Indiana basketball looks to get back on the right side of things on Friday night as it heads to Madison to take on the Wisconsin Badgers.
Head coach Greg Gard is in his eighth season at Wisconsin, entering Friday at 13-4 overall and 5-1 in Big Ten play — coming off of its first loss this week at Penn State. The Badgers are one of the most efficient teams both on the offensive and defensive ends of the floor. Offensively, they rank 6th overall in efficiency with a 120.2 rating. Defensively, they rank 39th overall in the country with a rating of 97.3. Overall, Wisconsin is rated 12th in KenPom’s ratings.
Here is a deep dive into some of the challenges Wisconsin could give the Indiana basketball program.
Wisconsin is led by AJ Storr — a transfer from St. John’s. Like Johnny Davis, Storr is one of the rare athletic guards that the Badgers have had in the last few years. He’s a 6-foot-6 versatile and extremely athletic guard who can do a lot with the ball in his hands. Storr is best when he’s attacking the rim. He’s not super quick, but with his strong frame and length he can score over and through most defenders at or around the rim. Storr has the ball in his hands very often and with his ability to create his own space a large majority of Wisconsin’s offense relies on him. Right now, 33.5 percent of Wisconsin’s shots come from Storr, ranked 22nd nationally, while his usage rate (31.1) is second highest in the Big Ten. While he can hit 3s, he’s only shooting 32.3 percent from three and is extremely streaky. He has just five games with more than one three while he has six games without making one. It’s another dangerous matchup for the Indiana basketball backcourt and one that the IU guards need to control. Indiana needs to force him to be a jump shooter and limit his drives to a minimum. If he does get into the middle of the defense, IU needs to force the ball out of his hands — with just 17 assists to 25 turnovers.
In the front court is veteran forward Steven Crowl. Crowl is a versatile forward who can play inside or out, as well as make plays for his teammates. He has great size at 7-feet but isn’t a banger who will play a lot in the post. Most of his possessions are used at the top of the key as a screener and passer. Because of his frame, he is a great roller and does a tremendous job using his hands and frame to make his body even bigger on the roll. Most of Crowl’s scoring will come at the rim. He is a tremendous offensive rebounder — second in the Big Ten in offensive rebound rate. Crowl has the ability to hit from the perimeter, albeit not a high-volume guy. He is 12-of-22 from three this season. Indiana needs to be aware of Crowl’s passing ability, however. He ranks second on Wisconsin in assist rate and has eight games with at least three assists.
Alongside Crowl is Tyler Wahl. Wahl is a versatile forward who can play out on the perimeter and make plays off of the dribble. At 6-foot-9, he plays more like a big wing and has the athleticism to take opponents off of the dribble. Despite hanging on the wing at times, he’s not a threat from three. Wahl, however, loves to draw contact and play through defenders bodies when attacking the basket. He ranks sixth in the Big Ten in overall free throw attempts, getting to the line five times per game. He’s a 69 percent free throw shooter. He has good length and size and that translates to being a strong offensive rebounder, averaging 2.4 offensive rebounds a game. This will be a difficult matchup, likely for Malik Reneau. Because of Wahl’s ability to score off of the dribble, Reneau must be able to keep his arms up and limit any excess contact on drives.
In the backcourt, Max Klemsit has emerged as a real perimeter threat this season. Klemsit is first on the team in made 3s and percentage at 39.1. 61.3 percent of his shot attempts are from three, with 51.8 percent of his made field goals from three. Klemsit is an extremely effective spot up shooter and that’s when he’s most dangerous on the floor. He’s not going to do a lot off of the dribble, but he has the ability to score as a slasher. In his last three games, he’s averaging 17.3 points while shooting 69.2 percent on 3s (9-of-13). The Indiana basketball backcourt absolutely needs to make him a driver and limit every opportunity as a spot up shooter. There should be no instance when his defender helps off.
Chucky Hepburn is another veteran starter but has really struggled with his shot this season. He’s shooting a career-low 26.4 percent on 3.1 attempted 3s per game and has scored in double-figures in just one of his last 10 games. Over that span, however, he has a 4.7 to 1.0 assist to turnover ratio. Hepburn isn’t going to make a lot of flashy passes, but because Wisconsin does a great job moving without the ball, he has ample opportunities to find cutters. When Hepburn is attacking the basket, he’s at his best but he has struggled creating contact and finishing through contact at the rim. Defensively, Hepburn has taken another step forward. Already a good defender, he’s turned into a very impactful on-ball player. He is fourth in the conference in steals and steal percentage and sixth in defensive +/-.
Off of the bench is freshman guard John Blackwell. Blackwell is an athletic, 6-foot-4 wing who can create off of the dribble, finish at the rim or be an effective spot up shooter. He’s not a high-volume perimeter shooter, just 1.8 3s per game, but is shooting 48.4 percent on the season. Blackwell has great strength for a freshman and tremendous body control when attacking the basket, typically able to finish through contact very effectively. He attempts 3.5 free throws per game in just 18.6 minutes — showing his desire to attack contact.
This is not your typical Wisconsin team that struggles offensively. It’s the most efficient Badgers offense since the National Championship runner up team in 2015. Wisconsin still plays slow, ranking 348th in tempo, but convert at will in a half court setting. How? By attacking the basket. Wisconsin is averaging 20.7 free throws per game and shooting a Big Ten-best 77 percent from the foul line. It has four players attempted four free throws per game. A lot of its action will be three-guard lineups with numerous ball screens and weaving at the top of the key. Because of the passing ability of Crowl and Wahl, they’ll utilize either at the top of the key or high post and utilize their tremendous off-ball movement to create easy scoring opportunities at the rim. Wisconsin only shoots 35.1 percent from three and makes 6.6 3s per game — ranking 280th in total percent of points from three. Indiana basketball needs to be extremely prepared when off of the ball as most of the scoring comes from cutters. And, the Badgers aren’t going to beat themselves, with just a 6.9 opponent steal percentage — the eighth best mark in the country.
Defensively, Wisconsin is tough because it limits offensive rebounds, defends without fouling and has versatility on the perimeter to switch on any ball screen or weave action. The Badgers rank fifth in the country in offensive rebound rate from a defensive perspective, giving up offensive rebounds at just a 22.1 percent rate. It allows just 6.6 offensive rebounds per game — second in the country. In addition, Wisconsin is allowing opponents to get to the foul line just 16 times per game and allow a free throw rate that is nearly 11 percent less than Indiana’s rate. One area that Wisconsin struggles at is rim protection, ranking 347th nationally in block percentage and averaging just 1.6 blocks per game as a team. Despite the lack of rim protection, it’s not because of size or length, so the Indiana basketball bigs will still need to be able to use their versatility to score around Wisconsin at the rim. Wisconsin is also not a team to consistently turn teams over in a live ball setting, ranking 201st in steal percentage.
Overall, Indiana needs to be ready for a fight and a physical contest. And, this could be decided at the foul line. Right now, Wisconsin has made 271 free throws, while opponents have attempted just 279. Indiana has been able to get to the free throw line this season, ranking 24th in free throw rate. But, its 65.7 free throw percentage ranks 326th nationally. And, in the last three games it’s shooting just 47.1 percent from the line on 17 attempts. This won’t be a game that is decided by 3s, unless Wisconsin gets hot due to overhelp. Wisconsin has hit more than seven 3s just five times this season and has nine games with six or less 3s. Indiana basketball must limit live ball turnovers and convert at the foul line — those are the two main keys that have to happen if it wants to end a drought at Wisconsin that has been in effect since 1998.
G – Chucky Hepburn (Junior; 6-2, 211)
Stats: 8.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 4.0 apg
G – Max Klesmit (Senior; 6-3, 180)
Stats: 9.0 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 39.1% 3pt
G – AJ Storr (Sophomore; 6-6, 200)
Stats: 15.3 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 32.3% 3pt
F – Tyler Wahl (Senior; 6-9, 220)
Stats: 11.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.5 apg
F – Steven Crowl (Junior; 7-0, 218)
Stats: 12.0 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.3 apg
- Wisconsin leads the Big Ten in free throw percentage (77 percent)
- The Badgers are averaging 75.6 points per game, the highest total since 1993-94
- Wisconsin has scored 70+ points in 11 consecutive games, the longest streak since 1970-71
- Indiana basketball leads the all-time series 98-79, but Wisconsin has won 23 of the last 27 and 10 of the last 12. IU’s last win at Wisconsin was in 1998 — 19 matchups ago
SEE ALSO: Same lingering trends arise as Indiana basketball gets ‘smacked’ by Purdue — Lack of toughness. Leadership. Pride.
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