NCAA Tournament Preview Southeast Region - First Round (13) Belmont vs. (4) Wisconsin

Thursday, March 17 - 7:27 ET

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The Wisconsin Badgers and the Belmont Bruins are as different as water and oil. The Badgers slow the pace, refuse to turn the ball over, and execute in the half-court at a tremendous pace. Belmont, on the other hand, wants to run at every possible moment, forces a lethal amount of turnovers, and are so efficient at playing at a frenetic pace, it almost tires out its opponent before the end buzzer has sounded, and long since the opponent had any change at victory. In the desert of Tucson on Thursday afternoon, the nation will be privileged to witness a clash of styles sure to be unmatched all Tournament long.

Hailing from the Big Ten, head coach Bo Ryan’s style is nothing short of commonplace. The Badgers excel at the defensive end, and use superior fundamentals in getting the most out of their players. It is a tried and test strategy, and one won that has brought great success to the Wisconsin basketball program over the past decade. Another impressive feat produced by the Badgers is the ability to overcome tough, hard-nose first round opponents from mid-major conferences. Ryan has but one first round loss in his 10 years as coach. During that time, when continually placed in tough first round seeding situations (4 & 5 seed), the Badgers have delivered. Wins over such top level mid-majors like Wofford, Northern Iowa, Richmond, and Weber State have proven that the Badgers know how to put down an insurrection within their midst. With Belmont falling into that same category, Wisconsin has reason to hope.

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With all due respect to all mid-majors currently in the Tournament, the Belmont Bruins are the best of the bunch. Statistically speaking, the numbers which head coach Rick Byrd’s squad have produced this season are nothing short of tremendous. The Bruins ability to play a deep bench and not see a decrease in productivity may very well be a key to this matchup. Belmont shoots the ball tremendously from the field and Ian Clark leads the way. Clark and three other Bruins shoot better than 40 percent beyond the arc. The champions of the Atlantic Sun are also incredibly efficient in the half court and bring a unique intensity to the defensive side of the ball. If there ever were a mid-major created for Tournament play, it is the 2011 version of the Belmont Bruins.

On the other hand, one could not have dreamed up a worse opponent for Belmont to draw in Round 1. Already discussed is the Wisconsin pedigree, what must not be forgotten is the Badgers ability to play the game at their pace. Jon Leuer leads a talented group of battle tested players who simply know how to win big games. Despite beating overall number one Ohio State earlier this season, Thursday night’s contest against a lowly mid-major has now supplanted that game from February. So, what gives on Thursday? Which style of play will emerge victorious?

By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer




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