Ineffective Badgers’ offense almost offensive

Story by Andy Hildebrand, Sports Editor

I want to begin this column by validating myself. My father graduated from the University of Wisconsin. He bleeds cardinal. He gets more amped up for Badger games than he does for Packer, Brewer and Bucks games combined. He’s maybe missed one homecoming football game in the nearly 40 years since he left campus. It’s an obsession, but a mostly harmless one. The unfortunate part of it all is that he passed that trait down to me.

I used to pretend to be Kirk Penney shooting hoops in my driveway growing up. Heck, I’m probably the only person on this campus that even remembers who Kirk Penney is. I’m a Badger basketball fanatic in every way. That’s why when I tell you that I’m fed up with the mutated, festering mess that is Bo Ryan’s offense, you know I really mean it.

I watch the game, I’ve played the game, and I’ve coached the game. I call that the Holy Trinity, and I like to think I know my stuff, at least a little bit. At its core, I love everything Ryan’s swing/motion offense stands for. With the type of recruits he gets, it only makes sense to slow the game down and try to minimize the effect athleticism has on the game. Let’s face it, Wisconsin isn’t beating anybody out in transition. That’s fine. I’ve learned to accept it.

I love the way Ryan makes sure that everyone on the court can shoot the triple. It spreads out the floor and keeps defending bigs from being able to fully commit to the help defense.

Wisconsin traditionally produces tough minded guards who can lock down defensively. They’re thick, they can catch and shoot, and they make their free throws. While they may not be superior athletes, the lane is usually open enough to provide plenty of slashing and back door cuts. When the bigs rotate to the three point line, the guards feel right at home with their back to the basket, posting up on the block. This takes the opposing guards out of their comfort zone.

This all sounds great right? In theory, it’s the perfect scheme for a program like Wisconsin, and it works too. Except I’m more accurately describing Ryan’s first five years than his most recent five.

I understand that this year’s squad has a relatively young and inexperienced back court. I get it, losing Josh Gasser was a huge blow. That doesn’t justify abandoning the game plan.

Last season, the Badgers were comfortable letting the shot clock run down and trusted Jordan Taylor to make a play. It was ugly, and it wasn’t the way the offense was designed to be run. The thing is, this year they sometimes do the same thing. They’ll post their bigs and run a kind of three man weave at the top of the key until the shot clock gets low, then force a three at one of the wings. That’s not controlling the pace of the game, that’s just wasting time.

Using the entire shot clock used to be a point of pride for the Badgers. It meant they knew there were going to get a decent look on most possessions. That sentiment is a far cry from the state of this year’s team.

They need to get back to the basics. They need to move the ball better and post their guards, especially when freshman Sam Dekker is in at the shooting guard position. There are some elite shooters on this team. Let them stretch the defense, but don’t fall in love with it. Get some of those easy looks that the offense was designed to produce.

There are things that a Bo Ryan team will always do well. They’ll play great defense, they’ll rebound, and they’ll shoot from the perimeter. That’s not enough to win in an ever-improving Big Ten conference anymore. Kirk Penney isn’t walking through that door anytime soon. Time to start playing Badger Basketball.