Chatting with the Enemy: Hoops Marinara

Dylan Burkhardt

Michigan heads to Madison on Wednesday to take on the pesky Badgers. Phil from Hoops Marinara, our favorite Wisconsin blog, was nice enough to answer a couple questions about Wisconsin thus far. I also answered some questions about Michigan, which you can read here.

leuerWhat has Wisconsin done to cope with losing Jon Leuer to injury? Also, what’s the latest on Leuer’s injury status, when is he expected to return?

In the absence of Leuer, Wisconsin has committed to small ball. Bo Ryan is starting sophomore Jordan Taylor in a three-guard approach right now. The Badgers used this look a lot before, but now Taylor is being asked to take on about 10 of Leuer’s 28 mpg right off the top. Bo has also indicated his rotation will be more situational without Leuer, depending on the quickness and size of the opponent. Leuer will be replaced by committee.

Some are predicting Leuer could return in 4-6 weeks from last Tuesday’s surgery, but I really doubt you will see him back during the Big Ten regular season. The bone he broke in the left wrist is a tricky one medically (it’s complicated), so I think they will play it safe. But most people are expecting that he will be able to play in the Big Ten tournament.

Is Wisconsin underrated? Ken Pomeroy has them as his #6 team in the country but they are just cracking the top 20 in both polls.

Pomeroy and tempo-free statistics have traditionally liked Wisconsin — due to its defense, care for the ball and overall offensive efficiency — while the team’s national reputation lagged behind. However, the Badgers actually were as high as #13 in the AP poll before the Ohio State loss. At this juncture, I think Wisconsin is right where it should be rated. The Badgers could be special with Leuer, but will be their normal Top 25 selves until he returns. The backcourt leadership gives them a good shot in any game.

If you were game planning against Wisconsin, what are two weaknesses that you would try to exploit?

Two things in particular go hand-in-hand considering the current situation. One annual weakness that has been alleviated somewhat by Taylor’s emergence is dealing with extended pressure to the guards in the half court. This approached worked early in the season for Gonzaga, a team with some length at guard, and I would still try it if I was Michigan. Secondly, go to the hoop and get Keaton Nankivil in foul trouble. He will oblige often times by being slow to rotate on help defense. With the front court a little thin, there is not much Big Ten-ready size behind Nankivil. So if you suffocate the perimeter, you may give up some guard penetration, but there may not be anyone dangerous enough down low to may you pay for over committing to Hughes, Taylor and Bohannon.

trevon-hughesTrevon Hughes has been playing like an All-Big Ten first team performer, tell me a little bit about how his game has matured this year

For starters, Hughes is much more capable driving to his left this season. By correcting that flaw, he’s opened a whole new can of worms. This year he has been deadly from long-distance (42%) and his overall shooting is better. Hughes has been able to hunt his shot more with Taylor taking over some ball handling duties. But Pop’s leadership and ability to take over games when needed has really made him the team’s MVP thus far. He has earned a long leash from Bo and is taking advantage.

Taylor vs Cal PolyBeyond Hughes and the injured Leuer, who’s another player that has stepped up this year for Wisconsin?

Taylor Jordan is the biggest reason Wisconsin is exceeding expectations. It’s rare that a second-year player gets this much burn at Wisconsin, but Taylor has improved almost every aspect of his game. His shooting is much more accurate and he is more aggressive getting to the rim (and finishing). Taylor sports a 3.4:1 assist-to-turnover ratio and dropped 23 on Purdue in the recent Badger win.

What’s your prediction for Wednesday’s game?

I expect Wisconsin to defend the home court with a victory. I think there are still struggles ahead while UW is shorthanded, but I cannot see Michigan being the team to take advantage of the Badgers in the Kohl Center. I say 65-58, Wisconsin.

  • Azad

    Anyone think we’ve got a legitimate chance tomorrow?

    The team’s gotta be feeling the best that it has all season, but for whatever reason we just cannot come out strong on the road. And unfortunately, this is not Penn State…

    That said, no Leuer is huge for us, considering how he destroys us, and that it limits their size. I feel like it all comes down to supporting guys making 3s, can we get Stu/LLP/Novak + any random contributions from Vogrich/Anthony Wright to support Manny and Deshawn?

    I am just trying to keep some unrealistic hope in my head that we can put together a good conference season, a great B10 tournament run, and sneak back into the tournament. A couple wins in these next few games would help.

  • maxwell’s demon

    I think we have a far better chance of winning tomorrow than Saturday.

  • steve

    i do think the absence of leuer is huge. i remember when he was a freshman and at crisler he had like 24 points off the bench (and couldnt miss). everyone was like who is this guy? now he was probably their best player or at least on the interior. i still think it would be hard for this team to go into the kohl center and win (theyre like 84-10 under bo ryan) but like maxwell i agree that tomorrow is a better shot than at purdue. if we could just get one of these two on the road that would do wonders. although both wouldnt hurt :)

    Go Blue!

  • Deacon Blues

    Agreed — U-M has strangely been much more competitive against UW at Kohl than at Crisler lately. We were right there in the final minute the last two years. Not likely but not impossible.

  • Giddings

    The story is the same whenever we go on the road to play a legit team – if the threes aren’t falling, we have basically zero chance of winning.

  • mike

    This guy is crazy. I give Wisconsin like no chance of winning as long as we can’t hit nothing. Without Leuer they dont have much of a back court at all.

  • mike

    front court i mean

  • Azad

    In all honesty it doesn’t matter what Wisconsin has, so long as they are on their homecourt and they’ve got Bo Ryan coaching, you have to play a REALLY good game to win, i think this is going to require our best game of the season so far to get a win

  • timeout1993

    I don’t really understand why Wisconsin’s home advantage is so great
    — they generally weren’t picked to be a top-5 team in conference, and yet the mantra is that “nobody can win the kohl center” — and as such, I have no clue what we have to do to beat them.

    I imagine it involves the usual: superlative performances from Harris and Sims, LLP and Morris stepping up, making some attempt at having an inside presence, and a temporary hiatus from brick-shooting for Novak and Douglass (harsh but cmon). Vogrich we can take or leave.

  • Drew

    It’s going to take the fluke of all flukes for us to be even in the game in the last 5 minutes. While I’d love to see the upset more than anything, this team just does not lose at home in conference play, especially against a mediocre Michigan team. That said… Go blue.

  • No one can win at the Kohl Center because well… they can’t. Wisconsin is something like 130-10 under Bo Ryan at the Kohl Center and they have lost to only 7 different teams I believe.

    One thing to note, Michigan played surprisingly well in Madison last year before letting the wheels fall off down the stretch. I think that performance gave them some confidence heading into Minnesota for the season finale and we know how that turned out.

    This team loves to be the underdog, I hope they understand what they are playing for.

  • timeout1993

    I guess the answer is hire Bo Ryan. If only UM had that kind of irrational, intangible advantage at Crisler, but I guess “living and dying by the three” kinda precludes it.

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  • Azad

    We’re a team that lives and dies by the 3, and we were 319th in the country in 3 point percentage before the Uconn game…and almost everyone in the starting lineup is playing out of position-

    I guess the better question is, how did this work so much better last year?

  • Kevin

    I guess the only thing that gives me hope is that this team (actually more last year’s team) thrives in the underdog role. Imagine beating UCLA, Duke, UConn, and hopefully Wisconsin and MSU in a two year stretch. Here’s to an upset!

  • Sam

    Dylan, just thought I’d let you know that the link to you answering questions at Hoops Marinara is faulty. It reloads and then just enlarges the picture of Leuer.

  • ToBlav

    That link worked for me.

  • Dylan

    Yeah it was broken before. Should work now

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