Tag Archives: Ben Brust

Arizona’s Elite Meeting with Wisconsin

Amongst travel and remote activity, I’ve managed to learn so much about the Wisconsin Badgers. Granted, it helps that my road trip-mate is a born and raised Milwaukeean and lives and breaths Bob Uecker, cheese, Lambeau Field, believes Ryan Braun really did have herpes, and nearly died when he saw this photo:

ArodBoryanI mean, if you’re a Wisconsin boy does it get much better than that? There is, of course, this side of the reality coin:

Anyhow, with that sort of travel companion, I was bound to learn a lot about the Badgers. This is what I’ve got: They. Are. Disciplined. And they’ve been to the Rose Bowl. Arizona has not.

It’s a Bo Ryan team and they cherish possessions like you cherished that Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie Card when you were eight. In eleven seasons, Wisconsin hasn’t ranked outside the top 10 in offensive TO% but twice. And in those two campaigns they were still top-20. This game will not become the Gonzaga game.

But in some regards it could. The Badgers take lots  of three pointers. About 40% of their shots are from deep. When they miss – and they don’t often, making them at a 37.6% rate, 51st in the nation – it results in long rebounds which can turn in to run outs. Otherwise read as transition offense. Otherwise read as Christ Air (if you’re reading with Wildcat eyes). Against San Diego State (good riddance) the ‘Cats struggled to get out and move and you may have noticed their offense was less than explosive. They worked for those 70 points but two of the biggest plays of the game and momentum swings came on transition buckets like the one at the head of this post. Wisconsin, with their long misses, ranks 308th in percentage of shots coming in transition (23.6%); or, right about what Arizona has averaged since Brandon Ashley’s departure. Opportunity, Wildcats.

One point to keep an eye on – as the Badgers love them some possessions – would be the offensive glass. I’m not entirely sure it’s a strong suit of Arizona 2.0BASHLEY but it certainly isn’t a weak point. Wisco hits the defensive glass at the 10th highest rate in the nation. This ensures their opponents don’t get extra opportunities to score.

At it’s simplest form, this is a match up of an elite offense and an elite defense. It’s also just an exciting match up, period. Let’s run down the lineups:

AZWiscoYou and I both know that the above means very little. But it’s still a pretty interesting glimpse into the similarities – personnel-wise – that these two are running. It also interestingly highlights that you can have similar outputs and accomplish those outputs in very different ways.

The Badgers are going to try and shoot their way to Dallas. Not quite at the level of Michigan, but those aforementioned three-pointers are going to be what gets them to North Texas or sends them home. They make 40% in wins and 30% in losses. In either scenario they are taking about 20 three point-jumpers per game. For context, Oregon was shooting nearly 26 threes in losses and just 18 in wins. Did I mention Wisconsin is disciplined?

And how, you might ask, does Arizona defend the three? Sean Miller’s pack line has allowed the 11th lowest percentage of shots to come from deep – just 26.5% of opponent shots. This does not bode well for Wisconsin. But the converse could hold true. Wisconsin, as we’ve noted, is good at making these shots and one way to beat the pack line is to shoot out of it. Ask Oregon who became just the 7th team to make 10-or-more three pointers against Arizona since Sean Miller became coach.

Moving inside the arc, when the Badgers do lose, it’s because someone attacked. Teams that beat UW have gone at them and taken the ball to the rim. It also hasn’t hurt that what few threes those teams took (average 12), they made (average 6). When Wisconsin wins, the opposition’s three-pointers look more like 4-15. They’re not going to let you take or make many threes, we’ve established this. So when life gives you lanes, make layups. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson certainly has, of late.

There will be one elite offense and one elite defense in one elite game.

Maybe we call this one net cutting practice?

Three Pac-12 Teams Are So Sweet

Pretty good time to be a Pac-12 blogger if you ask a Pac-12 blogger. Three teams are tasting the sweetness of March while another three ended their seasons. And even two of those defeats were in spectacular fashion. Actually, all three of the departed left in spectacular fashion – Colorado’s case was just a little…different than the others?

General Thoughts: If this doesn’t stir up some dust in whatever room you’re in then I’m not entirely sure we’ll get along.

mcdermott1This is real life Field of Dreams but on a basketball court without racist ghosts. This is life’s simplest and universal beauty – father, son, ball – on the biggest stage we can conjure. They both called it special and I’d venture to call it perfect. Thank you, McDermotts.

And while we’re on the topic of perfection, Wichita State-Kentucky. That ranks amongst the greatest games I’ve ever seen played. I hate that we think this somehow legitimizes or otherwise the Shockers. One game does not define a team or a season. It doesn’t define a conference or a schedule. But it can tell you a helluva lot about what’s underneath a jersey. That game was all guts. It was onions and stones and ice. If WSU was going out it was tooth and nail. If Kentucky was going out it was as the team we thought they’d be. And if you still need rationalization for the legitimacy of Wichita State, I challenge you to find a better game Kentucky has played all season. It took a roster of 4-7 first round draft picks playing their best game of the season to knock those kids off. Read this. That game was everything we could’ve wanted. Yeah, I wanted banked threes and Cleanthony steal-n-dunk and that Young three. Perfect. Also, how wrenching is 35-1? Can’t even imagine.

This:

#1 Arizona Wildcats

You guys want to talk about Arizona’s free throws? Yeah, me either. I’m off the pageantry wagon. This is the time of year when you survive and advance. Survival isn’t about looking cute, it’s about not dying. Aron Ralston cut his own god damn arm off to not die. He drank his own piss. So if Arizona beats a sixteen seed by 9 and misses a handful of free throws in doing, I’m not going to lose sleep over it. Because they could also turn Gonzaga over on nearly 30% of their possessions and thunder their way into the Sweet Sixteen. We know what teams can and can’t do at this point. Arizona can roll you and wants to:

“I don’t like the term `survive and advance,’ “ Gordon said. “I like the term `dominate and advance.’”

#4 UCLA Bruins

I could dive into the Bruins’ two wins – look into the terrific play of Jordan Adams and what an ex-factor Norman Powell is. I could note that UCLA is yielding less than 1 point per possession. The kind of defense the supplements perhaps the most high octane offense remaining in this tournament. Could get into some Steve Alford love as he heads to his second ever Sweet Sixteen (kudos). But ultimately UCLA’s games were uninteresting, only briefly competitive, and played against Tulsa and a school seemingly named after a Wrestler and TV character (though 32-3 is a very impressive season). I’m passing on all of that and ignoring that this is a review because I’m so excited for that UCLA-Florida game on Thursday. The Bruins are on a three game March losing streak to the Gators. The Bruins are a phenomenal offensive team. The Gators are a phenomenal defensive team. Will Yeguete guarding Kyle Anderson. The Wear family guarding Patric Young. Gimme this game.

#10 Stanford Cardinal

Johnny Dawkins going full Steve Lavin on us I see. But credit where it’s due: our guy, JD, outcoached Bill Self. He has the talent to do it but to exact a plan that gets Andrew Wiggins just six shots and four points is impressive. It was the second fewest shot attempts he’d take on the season. Sunday was not coming up Wiggins though I watched some of the weirdest basketball transpire in that game. There was a sequence where it seemed Stanford committed four straight turnovers and gave up three offensive rebounds in the process of trying to break KU’s press. Kansas came out of that sequence with no points and Stanford managed an Anthony Brown breakaway layup plus harm. Johnny Dawkins did well but Kansas was not meant to win that game. Also, I can’t tell if I love or hate the fact that Robbie Lemons – a walk-on with the 2010 class of Powell, Huestis, etc. – gets crunch time tick. I suppose it’s growing on me because it’s March and my emotions are heightened and so I’m really hooked on this idea of the underdog. Besides, there’s so much fun to be had with his last name. Because when life hands you lemons, you beat Kansas and go to the Sweet Sixteen.

#7 Oregon Ducks

Close only counts in horse shoes, hand grenades, and meeting Jennifer Lawrence, but man was that one close. The Ducks looked the better team for much of that game and delivered blows, absorbed blows, and came up just short. Joseph Young was terrific and it was a treat to watch Jason Calliste and Mike Moser – the traveled and hungry seniors – refuse to let their careers end. It unfortunately came down to another senior exacting his own will to not retire, Ben Brust. We already talked about learning about what’s underneath the jersey – guts and heart – and these Ducks were all of that across the season’s final month-and-change. That was one helluva run.

#8 Colorado Buffaloes

I mean…tough. We knew it was a mis-match and that things really weren’t stacking up in Colorado’s favor. But that was rough. Pittsburgh did and got whatever they wanted, the Buffs seemingly took it, and went back to Boulder in lopsided fashion. I ultimately think it’s a great learning experience for the program. I thought CU was given something of a favorable seed for their accomplishments over the past few years. A perhaps earned honor but one that could bite them in the ass. And it did. But like I said, learning experience. The tournament is never given to you. No matter whether you’re playing a sixteen or a one, sixty-eight teams are here to compete. If you’re not ready, that can happen to you. There is plenty of good hoop ahead for this Colorado program, the Pitt game was not a set back, but a warning flare that this is some very real stuff.

#10 Arizona State Sun Devils

You all know how I pretty much don’t like this school. I’m from Tucson and grew up understanding that we hate the Sun Devils. But this? I can probably joke about it in a few months – maybe years – but can’t right now. This image is every reason why we love this tournament. No, not because it’s ASU losing, but because the thousand words this picture tells us is the thousands of hours that went into even getting into that moment. To have your career leading shot blocker have one more opportunity to dismiss a game winner; to furiously come back from down a dozen. All of these opportunities for shining moments. And sometimes it doesn’t shine.ASU-bench-reaction-to-loss-to-Texas-720x375