The Gophers have lost 14 of the last 15 trips they’ve made to Madison.
Well, part of the reason is because Bo Ryan's squads play solid, and discombobulating defense.
You can say what you want of the Badgers' style (it’s not the prettiest to watch, it’s not the most interesting to view, it’s mind-numbing, it’s killing the sport, whatever it is you say), but the truth is, their defense is proven. You might not like it, but it works.
After leading the nation in scoring defense a year ago, the Badgers have only dropped to No. 8 this season, allowing an average of 55.4 points a game.
“Most people that work on defense, are always trying to say ‘OK, we’re going to try to do something that they’re not facing every day in practice,’” Ryan said. “It isn’t like you’re tricking anybody but you try to keep constants, you try to keep absolutes on where you want the ball to go, where you don’t want the ball to go, entry angles …
“I don’t want to make it sound like it’s some math class, but it does involve five guys working together and it’s something people have to work at and you have to care. It has to mean something to you. Not lip service, but you’ve got to make sacrifices to limit people in what they’re trying to do offensively.”
Therein lies the problem.
Let’s face it: the Gophers have not played well against tough or odd defenses. They struggled against Northwestern’s 1-3-1 on Wednesday – they often struggle against any zone at all, or even just really harassing man-to-man pressure. At the start of the season, the Gophers were able to play good enough defense of their own to hold on while they made adjustments. In the last three games, they simply haven’t made enough adjustments.
Doing that today, and snapping out of the three-game losing streak, will be critically important if the Gophers want to revive their season.
“We’re too good of a team (not to pull out of this funk),” Trevor Mbakwe said. “We had a tough stretch, played 4 of 6 games against ranked teams. In a lot of those games, we shot ourselves in the foot and beat ourselves. You turn the ball over 15-plus times against top teams, you’re going to lose. There hasn’t been a game where we were outplayed for 40 consecutive minutes.”
· Watch today’s game on Big Ten Network.
· Listen to today’s game live on 1500-a.m.
· In today’s Star Tribune: the bench – which has struggled throughout B1G play – will be key in beating Wisconsin.
· More about today’s matchup here.
· National notebook: How Ben McLemore came to be Kansas’ best player, PLUS what’s all this about bagels?
· On the blog: In the Gophers’ slump, who is dropping the ball, according to Tubby?
· I covered a Gophers’ women's hockey game yesterday, and they broke yet another NCAA record.