Nigel Hayes shot 5/5 from the field tonight including a 3-pointer, and went 5/6 from the freebies. The Badgers boasted an unnatural 92 points in a offense-driven game against unranked Indiana, and came away victorious singing ‘Varsity‘ all the way to the Nitty Gritty. Tonight’s gameplay was unique for the Badgers, but not just because of the high scoring. No. Tonight we might have seen the key to Wisconsin’s first NCAA Championship in over 70 years. That’s right. Tonight the Badgers played like they want to play in Indianapolis again and Win. And I think they can do it.
Many people hear my Badger rants, but those who actually listen know that I despise how many 3-point attempts we take each game. I’ve been saying it time and time again, “Take fewer 3’s and convert the high-percentage shots.” Today, my prayers were answered. The Badgers had only 11 3-point attempts making a respectable 6 (54% from 3). The Badgers let the majority of the points come from the Charity Stripe and high-percentage well run plays.
In recent games, Wisconsin has taken over 20 shots from behind the arc which is great when you’re making them. Horrible when you’re not. The past few years we’ve lived and died by the 3. Fans may remember the “Wilkinson days of old” when we never shot a jumper over 12ft deep and always played to the post. Classic Badger Basketball. Play relentless D and let the layups win the games. Flash forward a decade and you have a 7-foot Frank Tank taking three’s and driving to the hoop.
Tonight though, we kept the three’s to a minimum, ran good plays, distributed the ball equally, and viola! We shot 60%FG’s and put up 92 points! Oh wait. Did I mention how many points we had from Freebie-land? 28. We shot 28-31. That’s 90%. That’s Badger Basketball. That wins Championships. My hope is that tonight wasn’t a fluke and we continue to play smart and leverage well-run plays. If we do, with the Badgers depth, we’ll be a tough 1-seed to beat come Tourney-Time.
Another good thing happening as the season progresses is Frank Kaminsky’s confidence and rhythm. He’s a different guy stepping on the court these days and he almost assumes to score 20 by the end of the game. His understanding of his own ability has increased and Frank’s showing more confidence going to the basket. We’ve seen him dunk more often (as a 7-footer should), his 3-point attempts are fluid and controlled, and we’ve even seen a number of isolation drives to the bucket from the big fella. Overall, the Badgers have a strong fundamental game-plan that has slowly solidified as the season goes on. We’ve got a good thing going right now, and I can’t wait to test the finished product in 6 weeks.
Go Big Red.