Will Wisconsin Make It Back to the Final Four? An Argument For Yes…

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on October 16th, 2014

Welcome back, Big Ten readers. Just like Wisconsin, most of our B1G microsite team is returning from last year. And speaking of the Badgers, there’s no doubt that they’re the overwhelming favorite to win the conference this season, as over 80 percent of their scoring and minutes played from their Final Four roster returns. That said, getting back to the Final Four is no easy task. Aside from the unpredictable nature of the NCAA Tournament itself, the Badgers will have to compete with several other nationally elite teams like Kentucky, Duke and Arizona. The likelihood that the Badgers return to the Final Four has sparked an internal debate between fellow B1G contributor Deepak Jayanti and myself. I think this Wisconsin team is special, and will indeed make it to Indianapolis next April — so, in my first post of the year, I state my case for that belief.

Sam Dekker and his NBA-game could lead the Badgers to another Final Four.  (Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports)

Sam Dekker and his NBA potential could lead the Badgers to another Final Four. (Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports)

Here are three reasons why the Badgers will make it two Final Fours in row.

  • Lots and lots of talent. This season’s Wisconsin roster may be the most talented in the Bo Ryan era. Sam Dekker, a junior wing, is a rarity in Madison as a former top 20 national recruit. He upped his production from his freshman season by chipping in 12.4 PPG and 6.1 RPG last year, but beyond his statistics, Dekker’s potential is evident when he’s working on the perimeter, where he’s big enough to shoot over his defender and athletic enough to beat him off the dribble and finish with a vicious dunk. And if you can believe it, he actually grew two more inches over the summer and managed to impress many observers at the LeBron camp. Add in the likely Preseason Big Ten POY, Frank Kaminsky, and the Badgers easily have the best frontcourt in the conference by a wide margin.  Kaminsky was the Badgers’ leading scorer and rebounder at 12.7 PPG and 6.7 RPG last season, and he was the most efficient scorer in the conference to boot.  The rest of the starting five – Traveon Jackson, Josh Gasser, and Nigel Hayes – are all high-quality players who have played significant minutes in pressure-filled situations. With all of that experience and two certain future pros in Dekker and Kaminsky, this doesn’t look like your typical Wisconsin team.

  • Chemistry on offense. While pure talent puts teams in a position to win a national championship, team chemistry is required to actually win one. And what makes Wisconsin so fascinating is not just the talents of each individual player, but the fact that Ryan fits them all together by having each serve a unique role. Jackson is the experienced and steady point guard who runs the offense. Gasser is the sharpshooter who stretches the floor. Dekker is the dynamic wing with pro athleticism who can score from deep or slash to the basket. Kaminsky is a stretch big man great effectiveness from the outside but who also has a largely unappreciated post game (72.6 FG% at the rim). Hayes is more of a classic big man — doing his work from the post or mid-range – but he’s also excellent at getting to the line, averaging almost 10 free throw attempts per 40 minutes. The Badgers will benefit this season from knowing their specific offensive roles immediately, allowing Ryan to allocate their practice time to other areas, like their defense. Oh, and speaking of defense…
  • They’ll get better defensively.  Unlike the other two reasons already outlined, this one’s a prediction. Wisconsin was mediocre defensively last season with an adjusted defensive rating of 97.6 points per 100 possessions (49th in the country), according to KenPom. Their two best individual defensive players were Kaminsky and Hayes — with defensive ratings of 97.7 and 98.5, respectively – with every other significant contributor north of 101.0. But if we examine the season before that, Wisconsin boasted an adjusted defensive rating of 85.6, which ranked first in the country. That team had Jackson as its starting point guard and Dekker playing significant minutes, but when we compare the two seasons of both players side by side, we see that both suffered a significant drop in defensive performance last year. Jackson went from a defensive rating of 93.3 to 104.3 while Dekker jumped from 92.5 to 101.1. Gasser also worsened significantly last season compared to his previous full season in 2011-12: from 94.1 to 104.7. I’m not exactly sure why these guys regressed on the defensive side of the ball last season, but maybe it’s just a side effect of having a great offense (players get lazy on the other end when they know they can easily score on their possessions). Nevertheless, I’m willing to bet that after another season together and with Bo Ryan’s traditional emphasis on defense that Jackson, Dekker and Gasser all step it up better on that end of the floor this year.
Alex Moscoso (170 Posts)

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