Well, this is what it looks like when you play against a really talented team that consistently plays excellent defense. It'd take to long to outline the avalanche of errors that occurred in UW's 20 plus point loss at Duke-- the missed shots, poor passes, missed front ends of one and ones, their totally eliminating UW's height advantage with superior quickness, the missed bunny-fest, Butch getting blocked by someone 7 inches shorter, etc. So I'm just going to talk about two main things.
First, the way Wisconsin failed to respond to Duke's pressure defense. Duke knew that UW likes to skip the ball around the outside in effort to get a clean feed to the post, and that the team feels most comfortable when it's moving the ball back and forth, making crisp clean passes. So they got their defenders up in UW's face, and prevented them from making those easy perimeter passes. Every pass became contested. When that happens, your players have to be aggressive with their dribbling, and get past their man. Then, when the help comes, make an extra pass to the teammate who opens up. UW usually failed to do this in the first half, and when they did little came of it. Instead, they forced passes and looked flustered. This lead to turnovers, and Duke is an athletic, skilled team, which took the TOs and turned them into points. It certainly didn't help matters that Wisco's best penetrator, Trevon Hughes, got into early foul trouble, or that Hughes was starting his first road game and his first nationally televised game.
Second, the way Sconnie's defense played in the first half. Wisconsin also plays man-to-man D, but doesn't pressure as tightly as Duke because, except for Flowers and Hughes, they don't have the individual quickness to stop good dribble penetrators, and they don't want to draw unnecessary fouls. In this game, it seemed like they were too worried about guys getting to the basket, because they gave up open-three pointers again and again in the first half. They'd collapse to help on dribble penetration (except for Hughes and Flowers Duke was noticeably quicker across the board), and seemed to totally forget about the perimeter. And Dukie loves the three-point shot. How many did they make in the first half? 8 or 9? Ugh. I guess it was short of a pick-your-poison deal with Duke. Either sacrifice the help on drives, or give up open outside looks. That's what a really good team will do to you.
And I think Duke is a very good team. That was probably the best team UW will face all year, a top 5 team nationally. I would definitely put them ahead of Indiana and Michigan State, the two preseason conference favorites. And Cameron looked very loud-- it's probably a tougher place to play than any venue in the Big Ten.
Thankfully, UW is a team that has some serious growth potential. This was only the team's sixth game without Alando, Chappel and Taylor. (Unlike last season, the team didn't go on any international preseason tour.) Maybe Duke eased up its defensive pressure, but in the second half Flowers, Landry and Krabbenhoft all looked far more aggressive. And it was great to see Jon Leuer play some meaningful minutes and contribute, even if it was only because Butch was in foul trouble. I know Flowers, Landry and the Hoft are far from rookies, but they're still learning how to be assertive on offense, and I'd expect them all to improve as the year goes along. And Leuer, Bohannon, and Hughes all should get better as they get more experience this season. This was a heavy blow to UW, but one they can learn from and use as motivation. I'm sure they'll lose more games as the season progresses, but none will be as lopsided as this.