I made a couple jokes leading up to this game about how much I -- and well, everyone -- hate Wisconsin basketball. Hate seems like a strong word considering exactly what I am directing my vitriol toward is a style of basketball, not like world hunger or something. But still, if you watched that game and by the end of it felt anything other than a burning, passionate, desire to do hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of structural damage to the Kohl Center, then I don't know what to tell you other than ask why are you hanging out at a website that clearly gets too wrapped up in this stuff.
Why do I hate WIsconsin so much? Is it the pace? The slow, agonizing pace of a basketball game that at points seems close to moving in reverse. Is it Bo Ryan? His face, specifically. Is it the fact that when Wisconsin throws up a halfcourt shot in the Kohl Center with time expiring, you just know that sucker is going down and there is nothing you can do about it?
Yeah, it is all that. Most of all, it is the fact that Wisconsin wins games year after year doing the same stuff, and there isn't anything that anyone can do about it except out-execute the Badgers for 40 excruciating minutes where every statistical bit is inflated in importance -- every shot, rebound, steal, and turnover -- because sample sizes don't care how big an effect a 7-0 run has on a normal game. Against Wisconsin 7-0 might as well be 20-0.
Michigan took the floor earlier today and played the same game that it seems like everyone plays against Wisconsin. The Wolverines set up in the halfcourt and started taking body blows. Wisconsin slowly took control of the game as Michigan failed to shoot the ball well. The Badgers built a nine point lead minutes into the first half, and Michigan slowly clawed back to take a one-point lead at the half.
The second half would bring more of the same. Michigan would try its best to get separation from Wisconsin, but the Badgers would always have an answer. With over six minutes left Michigan had built a six point lead. The Wolverines would score just seven points over the next six minutes of regulation -- including the Tim Hardaway Jr. pseudo dagger at the end of regulation -- as well as the five minute overtime period.
Michigan wasn't dominated in any of the four factors, an din some cases the Wolverines actually out performed Wisconsin. Michigan's eFG% was down in this game in large part to the high number of long jumpers that Michigan took throughout the game. However, it wasn't just that. Michigan missed a considerable amount of shots from very close.
Even considering the shooting woes, Michigan turned the ball over on just 10 percent of its available possessions, and Michigan did better on the offensive glass -- grabbing 26 percent of available misses vs. 20 percent for Wisconsin.
The one other place Michigan lost decisively was at the free throw line. Wisconsin was able to get to the line ten times (connecting on five of those, which is about par for the course with this year's Badgers) while Michigan shot just two free throws all game.
In the end, all the little things added up to just enough to get Wisconsin the win. Michigan left points on the floor by missing shots or failing to get good looks. Two separate times Trey Burke went into heroball mode and completely lost the ball. Mitch McGary missed a layup after a steal late in the game. Nik Stauskas missed four threes. He shot five. Glenn Robinson III is still missing, but presumed alive after being abducted sometime before the Indiana game.
So Michigan misses another opportunity to tighten its grip on the Big Ten title lead, as well as another shot at number one. The opportunities were there, but time and time again it was Wisconsin that seized them.
Perhaps that is the most frustrating part of Ryan-ball: this team can't run up and down the court like Indiana, doesn't boast elite defenders like Ohio State, and every single game feels like it is going to end up a 50-52 affair that will leave your head bloody from repeated meetings with the nearest wall. But that slow pace and the strong perimeter defense and measure offensive efficiency still continually add up to something greater than the sum of its parts.
I asked about this in my Q&A with Bucky's 5th Quarter this week: how will Wisconsin win? I already knew the answer when I asked it.
Wisconsin will win by being itself. I'll just have to keep on hating, knowing full well that it won't change a damn thing.