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College Basketball Preview 2014-2015: 2. Wisconsin Badgers

Traevon Jackson
2. Wisconsin Badgers (30-8 in 2013-2014, lost in Final Four)

Projected Lineup:
G Traevon Jackson -- Senior
G Josh Gasser -- Senior
F Sam Dekker -- Junior
F Nigel Hayes -- Sophomore
C Frank Kaminsky -- Senior
Sixth Bronson Koenig -- Sophomore

Bo Ryan's 2013-2014 Wisconsin Badger team did what Bo Ryan's Wisconsin Badger teams do; they played hard defense, rebounded well, were extremely disciplined and passed well. Except, things were slightly different this team around. They were more talented than other teams in Bo Ryan's tenure, helping them reach a Final Four and nearly manage a national championship berth. Now, nearly everybody is back for Ryan and the Badgers, meaning this could well be the most talented team in the history of Wisconsin basketball. With a talented frontcourt, impressive depth and their usual abundance of experienced ball handlers, a championship berth will not elude Wisconsin this season.

BACKCOURT:  The Badgers will only lose one real contributor from last year's backcourt, sharpshooting Ben Brust. While Brust was a great shooter and an experienced leader, Wisconsin has a number of players ready to step up and take over his role. Plus, whoever steps up and fills his void won't see a bunch of minutes right away. Senior Traevon Jackson is a smart, speedy guard who will run the Wisconsin offense. Jackson is gifted with excellent court vision and he is an adept passer, making him the perfect weapon for this team. Fifth-year senior Josh Gasser is also back, and will most likely start at the guard spot alongside Jackson. Gasser has struggled with injuries throughout his collegiate career but he has been really good when healthy. Not necessarily the most athletic guard there is, Gasser relies on his wits and great jumper. Gasser is also a very good defender, whose long arms and body allow him to contend every ball put up. Along with Gasser and Jackson, sophomore combo guard Bronson Koenig is also back, hoping for a big year after a solid freshman campaign. Koenig is also a pretty long, athletic guard who has the chance to see some major minutes. Koenig doesn't have a developed three-point shot yet but he can definitely develop one, and he has the strength to get into the lane and finish in traffic. Two players who received a redshirt a season ago, Jordan Smith and Zak Showalter, will be expected to step up in a big way in 2014-2015. Showalter is perhaps the best pure athlete on the team, who is also gifted with great passing ability and explosiveness. Incoming freshman T.J. Schlundt is going to provide another good shooter who will also play defense.

FRONTCOURT: There were games last season when nobody on the court was at the level of center Frank Kaminsky. The senior center is a legitimate threat for not just Big Ten Player of the Year, but also National Player of the Year. The seven-footer is gifted with excellent all-around versatility. He can pull off and hit a mid range shot, and he can also drain three-pointers at an impressive rate. He still has to grow stronger and more physical inside but he can bang down low if necessary. There isn't a lot of players with his size that can match his speed and versatility, and that's why he has the opportunity to dominate this season. He will be joined in the frontcourt by junior Sam Dekker, who had a strong sophomore season. Entering last season, Dekker was a popular breakout player candidate and he did not disappoint, averaging 12.4 points per game and 6.1 rebounds per game. He could be poised for an even bigger junior year, as he has all the makings for one huge season. The forward has a strong, powerful 6'9" frame that can also attack defenses in a variety of ways. He has a fantastic mid range game and he can also make big plays around the rim. The Badgers are also expecting big things from rapidly improving sophomore Nigel Hayes, and for good reason. Hayes also uses a strong frame to get to the rim and finish. He can really battle on the block, and he has excellent touch on the glass. Along with Dekker, Hayes is a superb rebounder. He is great on the offensive glass and his ability to get put back dunks and hustle points should really help Wisconsin. Another experienced forward, Duje Dukan, enters his fifth year in the Wisconsin program after putting up decent numbers last season, in which he averaged 2.8 points and 1.5 rebounds per game. His eight minutes per game average should likely increase in 2014-2015. He isn't the type of player that can take over games or anything like that, but he is a hard-worker that can play excellent defense down low. Bo Ryan will also welcome in another freshman in three-star forward Ethan Happ, a young talent from Illinois.
Frank Kaminsky
Ethan Happ, No. 35 PF in 2014 Class, Taylor Ridge, Illinois
T.J. Schlundt, No. 82 SG in 2014 Class, Oconomowoc, Wisconsin
(all ratings, locations according to ESPN)

This Wisconsin team will once more be skilled passers, great rebounders and defenders and will play hard. The difference is, this team is stocked with star power that they haven't had in years past. With Kaminsky, Dekker and Hayes leading the way in the frontcourt, and loads of depth in the back, the Badgers may be the most talented team in the entire Big Ten. If they can stay healthy, and not having the early conference play breakdown they had last season, it is reasonable to expect a second straight Final Four berth and possibly beyond.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Badgers all the way!

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