By TOM LEA
No. 4 Wisconsin didn’t have any issues moving past No. 13 Montana in the second round of the NCAA tournament Thursday afternoon. Now, with a trip to the ‘Sweet 16’ on the line things get a bit tougher.
Here are three things to key in on during UW’s third round game against No. 5 Vanderbilt.
1.) Defending the perimeter
John Jenkins, Vandy’s leading scorer and one of the nation’s best 3-point shooters, is the ringleader of Vanderbilt’s perimeter shooting. Though he’s one of the best at his craft he’s not the only one that is capable of knocking down deep shots for the Commodores.
Senior forward Jeffrey Taylor and senior guard Brad Tinsley also average better than 40 percent from distance. That makes three players capable of lighting up UW’s nation-best scoring defense.
“Coach Ryan always preaches it,” UW junior Mike Bruesewitz said. “Teams beat you from behind the three-point line and getting to the rim and getting free throws. But if a team can beat you with contested two-point jump shots, you’ve got to clap your hands and say you guys were better than us today.”
2.) Hungry, hungry Badgers
Considering the amount of success Wisconsin has had during Bo Ryan’s 11-year tenure in Madison it’s understandable why Mike Bruesewitz wouldn’t be happy with last season’s run to the ‘Sweet 16.’
With another chance to reach that level of tournament play on the line Saturday afternoon, Bruesewitz and his teammates are plenty motivated to not only get back to the ‘Sweet 16,’ but make it even further.
“I think we’re extremely hungry,” Bruesewitz said. “We got a little taste of it last year, but we always want more. That’s kind of our motto. It’s kind of how everybody in our locker room is. We always want more. We always want better. We challenge each other every day and try to get better every day.
“I think last year was a good treat, but we want more.”
3.) Big man battle
Wisconsin center Jared Berggren has gone up against the likes of Jared Sullinger, Cody Zeller and Adreian Payne throughout the course of the regular season. He’s played pretty well against most of those guys so he should have plenty of confidence entering his matchup with Vanderbilt’s 6-foot-11, 255-pound Festus Ezeli.
The Commodores senior center averages nearly 10 points and six rebounds per game. He’s also shooting 53 percent from the floor. His dynamic in the post, combined with Jenkins’ perimeter shooting will make it tough for the Badgers to defend.
“He’s a monster,” UW senior guard Jordan Taylor said. “He’s an imposing force down there. He’s deserved all the credit he’s garnered throughout his career. I think Jared and Ryan (Evans), whoever draws him, will be more than ready for the challenge. As a team I think so too.
“It definitely is going to be a challenge, but we’re looking forward to it.”
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