For the first time in the history of the Kohl Center, Wisconsin has lost two home non-conference games in one season.
The Badgers opened up the Kohl Center with their third Big Ten home game in the 1997-1998 season. They didn't play a non-conference game in the building until the 1998-99 season, and ever since then, the Badgers have never lost two non-con games at home in one season. But in '97-'98, the Badgers dumped home games at the Wisconsin Field House to Marquette in the season opener (hey, nice job, guys!) and then to #20 Temple three weeks later.
That was the last time that happened before Western Illinois and UW-Milwaukee came out of Madison with a victory this season.
It's kind of a rare event.
With YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles headed to Madison on Saturday night with their eye on handing the Badgers their third non-con home loss of the season, I think we have to look at the WIU & UWM games to see what those teams did to earn their wins. Let's look at the Four Factors from both games.
First things first, we can determine that the Leathernecks and the Panthers did not win their games by rebounding the ball well. Western Illinois did a good enough job on the offensive glass, but they let the Badgers have their way with their own misses. In the UWM game, the Panthers were just terrible at gathering up their own misses. They did keep the Badgers below their Offensive Rebounding Rate season average, but UW still clearly won that aspect of the Four Factors.
The Badgers also had an edge on both teams when it came to Free Throw Rate. They easily won against WIU, ending up shooting twice as many free throws as the Leathernecks. It was a little different story against UWM, as both teams ended up with a FTR over 50%. While the Badgers ended up with the advantage, statistically speaking, I think this may have worked in UWM's favor. The Panthers played 11 guys in the game, while Wisconsin only used seven. Both teams ended up with the same number of players with four or more fouls, but that was definitively to UWM's advantage as head coach Rob Jeter was more ready, willing, and
Gable able to trust his bench in tight moments, while the Badger players were forced to get a little more lenient on defense because of their fouls.
Turnovers were a bit of a mixed bag. As was the case with free throws against UWM, the Badgers won the Turnover Rate battle against Western Illinois, but you can see how WIU helped themselves. So they didn't force a lot of turnovers. Big deal. They also made sure to value possession of the basketball on their own end, turning it over just 17% of the time. Milwaukee was more successful, as they came out ahead of Madison in that regard. Just like WIU, the Panthers didn't force a lot of turnovers, but they also made sure to give up fewer than the Badgers did.
The big difference in both games came in the most important of the Four Factors: Effective Field Goal Percentage. Both Western Illinois and UW-Milwaukee shot the ball better than the Badgers did. Western Illinois shot the ball A LOT better than the Badgers did, and this is the important point: They didn't do it by shooting threes. Yes, they made 78% of their three-point attempts, which was obviously helpful. But they only shot nine of them. Their real damage was on everything else, going 20-41 inside the arc.
Both teams succeeded at defending the Badgers well, and that might not be a coincidence. Wisconsin doesn't shoot the ball particularly well this season, ranking #262 in the country in eFG%, according to KenPom. That would be their lowest ranked in the KenPom database, as they've never finished lower than #196. Their problem is on threes, where they're only shooting 32%, which ranks them 223rd in the country. Wisconsin also doesn't shoot a lot of threes. Less than 30% of their field goal attempts are three pointers, and that's the lowest that number has been in the KenPom era, too.
So there's the blueprint for Marquette: Protect the ball, shoot the ball well, defend like crazy, and do your best on the glass and at getting to the line. With a little bit of luck added on top as a nice garnish, Marquette can hand Wisconsin their third home non-conference loss in one season, something that hasn't happened since the 1974-75 season. That year, the Badgers lost to Saint Mary's, Stanford, and for the third loss of the year -- oh, look -- Marquette.