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UW not seeing size as a big deal

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McClatchy Tribune
March 19, 2009
— Wisconsin received its 11th straight invitation to the NCAA tournament, but the selection committee did it no favors.

The Badgers have had trouble consistently generating offense inside and being physical in the paint. So what do they get matched up with in the first-round?


7-foot-1. 6-9. 6-9.


That’s the size of the Florida State’s frontcourt. You’d be hard-pressed to find more than a handful of the 64 other remaining tournament teams that can match that size.


The Badgers hope to combat all that humanity with 6-10 Jon Leuer, 6-7 Marcus Landry and 6-7 Joe Krabbenhoft and will very likely bring 6-7 Kevin Gullikson and 6-8 Keaton Nankivil off the bench.


“If you don’t have it, you can’t whine about it,” UW coach Bo Ryan said about his height-challenged team. “And if somebody else has it, you can’t whine about it. You just have to find ways to deal with it and that is what we do.”


Consider this a final exam for UW. The Badgers coaches preach that good rebounding and post defense aren’t about size as much as they are about good footwork and positioning.


We’ll see if that is the case at approximately 9 p.m. Friday, when the 12th-seeded Badgers (19-12) play No. 5-seeded Florida State (25-9) in a first-round game at Taco Bell Arena.


So far, it’s hard to dispute the results. The Badgers finished second in the Big Ten with a plus-3 rebounding margin, and their interior defense has improved as the season has progressed.


UW’s lack of size wasn’t a factor against a tall team like Minnesota but was a huge difference in the loss to Michigan State.


Florida State doesn’t batter teams on the boards like the Spartans, but its intimidating presence in the paint is a big reason why it ranks seventh in the nation in field goal percentage defense (38.6%).


Freshman center Solomon Alabi (7-1), who ranks second on the team in scoring (8.5 ppg) and first in rebounding (5.7), averages 2.1 blocks per game and has become a more reliable scoring option as the season has progressed. Senior Uche Echefu is a 6-9 power forward averaging 8.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game and Chris Singleton is a 6-9 freshman small forward whose 52 steals (1 1/2 per game) are second on the team and more than any UW player.


Countering that size and length will be a chore.


On defense, the UW bigs will likely have to deal with a lot of screen action as the Seminoles try to free star guard Toney Douglas.


Offensively, can Landry and Leuer score inside against Florida State’s big men or beat them off the dribble? Can UW turn the Seminoles’ aggressive nature against them?


“They’re definitely big and talented and long and all those things, but once you step on to the court, the hungrier team is usually going to win,” Leuer said. “So we just have to stay hungry and stick to our assignments, stick to our principles and the things we’ve been doing all year.”



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