Wisconsin Badgers: Three Keys To Victory

By Randy Sherman

Bo Ryan and the Wisconsin Badgers find themselves in the National Championship game. By defeating Kentucky 71-64 and halting the Wildcats’ undefeated season, the Badgers have the opportunity to claim their first title since 1941.

Standing in the way are the Duke Blue Devils. Wisconsin and Duke played one another on December 3, 2014 as part of this year’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Duke won the game 80-70 in Madison.

Let’s take a look back at that contest and see what can be learned from the game that might give us a preview of tonight. Here are three keys to victory for Wisconsin:

Counter Duke’s Pressure Defense

In Duke’s semifinal win over Michigan State, the Blue Devils disrupted the Spartan’s sets by extending their defense and destroying the timing and spacing of their offense.

Duke used this same tactic in the early season matchup to disrupt the rhythm and timing of Wisconsin’s offense. In the photo below you can see Duke playing the passing lanes and pushing the Wisconsin offense away from the basket.

Passes trigger actions in The Swing and Coach K’s game plan was clearly to deny passes and force the Badgers into one-on-one play.


Wisconsin used some high ballscreens and special entries into The Swing to combat the pressure. They were also able to convert on backdoor opportunities due to Duke overplays. (See video below)

[iframe id=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/jr8kp4uHR74″]

Utilize The Versatility Of Frank Kaminsky

Kaminsky is one of the most unique players in the country. At seven-feet tall his ball handling and shooting range make him a tough cover. Ryan used high ball screens to utilize Kaminsky’s skills.

When Kaminsky is setting the high ball screen he is most often a pick-and-pop player. In the first match-up with Duke, Kamisky was able to pull Duke center Jahlil Okafor away from the basket using this tactic. Okafor’s lateral quickness and ball screen defensive ability on the perimeter have been weak spots all season.

Nigel Hayes also sets the high ball screen and he is almost exclusively a “role” player when setting the ball screen. The Badgers used “roll-and-replace” action to bring Kaminsky to the perimeter and drag Okafor away from the basket. (See video below)

[iframe id=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/xyfzMprU04Q”]

Duke also switched on screen extensively in the first contest. At times it led to size mismatches such as the one pictured below. (6’1″ Tyus Jones on Kaminsky) Wisconsin was able to exploit some poor switches by Kentucky in the semifinals and Kaminsky is one of the Badgers that has the inside/outside ability to penalize the Blue Devils for using this strategy. switch

Stop Middle Drives

In the December preview, Duke shot a staggering 62.5% from the field including 7-12 from three-point range. Many of the easy shots and rhythm threes were created by dribble penetration from the wing over-the-top of Wisconsin defenders (often using side ball screens).


In the video clips below, Duke does damage to the Wisconsin defense by attacking the middle off ball screens, handoffs and dribble penetration.

[iframe id=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/RKGAHpDUTO8″]

The veteran Wisconsin Badgers will face the young but talented Duke Blue Devils for the national championship. Look for these three factors and adjustments from their December match-up to be a key part of the game plan.










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Randy Sherman is the owner and founder of Radius Athletics - a basketball coaching consulting firm - where he consults with basketball coaches at all levels on coaching philosophy, practice planning, Xs & Os and teaching a conceptual style of basketball. While a head basketball coach at the the interscholastic level, Sherman's teams won 197 games in nine seasons.

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