Saturday, December 6, 2008

UW-MU Preview

The 115th installment of the Wisconsin - Marquette Basketball game is tonight at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee. Wisconsin leads the overall series 62-52, but over the last six years the teams have split 3-3. Both teams are currently 6-1, the Badgers having lost to UConn in the Virgin Islands, and Marquette losing to the University of Dayton last week in Chicago.

The teams match up well against each other with Wisconsin having an advantage in the frontcourt and Marquette generally having an advantage in the backcourt. The two teams are comparable in terms of offensive and defensive efficiency. Marquette has the better raw offensive efficiency at 116 pts/100 poss., but when strength of schedule is factored in Wisconsin has the better efficiency at 115 pts. to Marquette's 110. Both teams allow their opponents 95 pts./100 poss.

The biggest difference between the two teams is the pace at which they play. This should come as no surprise as this is the general MO for both of these teams for all of recent memory. Wisconsin is one of the slowest paced teams in the country averaging 61 poss/game, while Marquette is one of the fastest at 76 poss/game.

Two of Wisconsin's strengths this season have been its defensive rebounding and its outside shooting. Wisconsin is shooing 43% from behind the arc as a team. Therefore, Wisconsin's early success has been on a strategy of limiting the number of possessions, while maximizing their offensive opportunities by making many of their 3's while limiting opponents' second chances on the defensive end. Wisconsin's biggest weakness this season has been their 3 point defense, where they are allowing opponents to make baskets at nearly the same rate.

Marquette, on the other hand, has succeeded this season at getting to the free throw line and at grabbing offensive rebounds. Marquette has been at its best when its guards drive to the basket, which opens up passing lanes and often results in getting fouled. Marquette's biggest weakness has been its shooting in general, but more specifically its 3-point shooting. This may also contribute to Marquette's higher offensive rebound rate.

Therefore, in the game tonight, the biggest thing to look for is which team controls the pace of the game. When Marquette is able to run, they will have the advantage, while when Wisconsin can slow the game down, they will control the game. The teams' weaknesses (3-point defense, 3-point shooting) should generally cancel out. At Marquette's end of the court, we will need to watch who is winning the battle for the boards. Is Wisconsin getting lots of defensive rebounds, limiting Marquette's scoring opportunities? or is Marquette getting the offense boards, and the second chances to make up for their generally lower shooting percentage?

It should make for a very good game, for those of you who have ESPNU, as the game was bumped down to show more of the college football games on tonight.

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