Coming off a lopsided 87-48 win over North Carolina State, which helped cement the Big Ten as the victors in the Big Ten-ACC challenge for the second consecutive year, the Wisconsin men's basketball team has switched their focus to South Dakota.
After beating up on the North Dakota Fighting Sioux earlier in the season, the Badgers will be looking to achieve domination over both Dakotas when the Coyotes invade the Kohl Center Saturday afternoon.
Unlike a majority of the Badgers' mid-major opponents, South Dakota has a sizable disadvantage around the rim. The Coyotes have only one player on their roster over 6'8"": Trevor Gruis, a 6'9"" freshman leading his team with an average of 5.7 rebounds per game. In contrast, Wisconsin freshman Josh Gasser is averaging close to that mark as a guard with five rebounds per game.
The Badgers may have the edge on paper, especially in the post, outrebounding opponents this season by an average margin of 7.9 boards per game and outblocking their foes 39 to 19. But Wisconsin will need players like Gasser on the perimeter to continue to be aggressive not only defensively, but on offense as well.
""We need some experience at guard, on the perimeter,"" head coach Bo Ryan said.
Outside of the early-season's dynamic duo of senior forward Jon Leuer and junior guard Jordan Taylor, who are averaging 18.7 and 14.4 points per game, respectively, the Badgers have struggled to find consistency.
""Jordan Taylor understands what it takes,"" Ryan said. ""He knows what makes a team more effective than not. He's always had the green light.""
As the season progresses, though, Wisconsin must find a dependable third option.
""We are going to keep improving as the year goes on—finding different guys and different rotations,"" Taylor said.
In both of the Badgers losses this season Taylor and Leuer have shot under 50 percent, and the rest of the team had difficulty finding a rhythm.
""A lot of times our role players get wide open looks, so they have to be in position to score,"" Ryan said. ""If you're getting good looks and aren't hitting shots, then you need to ... get to the free throw line.""
""Missed shots tend to compound themselves,"" he added. ""You have to have more of the positive runs and not the droughts.""
To help spur game-changing runs rather than the debilitating droughts, Wisconsin has to find the open man in Ryan's swing offense.
""We are always looking for one another,"" Leuer said ""We are an unselfish team. That's definitely one of our strengths.""
""People aren't here to get their own points or anything like that, senior forward Keaton Nankivil said. ""We all have to be willing to shoot the open ones and take the right shots.""
The Kohl Center is good to the Badgers, though. Wisconsin is 139-11 at home under Bo Ryan. However, there will be one Coyote looking forward to his visit to the Kohl Center.—junior guard Charlie Westbrook, a Milwaukee native, leads San Diego with 15.9 points per game, hopes to make a splash in his return to Wisconsin.