Under 1 week away until our grudge match with Communist Madison, so I thought it might be time to make some predictions. Unfortunately, my confidence has withered a bit due to Dwight Burke's inability to compete at a D1 level, our lack of production from the bench in general, and the unfortunate injury situation with 2 of MU's key reserves. So without further a-do:
1) The game is played at the Bradley Center this year, and after beating Madison in their house last year, I think that the three amigos will have confidence to have a repeat performance (something that they couldn't do their first 2 seasons).....especially in their own house. I think last years win takes a lot of pressure off of them for this year's game.....which helps.
2) I think that when it is MU's starting 5 vs. Madison's starting 5, Marquette has the overall advantage. Being that Nankivil is a first year starter and isn't overly productive, I'll call the Burke vs. Nankivil matchup a wash based on Burke being a senior. The only matchup that I would give Madison the edge to is Landry vs. Hayward (I'm basing this as the PF vs PF, not who guards Landry). It's very close, but overall Landry is more athletic, a better rebounder, can post up, and apparently can shoot the 3 consistently as last night he was 4-4 from 3 land. Aside from those 2 matchups, James, McNeal, and Matthews win so overall, it's advantage Marquette.
3) To further point #2, athletically I think that Marquette can impose their will a bit by pressing a lot on defense and playing up-tempo on Wisconsin misses. This is definitely to our advantage. UConn really set the blue print for success against Wisconsin by soft-pressing the Badgers all game long. This kills a good 8-10 seconds off of the shot clock and reduces the amount of time that Madison can get into their offense. This makes Wisconsin uncomfortable as they typically like to use a lot of the shot clock, setting screens, and running the motion offense in hopes of getting the very best possible shot. If they lose precious seconds, they force shots which is NOT their game. Furthermore, due to Wisconsin's lack of ballhandlers, an efficient press can force them to turn the ball over. Again, something that is NOT in Wisconsin's blue print to success. I think that this will be key to an MU victory.
1) Size - shocking right? Last year, MU at least had a competent Ousmane with Burke coming off the bench to fend off Madison's clash of 7'0 tall skinheads. Not this year! Burke is the "man".....even though he's not the man. Regardless, Wisconsin is very likely going to dominate us down low whether it be playing offense in the post and/or in the rebounding department. If Burke can show up like last year in madison, we increase our chances of victory exponentially.
2) Depth - Part of this can be related to the size disadvantage. Once Burke gets in foul trouble, and Hazel is in or Hayward slides over......we've got nothin' and are in trouble. Furthermore, the Acker/Cubillan/Butler rotation is inferior to Wisconsin's Taylor, Wilson, and Leuer rotation. I suspect that Bo is going to attack us down low early to try and get Lazar and Dwight in foul trouble early. Hopefully they let the guys play a little bit, otherwise we could be in trouble.
So when I look at the adv's/disadvad's, I think that Marquette has a slight edge going into the game. I foresee the James/McNeal/Matthews/Lazar combination playing a ton of minutes on Saturday provided that they don't get into foul trouble (ahem...Lazar). I think that in order for Marquette to win, they (like last year) need to force more turnovers than Wisconsin's avg (hopefully about 16), keep the rebounding close (if not win the battle), and shoot a good percentage. I suspect that the Badgers will tighten up the lanes to try and prevent penetration, which will give us more long jumpers. If we take the bait and start shooting a lot of 3's and shoot our standard 29%, we will be in trouble. So to sum up this paragraph, we cannot play Madison's game. We need to dictate tempo and make the Badgers uncomfortable on offense. If we can do that, we will win the game. I am interested to see how the team comes out tonight against Central Michigan after Saturday's loss (Buzz's first loss as MU's coach). I predict they will come out fired up!
Caveat: I watched Madison vs. Virginia Tech last night. Observations: Virginia Tech isn't very good, their best player played about 10 minutes and eventually fouled out due to chincy ass calls against him, Madison made like 12 of 18 3's or something (which was sick), and they still needed a Trevon Hughes jumper to win by 2! That being said, a mediocre Virginia Tech team played bad and still almost beat Madison. Hopefully we don't have a meltdown on Saturday.