If I was a good blogger, I would have started this feature a few months back. But I'm a half-assed blogger, so you'll just have to live with getting it now (and for the duration of the season). What is it? Pretty simple: I ask questions of an opposing team's blogger, they answer. A truly revolutionary idea, no? Next up: Friend of the Pants Phil Mitten from SBN's excellent Wisconsin blog, Bucky's 5th Quarter.
1) B1G play started off pretty rough for the Badgers with a 1-3 mark. But then things turned around and you've gone 8-2 since then. What's been going right for them? What changed from those first four games?
Other than his 10 rebounds against Michigan, Ryan Evans was a complete non-factor in those three early losses. Since then he has developed into the closest thing Wisconsin has to a secondary scorer. He's really the only guy that has shown to have a midrange jump shot. His all-around game has been a big boost to the team. Also, Jordan Taylor
finally settled into his role. As he rounded into shape from his off-season ankle surgery, he started out much too tentative and then started jacking up a ton of shots. It seems he's found a happy medium. The defense has been pretty solid since the first Iowa game, which keeps them in most games and they responded well to having their backs against the wall.
2) When last we met, Iowa picked up a pretty shocking 72-65 win in the Kohl Center. What's the plan for the rematch? Is there one beyond "Don't shoot 11% from 3-point range (3/28) this time"? Who are some key players for Iowa fans to pay attention to other than All-Big Ten point guard Jordan Taylor?
You know Bo Ryan -- he's steady as they come, adhering to the tough defense plus low turnovers formula. With that said, shooting better than 11% on 3s probably would be a sufficient game plan. This year's team just isn't as accurate as in seasons past, but even in defeat, they have certainly gotten open looks for the most part. Bo won't tell them to stop shooting. I think the key for Wisconsin will be the play of sophomore guard Josh Gasser. When he is aggressive offensively, it opens up the offense quite a bit. He's been too tentative even though he has the ability to be a playmaker opposite Taylor.
3) One of the biggest factors in this game will obviously be pace -- we've got the Big Ten's fastest-paced team (Iowa) taking on its slowest-paced team (Wisconsin). How important is it for Wisconsin to dictate the pace of this game? How nervous will you be if the final score is in the 70s?
A score in the 70s would certainly be troublesome for the Badgers, so if Iowa hits that mark, it means they've probably forced Wisconsin into an unusual amount of turnovers because there is no way UW gives up that many transition baskets this time around. The most points Wisconsin has surrendered in a win this season is 63, while UW has twice scored at least 70 in wins against RPI Top 50 teams (BYU and Northwestern). Wisconsin enforces its pace probably as well as anyone, which takes discipline on both sides of the ball. Giving up easy baskets is even worse than missing shots on offense.
4) I always assumed Wisconsin had a farm where they grew freakishly tall white guys with crew cuts and slick jumpers, but it seems like you've struggled to replace Brian Butch. What gives? Was Jared Berggren supposed to fill that void? Wouldn't Mike Bruesewitz be at least 20% more unstoppable if he regrew that carrot-colored moptop?
Did you erase your memory of Jon Leuer's entire career? (Ed. Note: Apparently, yes. Oops. -- Ross) Regardless, Berggren's offense hasn't come close to filling the void left by Leuer (both are Minnesota natives -- maybe that's where UW hides the buzzcut farm). Many expected Berggren to be a more traditional post player as he got more minutes, but he tasted some early success form long distance and hasn't really broken out of the habit. You take the good with the bad though. Berggren hit two back-breaking treys to put away a pesky Penn State team the other night. On the other hand, I can't tell you how frustrating it has been to watch a 6'10" guy post the worst free throw rate (16.8) on the team. For reference, Leuer hovered around 30% FTR in his career and Brian Butch was in the 40s during his final two seasons, a phenomenal rate.
As for Bruesewitz, he's got to try something to break out of his funk. He just tends to disappear. So I think the return of the ginger 'fro is worth a shot. I've got a t-shirt with Bruiser's mug shot on it that's been buried since very early in the season ... I'd like to be able to wear it confidently again at some point.
5) Does Bo Ryan more closely resemble: (a) a life-size human-badger hybird, (b) Grandpa Munster, or (c) one of the aliens from "V" wearing a badly-fitting skin-suit?
I applaud the effort that went into creating the badgman hybrid, so my choice is A. Grandpa Munster is also the kindest looking dracula I've ever seen someone compare to Bo.
6) Finally, prediction time -- who ya got?
The Badgers are 5-2 on the road in conference this season and I think they'll keep that road warrior mentality rolling in Iowa City. As I said earlier, the transition points will be harder to come by for the Hawkeyes and the Badgers shooting has to improve. If it's a tight one -- and I think it will be -- I like Wisconsin's ability to win it at the free throw line, 66-63.
Thanks for being a good sport, Phil. Be sure to check out Phil and the rest of the B5Q gang over at Bucky's Fifth Quarter. You can also follow Phil on the Twitters here. The Iowa-Wisconsin game is in Iowa City, IA on Thursday, February 23rd at 8pm CT, with television coverage from ESPN2.