It's been a year of transition both literally and figuratively for the Wisconsin Women's Basketball program to start the 2011-12 season. First year head coach Bobbie Kelsey is trying to install a more uptempo style of play for the Badgers, but it hasn't been easy in year one so far. It's been awhile since we've update you on the goings on within the Women's Basketball program and with 4 days left until the Badgers take on #19/15 Green Bay at the Kohl Center we thought we'd update you on how year one under new leadership is going.
Currently the Badgers own a 4-7 record through their 1st 11 games and are nearing the start of Big Ten play as Green Bay is their final non-conference opponent of the year. They are an o.k. 2-3 at home, but are just 1-4 away from the Kohl Center on the year.
With a losing record in year one, you can expect something is changing for the Badgers, right? Well, they have been playing a vastly different style of basketball under Kelsey and it shows. The Badgers only use a six women rotation for the most part. Five of the six average 24.5 minutes a game or more, with Cassie Rochel adding 16.1 minutes a game off the bench. Coach Kelsey fully admits she expects just about every opponent to try and run her team full court the rest of the way to tire out the small rotation.
It's clear that the new system isn't for all of the former players and it will take some time for Coach Kelsey to get her style of player into the Wisconsin program. However, they have a few really solid players this year.
Leading the way for the Badgers is forward Taylor Wurtz. She's averaging a team best 16.3 points per game while also hauling in a team best 8.3 rebounds per game. Wurtz has been so dominating for this team that she's lead the Badgers in scoring in 9 of their 11 games so far this season. Her lowest point total has been 12. The games not led by Wurtz's scoring have gone to Morgan Paige, who led the team at Kansas (12 points) and at Marquette (16 points).
Unfortunately no other Badgers player joins Wurtz in averaging double figures in scoring. The next closest player is Anya Covington who averages 7.7 points per game and 6.5 rebounds per game.
With those kind of individual numbers you have to think that this team is struggling on the offensive end of the floor and you'd be right. They are shooting only 37.6% from the field and that's just not going to get it done when you are playing Coach Kelsey's style of basketball. Also, the team isn't sharing the basketball the way they'd like, averaging only 11 assists a game and having an assist to turnover ratio of only 0.63 as a team (226th nationally).
However, the biggest culprits in the slow start has been bad guard play, turnovers, and defense. Wisconsin is averaging 17.6 turnovers a game and is only forcing 14 on the defensive end of the floor. Steady ballhandling from the guards would reverse that trend, but starting guards Jade Davis and Morgan Paige both have over 30 turnovers a piece already on the season, combining to contribute over 36% of the teams 194 turnovers on the whole. It also isn't helping that the Badgers are giving up 41.9% shooting to opponents.
This could be a rough overall season as the top half of the Big Ten are all ranked in this week's Top 25 and Wisconsin has to end the non-conference portion of their schedule taking on the best team in the state, Green Bay. Luckily the Badgers play that game and their first two Big Ten games as part of an overall 4 game homestand.
The Badgers don't have it easy to open up Big Ten play as they take on ranked opponents in Ohio State (#12/14), Penn State (#1617), and Purdue (#22) out of the gate. If they can survive that 4 game gauntlet without losing confidence this season may not be lost after all.
It's clear that Coach Kelsey is setting her standards for how she wants this team to play and isn't excepting failure, but using every up and down as a chance for her team to learn and grow as players. What may be an unsuccessful season in terms of wins and losses should be the foundation of a successful future in the end.
Look for more coverage of this team in the weeks to come, starting with full game previews and notes leading up to the big clash against Green Bay on Friday night at 7:30pm Central.