| ||Tuesday, March 14|
Special to ESPN.com
|This is a great matchup of two quality teams that have strong similarities. Both teams play great man-to-man defense, but neither team has the ability to overpower other quality teams. A 10-point deficit against Wisconsin is like trailing another team by 20, and likewise with Wake Forest. Both teams are very well-coached, and like all teams with good coaching, they run their stuff until they get what they want. Neither team has incredibly athletic personnel, but each team has some very good athletes.
Two things are very important in this game: rebounding and being strong with the ball. Wake Forest has size up front, and Wisconsin can match that. Neither team shoots an eye-popping percentage from the perimeter, although the Deacons have the better corps of shooters. With the Badgers' defensive ability, it is crucial for Wake Forest to take good care of the ball and make good decisions in the halfcourt. If they do not, it could be one and out, and Wake will put a tremendous amount of pressure on its defense to make stops.
When Wake Forest has the ball
A key for Wake Forest on offense is balance. Dave Odom, the most underrated coach in the ACC, has good lineup flexibility with this group, and can go 10 deep. When O'Kelley has to do it alone, the Deacons become very one-dimensional and easy to defend. Wake Forest has a number of weapons, including sophomore Darius Songaila, a very skilled forward with an aggressive mentality. Songaila has very good post moves and can get to the hole with good instincts -- his problems have come primarily from foul trouble, where he has found himself on many occasions. If he can avoid the cheap fouls and frustration whistles, Songaila has the potential to be an all-league performer.
The inside combo of Raphael Vidauretta, Josh Shoemaker, Antwan Scott and Tate Decker provides Odom with experience and depth to combat Wisconsin's physical presence. O'Kelley and Craig Dawson are Wake's primary perimeter shooting threats. Watch for Josh Howard, a freshman wing guard, to be an explosive performer with the ability to get a tip dunk or make a big play off the dribble, and look for Nikki Arinze to be a defensive stopper capable of defending both post and perimeter players.
When Wisconsin has the ball
The Badgers run a unique offense that has been called "runners and blockers," which is a triangle type of offense. The runners are usually perimeter players who receive down screens, back picks (with slip screens) and flair screens after which the runners look to make cuts to the basket. The blockers set the screens and post up, after which they crash the offensive glass. There is a lot of screen and re-screen action, so once a defender survives a screen, another one is often coming that will spring a player. Every Badger moves without the ball, and Wisconsin runs this motion for the majority of the game. They make great reads, and therefore call set plays very sparingly. This is a tough team to scout, and a difficult team to prepare for.
The leaders of this team are likely to be Mike Kelley, the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, and Mark Vershaw. Vershaw is the best inside player the Badgers have, and has the potential to be a top-flight scorer. He is tough, strong and skilled. Jon Bryant and Andy Kowske are both returnees who provide experience and quality decision-making on the floor, and Maurice Linton and Charlie Wills can guard people inside or outside. Wisconsin can defend anybody, anytime, anywhere. The question is, without Sean Mason's ability to get big baskets all by himself, will Wisconsin he able to score enough points?
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