Fresh off winning the Battle 4 Atlantis, No. 14 Syracuse (6-0) returns to the Carrier Dome tonight to meet Wisconsin (4-3) in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. It will mark the first meeting between the two teams since they played in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
Below, Phil Mitten from SB Nation's Wisconsin blog Bucky's 5th Quarter stops by to talk all things Badgers basketball. Join us, and make sure to follow Phil on Twitter and visit Bucky's 5th Quarter for Wisconsin coverage.
With three early losses, this obviously isn't the start to the season Wisconsin fans envisioned. Is it panic time in Madison? Or is it way too early for that?
Maybe a little too early for panic, but definitely on high alert. The Western Illinois loss was horrible. You might be able chalk it up as a once-a-decade calamity if it weren't for the signs of trouble in the following games, wins and losses alike. The lack of a reliable third scorer, turnovers from younger and less experienced players, and suspect defense have been concerning. On the other hand, with the hand Bo Ryan was dealt this season, plenty of bumps were expected, including losses to Georgetown and Oklahoma.
In June, Bo Ryan announced this season would be his last. But at a charity golf event in August, he said he might coach another four or five years. Is there any general consensus feeling on his future? Do you think this is his last run, or should we expect to see him on the sideline for at least a couple more seasons?
Like I said when I previewed the Oklahoma game, my gut tells me Ryan will coach through the 2016-17 season. There is nothing close to a consensus around here, however. Most people have given up trying to get a straight answer from Ryan about his future plans, since he prefers to use metaphors about hamburgers to answer those questions. I suppose he doesn't owe it to any of us to set an official retirement -- he's more than welcome to keep winning at Wisconsin for as long as he likes. My hunch is that he won't hang around too much longer but finishing up with Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig.
Wisconsin has seemed to struggle defending the 3. Considering the success the Orange have had from beyond the arc, how concerning is that ahead of this game?
Huge concern. Oklahoma's 4-of-12 performance on Sunday was only the third time all season that Wisconsin held an opponent to under 50% on three-pointers. The defensive switches on the perimeter I've seen through seven games have generally not been very crisp or effective. The good news is there doesn't seem to be too much of a correlation between how good a team is at shooting three-pointers coming into the game with the Badgers. They all have about an equal chance of going off. Hopefully that tempers Syracuse's ability to sling wildfire from deep.
With the departures of Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker to the NBA, Bronson Koenig has seemingly done a nice job shouldering a bigger scoring load thus far. What should Syracuse fans expect to see from him?
Koenig has a pure shooting motion and remains cool under pressure to provide Wisconsin with the floor leader it desperately needs. He has done a very good job of creating space for his jumper so far this season. Two factors are working against Koenig though. First, if Syracuse keys on him, no other Badgers have really stepped up to make the defense pay from long distance. Secondly, when he's not hitting outside shots (he has had a couple off nights already), Koenig is not always eager to mix it up inside with dribble penetration to compensate. That will be even harder to do against a zone.
Is there a particular Syracuse player that concerns Wisconsin fans the most?
I wouldn't name any one particular player; it's more the Syracuse style/approach/system. Part of that is because of the turnover of the Orange roster too. But running out lengthy athletes at every position plus a few shooters with no conscience is always going to give Wisconsin problems. What's more is that this season the Badgers are less equipped to crack a zone than ever before. Zak Showalter has shown signs of life as an outside shooter, but Koenig is still they only guy I have full confidence in from 3-point land.
Prediction time: Who wins tonight?
I'm looking forward to this non-conference game perhaps more than any other, but I doubt it has a happy ending for Badger fans. Both Hayes and Koenig need to have good games to have a chance, and we haven't seen that often yet this season. Syracuse 69, Wisconsin 61.
Thanks to Phil for stopping by and, again, be sure to check out Bucky's 5th Quarter if you're looking to read up on the Badgers.