Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
|Ole Miss O||Wisconsin D||Wisconsin O||Ole Miss D|
|eFG%||49.3% (130)||43% (8)||49.1% (140)||46.6% (85)|
|TO%||15.8% (7)||18% (278)||15.6% (5)||21.7% (78)|
|OR%||33.8% (103)||26.8% (16)||32.6% (138)||31.9% (166)|
|FTR||39.3 (85)||25.6 (9)||29.9 (316)||31.3 (68)|
The Rebels drew a tough matchup with the Badgers. I was disappointed that they stayed on the 12-seed line after an SEC Tourney Championship, but so be it. The Badgers come in off of a 50-43 loss to Ohio State in the B1G Championship Game. Yup, that’s right sports fans. They gave up 50 points and they lost by 7. If there is a more polar opposite matchup in the tournament this year - or any year in recent memory - I'd like to see it. In B1G play, the Badgers averaged a mere 59.7 possessions/game, nearly a full 10 fewer possessions than the 69.5 possessions the Rebels averaged.
Don’t let the small point totals mislead you though. The Badgers, while not explosive on offense, are more than competent. The snail-like pace they prefer is designed to frustrate opponents. The Badgers want you to play their game, their way, and are very good at it. Per team ratings on kenpom.com (available for viewing even without the subscription) the Badgers are the 9th best team in the land.
One possible bright spot for the Rebels in all this is that the Badgers’ gameplan very closely resembles that of the recently vanquished Florida Gators. Per KenPom.com’s stats both teams dictate a slower pace well. UF averages 62.5 possessions/game, UW 62.0. Each runs a very effective offensive system with UF registering assists on 56.5% of made FGs, 56.3% for UW. Neither relies on getting to the FT Line for offensive production, with FTRs of 29.2 and 29.5 respectively for UF and UW. When the Badgers do get to the line, they shoot just a paltry 63.3%, 322nd in the country.
Here’s some more random tidbits on the FT discrepancy between the Rebels and Badgers:
- The Rebels have attempted 829 FTs (24.4/game) and score 21.4% of their points for the season from the charity stripe. Badger opponents have been to the line only 469 times (13.8/game) this season and score just 16.1% of their points
- Ole Miss has been fouled 693 times en route to their 829 FTAs. That’s an average of 1.19 FTAs per time fouled. Wisconsin has been fouled 593 times en route to their 569 FTAs, an average of just .96 FTAs per foul
The similarities continue on the defensive end of the court as well. Here’s how the Gators and Badgers match up with the defensive four factors above.
The Gators force a few more turnovers, the Badgers are more adept at and keeping opponents off the FT Line. Wisconsin also closes out on the perimeter better than the Gators. Only 24.8% of opponent FGAs were from deep against UW for the year, the 7th lowest mark in the country. Only 29.2% of those shots connected, which was the 8th best 3P%D in the country. Those two factors combine to explain why opponents scored only 21% of points against Wisconsin from behind the arc, 335th in the country.
In other words, Marshall Henderson will earn his points in this one. He did a great job – at times – in the SEC Tournament of shot-faking and driving, and I expect that will be a valuable tool for him against the Badgers as well. Offensive rebounds will be at a premium for the Rebels in this one. They did a decent job against the Gators grabbing 9/30 misses (30%) and will need a similar effort to be competitive in this one.
Hopefully, the resiliency on display in the SEC Tourney will be on display again in KC. The Rebels trailed by 14 against Mizzou, 9 against Vandy, and 14 against Florida, and came back to win. While I certainly don’t advocate digging that sort of hole against the Badgers, since the debacle in starkville these Rebs have shown a propensity to fight through adversity.
If Wisconsin controls the pace throughout this one, the Rebels will be in trouble. Only Auburn held the tempo under 60 possessions against the Rebels all season, a 59-possession game that led to this. The Rebels will want to get this game at least that high, if not into the mid-60s. Shot selection will be key, particularly for Henderson. A reversal of recent fortunes and actually jumping out to an early lead could pay huge dividends against a team not built to overcome deficits. Holloway and Buckner will need to keep their head in the games and stay out of foul trouble. The Badgers don't draw a lot of fouls, so there's no reason to make things easier on them.
BEST CASE SCENARIO
The Rebels play with the same intensity and passion on defense they showed in Nashville. AK and staff continue to make the right adjustments at the right time. Henderson stays out of "Chucker mode," drives and dishes to teammates. Rebels score ~60, Wisconsin ~52.
WORST CASE SCENARIO
Henderson starts slow, gets frustrated with pace of the game. Holloway continues to try and force things left and it the size/discipline of Wisconsin makes it difficult sledding. Buckner becomes disinterested, gets in foul trouble, UW’s big men thrive. Rebels struggle to put 45 points on the board. Lunardi proven correct.
Perhaps it’s the excitement of being back in the tournament for the first time in more than a decade. Or maybe the euphoria of celebrating in Nashville Sunday afternoon with thousands of my closest Rebels friends hasn’t worn off yet. Or it could be the feeling that the sports gods will continue to smile on the Rebels now that we’ve extricated ourselves from the miserly ways of Pete Boone. Whatever it is – I don’t know and I don’t care. The Rebels are winning this one – somehow, some way. It won’t make sense to anyone outside of the Red/Blue Nation, and that’s fine.
Ole Miss 64 Wisconsin 55
Henderson hits 4 3Ps, scores 19 points
Nick Williams or Snoop White score double figures as well
Henderson's reactions to the final buzzer will be worth the price of admission
(As always, rankings pulled from kenpom.com, quite possibly the coolest site on the whole wide intertubes... Red Cup Rebellion excluded of course)