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NIT: North Texas vs Wisconsin

LAS VEGAS — The Mean Green are at the end of the McCasland era, if all the tea leaves and message boards and McCasland’s tone-on-radio-interviews are to be believed. The end of this tournament means the end of Grant McCasland as head coach. It might as well be with a trophy ceremony. The Mean Green start with Wisconsin, another tough defensive team that takes care of the ball and has bigs who like to post up and get buckets.

What does Wisconsin do well?

  1. Defensive Efficiency – They have a Defensive Efficiency that ranks 23rd in the nation.  Wisconsin only allows their opponents to shoot 31.7% from behind arc.
  2. Ball Security – They have a Turnover % that ranks 2nd in the nation.  They only turn the ball over 8.5 times a game which is tops in the country.
  3. Defensive Rebounding & 2nd Chance Opportunities – They don’t get a ton of defensive rebounds per game (23.8, 255th) but that’s due to the low possession numbers in their games. They do clear opportunities though. Their Defensive Rebound % ranks 40th. Wisconsin also doesn’t allow many points from offensive rebounds. The Badgers 7’0 big man Steven Crowl averages 5.44 defensive rebounds per game (106th nationally).

Where is Wisconsin Weak?

  1. Offensive Rebounding – They rank 319th in offensive rebounds per game (7.91). Their offensive rebound % is 22.6 which ranks 339th per kenpom. The Badgers also struggle to convert second chance opportunities (348th). 
  2. Mid-Range Shooting % – Wisconsin shoots 35.3% from the mid-range (296th). If North Texas can keep Wisconsin from getting shots near the basket and defends the 3pt line like they normally do, then the Mean Green should be able to hold Wisconsin under 52 points. 

Who Gets the Rubin Jones Matchup?

We believe that there are two options, Chucky Hepburn or Connor Essegian. Hepburn is the PG for Wisconsin and is heavily involved in each Badger possession. He might be their most athletic guard. Hepburn dictates a lot of the success for Wisconsin so that’s why we believe Rubin could get this matchup.  Essegian is a 6’4  FR wing with the ability to light it up from the outside. He leads Wisconsin in 3pt shots made this year. 

Hepburn seems like the most likely choice for the reason that he can score at every level. His physical style could create a problem for guys like Perry and Huntsberry. 

X-Factor Player – We will go with Aaron Scott. Facing a team that is so good with defensive rebounding it will be crucial for North Texas to create extra opportunities. We think that Wisconsin who isn’t a shot blocking team will do a pretty good job of establishing block out position vs Sissoko. That leaves Scott to create opportunities.  He’ll have 6’9 Tyler Wahl guarding him. Wahl is a decent defender and good defensive rebounder. How Scott handles Wahl on the defensive end will also be important. He must stay out of foul trouble. North Texas doesn’t have anyone behind Scott to guard Wahl. If Scott does get into foul trouble your going to see Eady or Stone guarding him. Wahl would likely be able to win against them. 

North Texas Keys to the Game:

  1. Free throw rate. Wisconsin does not get to the free throw line much. They rank 340th in FT rate, but North Texas also ranks low (339th) in defensive FT rate. Meaning North Texas puts their opponents on the FT line a bunch. Wisconsin is 13-4 when their FT rate is above 24%. North Texas has only had a defensive FT rate of under 24% in 4 games this year. The FT rate is also important for North Texas. North Texas is 17-1 when their offensive FT rate is above 31%. Wisconsin has only had a defensive FT rate of above 31% in 13 of their games this year. They went 4-9 in those games.
  2. Three Point Attempt Rate. Wisconsin gets 36.1% of their points from behind the arc. They are a better team when most of their points and shots are actually coming from inside 3pt line. When under 40% of their shots are 3’s they are 12-4. North Texas is 22-5 when their opponents attempt under 40% of their shots from 3.  
  3. Handing the Size. Wisconsin is a big team. They rank 82nd in average height. Their length could bother the shot making ability of North Texas. We don’t expect Wisconsin to block a ton of shots, but just challenging the shots with their height could be problematic for the Mean Green. Abou Ousmane is not expected to play this week, and this is the game where the size disparity matters most. Moulaye Sissoko was very good vs OSU and their size, but North Texas was able to force OSU to change up some of their offense. Wisconsin doesn’t seem like a team that will go away from what makes them successful.
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