Wisconsin is a computer's dream when it comes to efficiency and performance. The Badgers rank in the top 25 in offensive efficiency, and are #4 in defensive efficiency. Part of this is because the Badgers love to make every possession count, and like to slow the game down to a crawl. Wisconsin plays at an adjusted tempo of 58.4, which is only slightly faster than one team, Western Illinois. Bo Ryan's system relies heavily on fundamental defensive basketball, slowing the pace down, forcing tough shots in the half-court, and capturing defensive rebounds. On offense, the Badgers are primarily a three-point shooting squad, though Jordan Taylor adds an additional factor with his ability to get to the rim. In all, this will be an interesting match-up of strength vs. strength, which is why Vegas has the Commodores at nearly a push line of -1.5. KenPom likes the Badgers a bit more, giving us a 34% chance of winning the game.
Bo Ryan's squad is very disciplined, and the key will be in not letting them dictate the pace. If this game is low-tempo, Vanderbilt will have to match Wisconsin's efficiency, which can be done but is the best way for Wisconsin to win the game. Wisconsin does not turn the ball over much at all, only 15.2% of their possessions. The key weakness to exploit will be if Vanderbilt can get to the offensive glass. For as disciplined as Wisconsin is, they are not as athletic at the 3-5 spots as Jeff, Lance and Festus. Ryan Evans is a very good defensive rebounder and may get a good opportunity to limit Jeff's put back attempts, but Festus and Lance should have opportunities against the less athletic Jared Berggren and Mike Bruesewitz. If Vanderbilt can create second-chance opportunities, they can win the game.
Also of note is that Wisconsin does not draw a lot of fouls. This should allow us to keep most of our athletes on the floor for an extended period of time. Wisconsin's three-point defense has been well-documented, though as Seamus points out, Wisconsin allows 36% on road/neutral courts and hasn't faced as proficient a 3-point shooting team as Vanderbilt all year. I think the three keys to this game will be to shut down Ryan Evans (likely by placing Taylor on him), pound into the paint and let Fez attack Berggren, and finally, try to come up with a way of mitigating Jordan Taylor's offensive output without getting JJ too tired. As Bobby notes, and while Wisconsin is reliant on the three, I wouldn't be surprised to see us play some zone to try and keep Jordan Taylor out of the lane. He will get his, but as long as he doesn't go ape and we have taken Ryan Evans out of the game, Vanderbilt should have a good opportunity to win the game.
VSL will be live-blogging the action (and having a pint or two on this fine St. Patty's Day). Come join in if you're not out and about.