2014-2015 ITH season preview: Wisconsin Badgers

  • 10/03/2014 9:24 am in

With the start of college basketball season on the horizon, we’ll be taking a long look at the conference at large as well as Indiana’s roster over the next month. Today, we wrap up our look at the Big Ten with the Wisconsin Badgers. Our player-by-player look at the IU roster begins on Monday.

There’s an overwhelming favorite in the Big Ten this season and with good reason. Wisconsin, which finished last season 30-8 and narrowly lost to Kentucky in the Final Four, is as big of a favorite as the league has seen in several seasons.

The Badgers welcome back four of five starters and besides Ben Brust, every notable contributor from a team that was a few plays away from the national championship game. Most notable of the returnees are Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker, who have both received numerous preseason accolades and should be in any conversation for preseason Big Ten player of the year.

Kaminsky was arguably the country’s biggest surprise last season as he emerged from a role player into a first team All-Big Ten performer. As noted in our list of the league’s top 25 players, the 7-footer hit 58 percent of his 2s and 38 percent of his 3s a season ago and was also among the league’s best rebounders and shot blockers. Kaminsky is a difficult player to contain because he can score on the block, facing up, in the pick-and-pop and also from behind the 3-point line.

Dekker has a chance to develop into a lottery pick with a strong junior season and has reportedly grown another inch this offseason. He’s now listed at 6-foot-9. As a sophomore, he made 55 percent of his 2s and only turned it over on 10.2 percent of his possessions, the fourth best mark among returning Big Ten players.

The Badgers have a third frontcourt piece, Nigel Hayes, who should be the league’s best sixth man. Hayes used 27 percent of his team’s possessions when on the floor as a freshman and drew 7.3 fouls per 40 minutes. With his size, footwork and ability to finish inside and also step out, Hayes should be a major part of the Wisconsin rotation once again. Senior Duje Dukan will provide depth and experience behind Hayes and Kaminsky and 6-foot-8 sophomore Vitto Brown could also get a chance to play spot minutes.

The Wisconsin backcourt is full of experience as Ryan welcomes back a pair of seniors in Traevon Jackson and Josh Gasser to go along with sophomore Bronson Koenig, who should take over for Brust. Both Jackson (55.9 free throw rate) and Gasser (70.1 free throw rate) are excellent at getting to the foul line. Jackson is one of the league’s best distributors (25.9 assist rate) and hit 38 percent of his 3s as a junior, which was a nine percent improvement over his sophomore season.

Gasser hit 43.1 percent of his 3s as a redshirt junior and is a perfect compliment to the players around him because he takes care of the ball and makes the simple plays. Koenig was outstanding in Wisconsin’s loss to Kentucky, scoring 11 points in 20 minutes. He’s much more aggressive off the dribble than Brust was and is more athletic, but more mistake prone and not as good of a perimeter shooter.

Bottom Line: Wisconsin is a legitimate top five team nationally and deserves all of the preseason accolades it is receiving. Ryan has built a team with five strong upperclassmen and two very talented sophomores that will be hungry for a return trip to the Final Four. The Badgers have the league’s best frontcourt and one of the top backcourts and unlike several Wisconsin teams in the past that came up short in March, this team has the firepower to win games with its offense.

Quotable: “We’ve got four guys who have been around and been through an awful lot. So the personality of this team will be the four seniors and the effect that they have on the younger guys.” – Ryan to UWBadgers.com.

Previously: Rutgers, Penn State, Northwestern, Purdue, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan State, Ohio State, Nebraska, Michigan

Photo credit: Getty Images

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  • Zach

    Definitely class of the B1G this year like many have said. I think they go something like 15-3 or 14-4 in the conference and win it by at least 2 games

  • Snookafly

    I think it’ll come down to either Wisky or Arizona to save us from the likes of another Mildcats title. I see Duke choking again.

  • Snookafly

    I can’t wait to see that Duke game. I’m amazed Krzyzewski didn’t demand a neutral court “away game” after the beating they took the last time they went to Madison. They may be #2 but his teams hate playing on the road– especially early.

  • Gregory Spera

    See that’s the thing, I hate the fact that I kinda understand the rationale for picking us tenth, too. I wish it were a crazier notion.

  • Alford Bailey

    13 straight NCAA’s you just listed and some of us still want to dis the guy, LOL.

  • VAHoosier

    Not the mention that Holt off the bench should be a very strong rebounder…

  • VAHoosier

    Kansas? Maybe. But both Duke and Kentucky have each experienced some very lean years during my lifetime. Remember when Coach K was out for a couple seasons for some health reasons?

    And whoever thinks that IU is the 10th best team in the conference “on paper” should have their head examined.

  • Alford Bailey

    The expectations you and I grew up with just aren’t there anymore. Gotta remember many of the guys you interact with on here think 2002 was the glory years. Log term I see IU and Purdue trending as middle down programs in the league unless serious changes are made.

  • Alford Bailey

    Preach brother!

  • VAHoosier

    I would have agreed with you, but losing Abrams for the season shortened what was already a short bench. Their lack of depth will cost them some games, I think.

  • Ole Man

    As of now, their shooting ability and talent is at least equal….our potential is greater.

  • ForeverIU

    Oh man, Spera already butchered me for the “(even top 8)” mishap. I never before felt so tempted to invoke my ITH right to edit, lol. But let my imperfections stand (corrected).

  • ForeverIU

    Isn’t he so cuddly!

  • CreanFaithful

    If you actually read the through the thread, you would see that I already owned that comment and gave my reasoning behind it. If you would like to debate the reasoning, I’m all ears… My personal opinion is that we will be in the 3-6 range.

  • TomJameson

    That’s quite okay Forever, I love your optimism. I really think nobody know what the heck this team is going to do this year, there is a wide, wide spread of possibilities. lol I like your 3rd conference finish more than 9th, a lot!! lol I personally think (hope) that this team will surprise a lot of folks once they get rolling.

  • TomJameson

    Kinda LOOKS like a badger!!! Watch it!! He’s fixing to bite somebody! hahahahaha

  • HoosierGrampy

    The Bucks may be better w/o Craft, but it is far from being a given: 1) I don’t know what factors you used to determine them to be the most talented, most athletic and perhaps the best defensive team in the B1G. WI, IL, U of M, IA, NE, MSU and even IU have serious talent on their rosters, some pretty darn good athletes and none of the B1G teams has more than 1 proven “lock-down defender”…and some don’t even have 1. 2) Russell is no where near automatic as a shooter, and neither will JBJ for that matter. Each will face defenders who will be better than anyone either of them faced in HS. He may never take a shot he doesn’t like, but that may not translate to the same or greater success than he had a year ago. 3) You may be right that Anthony Lee will be an upgrade over LaQuinton Ross. I happen to think it is highly debatable–Ross had a pretty good year for them, and Lee has new teammates and a new system to learn. 4) Amir Williams has had a tendency to disappear in big games–or become a non-factor. At 6’11 and 250#, he should be putting up Sullinger-type numbers… 5) I believe the absence of Lenzelle Smith, Jr will have a greater and more negative impact on their season than the void left by Aaron Craft.
    The presence of Thad Matta on the sidelines pretty much assures fans and opponents alike that OSU will be respectable. They are far from being a lock to win either the regular season or league championship, IMO.

  • Alford Bailey

    Don’t stick your hand in there!

  • ForeverIU

    I don’t need to. I got the Bo Ryan voodoo doll, remote control, lol.

  • HannerTime Hoosier

    U all crack me up! Kaminsky is the glue to take UWhisky to the National Title! Go Badgers!

  • ForeverIU


  • ForeverIU

    Some people are on a witch-hunt today, and against whom? Against some of the staunchest and most loyal IU fans.

  • b_side

    Interesting look inside the narrative but it doesn’t tell the full picture.

    You also have to layer in the teams Bo lost to. In other words, just because his seed correlated to an expected outcome doesn’t mean it was a success if they lost to a lower seeded team.

    For example:
    2007-08: yes as a 3 seed a Sweet Sixteen is “expected” but they lost to a 10 seed (Davidson aka Steph Curry). Sorry, but that’s not “expected.” They should have advanced but instead got blown out.

    2010-11: as a 5 seed yes they reached their expected Sweet Sixteen, but once again lost to a lower seeded team (Butler #8).

    2012-13: That’s a mistake you listed. Technically a 2nd round game with the new play-in labeled as the “first round.” But really Wisco lost to #12 Ole Miss.

    2005-06: A 9 seed losing to an 8 is not “expected” in my opinion. Thats a total toss up.

  • b_side

    With 14 teams, a top 6 finish is about the same as a top 4 finish back when there were actually 10 teams.

    I’m guessing your expectations are top 3 year in, year out. Whether that’s fair or not is only up to you. But keep mind that since 1989, we’ve finished in the top 3 in 12 out of those 25 seasons. Is that really a “new” reality or just reality?

  • sadashell

    It’s all a wash really. The table above says more about the quality of the seeding because but you’re really playing versus the field. “Expected” doesn’t account for teams that over or underachieve or those that are merely bad choices.

    In 2011 Butler also beat Southeast #1 Pitt and #2 Florida to get to the Final Four. If Wisconsin was expected to win that was only about the committee.

  • Alford Bailey

    Wisky returns 4 starters and Koenig is better than Brust. Ryan usually wins with 5 guys fresh off the dairy farm but this year has seasoned NBA caliber talent. The very definition of a sure thing in the B1G IMO.

  • FinEndNow

    He has Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky… Kaminsky can be a serviceable big man in the NBA… Dekker has disappointed me though. I don’t think he can be on Gordon Haywards level at any point.

  • VAHoosier

    Didn’t mean to be insulting, notwithstanding that my comment could hardly be taken as anything other than that. And no, I had not read ahead to see you claim that comment. I’m happy to debate the point, but not sure there is much reason to since I agree with you that we should fall somewhere in the 3rd-6th range. “On paper,” however, we are much better than 10th.

  • Hjkkkjfkkekkgk

    Your crazy

  • AnonymousDave

    Ehh I’m not big on the whole platoon idea (I might just be a hater but I don’t think so lol). I mean idk if it’ll work but it seems like it has a lot of holes. I’d take Duke’s, UNC’s, Kansas’, and Arizona’s starting five over theirs. Depth is always a good thing, but besides fresh legs,role players (which they don’t have) provide a change of pace.

    As far as Duke goes, I’ll never pick a man who has four rings to choke. They’re a much more well rounded team than they have been the past few years. They have a great balance of shooters, play makers, athletes, and role players. Jahlil Okafor is an absolute monster. Best big man I’ve seen in years. Tyus Jones is a phenomenal passer who himself can score inside an out. Justice Winslow doesn’t get near the amount of attention that he should and I think he ends up having the best college career of the big 3 on his old AAU team (Oubre and Jackson).

  • Snookafly

    I respect Kansas, but they’re young. UNC hasn’t looked scary to me at all the past few seasons. I know they’ve had some good runs, but they just seem streaky against the big boys.
    Duke has choked HARD 2 out of the last 3 tourneys. I’d go so far as to say they wouldn’t have even won the title in ’10 if it wasn’t for their usual “lucky seeding” and getting to play Butler in the Final. K is a great coach, but I think his best years are behind him. Okafor is a beast, but he was able to play lazy in HS and hasn’t proven he can dominate D-1 talent.

  • AnonymousDave

    Arizona was a shell of itself last year in the tournament. The one athletic freak Arizona lost ends up being a addition by subtraction in my mind.Very one dimensional Gordon was. Stanley Johnson has a great all around game. If this was baseball you’d call him a five tool player. Kentucky was sort of athletic but more in the front court and their guards weren’t the sort of lighting quick guards that have caused Wisconsin difficulties. And Baylor? Has there been a season where Baylor isn’t the most overrated team in the nation?

  • AnonymousDave

    See I like UNC’s mix of players this year. Macadoo is another player who I’d consider an addition by subtraction. He seemed uninterested at times. Didn’t make anyone better. They have players who can easily fill that void and seem more team oriented. They have a Spurs type feel to me this year. Just smart and team oriented guys. Honestly I’m very upset we didn’t land Meeks. Most underrated player in the country this year. I knew he was a good passer but holy crap he might be the best passing big man I’ve ever seen. He’ll have two athletic cutters in Tokoto and Pinson to feed and maybe the best scoring pg in the country to throw it out to on the perimeter.

    A lot of these 5 star kids are lazy towards the end of their high school career, but he had better high school competition being from Chicago than most HS big men. Good thing he is going to a veteran coach who is one of the greatest to ever do it. I imagine the first time he sniffs good competition it’ll light a fire under his butt.

    Also I wouldn’t call that title luck. They played 5 games before that, and Butler went back to the championship the next year, after losing Heyward I might add. They’ve had a lot of talent the last few years with Parker, Rivers, the Plumlees, and Hood, but as an all-around team. I’d pass

  • Aiken_Hoosier

    Stanley Johnson is going to be a MONSTER.

  • kaponya44

    For everything we lost up front in Noah we widened the athleticism gap in the back court even further.If we come close to finding an answer in the post it will be on them to find one for our dribble penetration which is now complimented with strong shooters..

    I honestly like our chances of offsetting their size advantage better than several of the predicted top B1G teams since we should be even quicker.There is danger in losing our longest player with no clear replacement as of now but a committee of players could replace Noah’s 11 points 10 boards and block per game …Had NV averaged 20-25 per game I might feel differently

    Regardless they are a legit National Title contender and it is Indiana who has more to prove this season.I just like how we matched up with them as of last season as much as I hated the match up when it was Brusewitz , Bergerren, and Evans vs Wat, Cody ,and Elston or Will the years before.

  • kaponya44

    Lol Bo is basically Knight without the multiple Final Four trips and National titles up to now…Jokes aside this guy is a threat to get it done and I Respect Him A Lot as a Coach.

  • kaponya44

    Here is my biggest question regarding our opponents.How are they going to keep up with our pace for 40 minutes?

    A good argument could be made that a more experience DD , a Jr Hanner , and occasionally sliding Troy to the 4 may already be the answer up front….

    Throw in Holt, with possibly April , or Max playing in the front court at times and the subs are a lot scarier than 15 minutes of Jeff Howard…That is 3 pairs of legs and 15 fouls between them and EACH is a much better athlete than Jeff.Our record might not improve by a lot but we should be much more difficult to contain for 40 minutes….Could be a HUGE difference in our rotation if 2 or 3 of these guys can step in for us and produce ..