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Friday, July 11, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 74.0° F  Light Rain
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SPORTS

Badgers men's hoops need to get it inside


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Bo Ryan's Badger basketball teams are best known for stifling man-to-man defense, a patient half-court offense meant to generate high-percentage shots, and the propensity to sink more free throws in a game than the other team attempts.

The Badgers' offense is designed to be highly efficient, and they're averaging 1.13 points per possession so far this year, while the defense is giving up just 0.8 points per possession, according to stats guru Ken Pomeroy's formula. Those numbers would normally predict success, so why are the Badgers 1-2 in the Big Ten and, more importantly, 1-3 against decent teams?

I'm defining "decent" as those in the top 68 of the national Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), which ranks teams by winning percentage and schedule strength. The Badgers (ranked 51st, according to CBSSports.com) have lost to North Carolina (15), Marquette (21) and Michigan State (6) and beaten UNLV (10).

In those four games, the Badgers have shot 29% from three-point range, compared to 37% on the entire season.

Ryan's defense attempts to nudge and bump opposing shooters and make them square up from just a little farther away from the hoop, just outside their comfort zone. It seems Wisconsin's opponents are starting to learn that lesson themselves.

How can they make up for this? Junior forward Jared Berggren nailed it after Wisconsin hit just three of 28 three-point shots (10.7%) in a 72-65 home loss to Iowa (149 RPI) last Saturday when he said, "On a night like that, we've got to do a better job of getting the ball inside, not settling for jumpers as much."

Nights like that have been pretty common lately.

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