do the same things. This year, more than most, they’ve really looked to transition. The first 12 seconds of the shot clock, they’re looking to score. They have multiple guys who can bring the ball up the floor. Multiple guys who can shoot the 3. And their defensive system is in place. They’ll give up some things to take other things away.”

“They want to play at their pace, which is slow in general. They’re not shooting before 18 in the half-court. Defensively, they play the pack-line. They want to make you shoot contested jump-shots. They’ll let you pass it around the perimeter as much as you want. They’re not going to mix defenses as well. You just better be prepared to hit shots against Wisconsin. If not, you’re in trouble. And by shots, I mean jump shots.”

Offensive strength

“They can shoot the ball. But they have versatility. [Frank] Kaminsky can go inside and on the perimeter. They have Sam Dekker, who can play inside and out on the perimeter. And their guards post up. Everybody has an opportunity to post up, and they’re all able to. The pieces he’s incorporated into their offense, everyone is going to have the ball at the 3-point line and around the basket. It incorporates so many different things where you can’t say, ‘Oh he’s a perimeter guy, so he can’t do A, B, C or D.’”

“Their unselfishness. They do a great job of sharing the basketball. They have multiple guys that can make plays. It’s a team. Other than Traevon Jackson, they can really shoot the basketball. Not running the swing offense nearly as much. They still run it, but they’ve gotten away from running it. They have their first initial offense, then they are patient, run their stuff, try to get you to make a mistake, then they’ll go with their shot-clock play where it’s Traevon Jackson off a ball-screen. With Kaminsky, he’ll roll or pick-and-pop.”

“They get a great shot every possession. They run their stuff until they get a great shot. They found something in Kaminsky, a staple and a go-to-guy. He can get them easy shots by posts or by kick-outs. So it’s patience, Kaminsky is red-hot now, and they shoot the 3-ball really well. Brust especially, but Dekker makes big shots. Gasser is one of the better shooters in the league. That face-up jumper from [Nigel] Hayes, he doesn’t miss. He brings a guy that they can count on every night for 8-10 points. He’s not an unbelievable athlete, but he’s strong and savvy. He’s the perfect Wisconsin guy. Very unselfish, kind of a junkyard dog. He’s the perfect Wisconsin guy. He plays within himself.”

Key player

“I would say 12 (Jackson). He can’t turn it over. He likes taking big shots. He took the ones late against Arizona. He missed them, but he was the one taking the shot and making the play. If he’s making shots and not turning it over, they’re a very, very tough team to play. If he can make two or three 3s, they’re tough.”

“I think it’s Kaminsky. I think he’s the guy who’s been their best scorer when he’s got it going. The X-factor would be Dekker. He’s averaging only seven points in the past two games. He’s their most talented guy, and when he plays well, they’re really hard to guard. He’s playing within the system; I would love to see him in a different system. He’s not the kind of guy who tries to do too much.”

“It’s gotta be Kaminsky, because he’s the one guy who can put up really big numbers. The rest of the guys you can slow down. But Kaminsky can get it going. He’s versatile; he can hit the 3, he can put it on the floor, multiple moves in the post. He’s 7-foot, he’s huge. I think that Dekker is capable of doing more, but he’s playing within the offense and doing what he needs to do. He’s not shooting it as well, but he’s a guy when you’re scouting, you have to be there on the catch. They go to him for shots, they run stuff for him.”

Primary weakness

“I really don’t know that answer. You thought you can pay attention to 1 (Brust) and 21 (Gasser), but 10 (Nigel Hayes) is better than people realize. We had no clue. 24 (Bronson Koenig) is tough. I’m not aware of any weaknesses.”

“Their depth. Their post game and their depth. Nigel Hayes is their sixth man and their best post threat, but even he likes to catch it 10 feet off the block and make a move. He’s a very poor free-throw shooter. I think he’s the type of guy who tries to get you off balance. After him on the bench, they’re very limited.”

“Offensively, they don’t really have a guy who can break you down and get into the paint. Shot clock, it’s going to be Jackson dribbling to the elbow and shooting over you. They don’t have a guy that break you down. Defensively, their quickness or their lack of quickness sometimes causes them problems with quicker players. They struggle to guard the ball-screens. They’re going to go over the top. They’re most susceptible to the 3-ball. That’s where you have to beat them.”

How to stop them

“I thought Arizona did a great job. Some things are predictable about it. When they reverse the ball, they flex cut. And Arizona just beat them to the spot. The things you know are predictable, the first 8-10 seconds, you have to make sure you’re well-prepared. But you can’t allow them to get easy looks in the first 10 seconds.”

“Take away transition. Ability to shoot the basketball is key, and when they have Kaminsky at the five, you have other five men guarding him. Depends what your principles are, how are you going to guard him? They do a great job of playing off each other and capitalizing off your mistakes. “

“Assuming that you keep Kaminsky from scoring in the post, I would say that you can’t overextend yourself. Use their style of defense against them. They have a problem with teams that pack it in against them. You can’t lose your discipline. Disciplined defenses that keep things tight, they really have a tough time with.”

Best way to score on them

“You have to attack them on offense. They’re good defensively at defending the 3-point line, but they’re not great around the rim. They’ll play one on one in the post. You can ball-screen, allowed to attack. They help up, you can get lobs or dump downs. You have to attack them offensively, then they kind of forget about pace. Once Oregon attacked them offensively, they were like, let’s play. It didn’t make it a grind-it-out affair. They have the personnel to win a grind-it-out game. You want to speed them up and you have to get them in a deficit. You have to be able to attack the rim, because they don’t foul.”

“They’re not a great transition defensive team. If you can crash the boards. You have to attack them. They will basically give you 15-17 foot jump shots, and if you can beat them doing that, then they’ll live with that. They’re not great individual defenders. You can drive them, but they collapse. They’re a very good help-oriented team. Drive-kick, drive-shot, they’re not a great team blocking out. Kentucky can pose some problems.”

“Ball screens. They have a tough time with ball screens. And you can throw it in the post, and they won’t double. When you shoot, they contest with high hands, but it’s one on one down there. They let it go down there, though. They have a tough time with skilled post players. You can get out and run. You can get some transition baskets on them. They’re not as good in that sense as they usually are. They’re sending more guys to the glass. They trust their scoring more and rebounding more.”

Ultimate concern

“Shot fakes. And we talked about it and talked about it, and sure enough, those guys are so good at shot-faking because they have shooters across the floor. And all five guys can shoot, from Frank to their point guard. They want you to fall for a shot-fake. So you leave your feet, then they draw two because someone is forced to rotate.”

“The way they play. You have to take their transition away. You can’t sit there and put yourself in a situation where you over-help or get yourself in a mistake because they capitalize. They don’t turn it over. And you can’t turn the ball over. It might become a free-throw battle.”

“Their guards, we watched their fakes and watched their penetration. And that’s a big part of it. Their pressure is really sneaky. It bothered us. They have an unorthodox style that’s really hard to notice but it’s difficult to play against.”

How this team differs from previous ones

“Good guards. They have three of them. And I don’t know if you would call their bigs ‘bigs.’ Dekker and Kaminsky can attack off the bounce and stretch it, make you guard 22-23 feet away from the basket. If you have five guys you have to constantly be mindful of, it makes it tough on you defensively.”

“Veteran players. They have guys who make pretty good decisions. The only guy who doesn’t get taken out of the game with a mistake is Traevon Jackson, because they don’t have another point guard. Normally when you turn the ball over, Bo yanks them. So they do a good job of taking care of the ball, they’re unselfish, and he trusts them.”

“They’ve got a good group that really seems to get along, that really seems to work together. And more importantly than that, they have a lot of weapons, guys that can score in different ways. Kaminsky, probably NBA. Dekker, probably NBA. Hayes, probably NBA. Jackson, a big strong point guard that can get baskets. Brust, leaving him open, he’s hitting a 3. Gasser, leave him open, he’s hitting a 3. They look like a team where they’ve had eight guys playing together for four years.”

Frank Kaminsky’s development

“He knows what he wants. He knows if you’re not as mobile, he’s going to get you away from the rim. If you’re not as physical, he’s going to get you close to the rim. He can make 3s on the perimeter, and he can post up at the rim. He’ll throw a whole lot of moves at you, and you’ll jump on them, and he’ll see it, and he knows his angles. He knows who is guarding him. He’s aware of the personnel out there guarding him. He’s going to make Dakari Johnson check him at 20 feet, and it’s going to be ugly. And then he’ll get Marcus Lee around the rim. “

“He’s not your typical five man. He can shoot the 3, he can put the ball on the floor. If you don’t have a mobile five man, he can take advantage of it. Five men aren’t used to guys taking them on the perimeter. They run pin-downs for Kaminsky. It’s a situation where guys aren’t used to guarding guys like him. He shoots high 30s from 3. Sometimes if you have a mobile four man, or if he’s playing next to Hayes, you can put your four man on him, but they do a good job of sharing the basketball and running plays for different guys.”

“On the outside looking in, he’s got his body in shape. He was good early in the league, then they went in the tank, and we thought it was because Kaminsky and Dekker’s numbers really dropped. He’s come on strong. And they’re getting him the ball more. Getting the ball inside, getting him the ball out. And they’re basically telling him they’re going to ride him. He’s tough to defend, especially now that he’s able to put the ball on the floor a little bit. His spin move and up-and-under are very tough to guard.”

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