Wisconsin Introduces Bronson Koenig Era Tonight

Posted by Eric Clark on January 15th, 2015

With point guard Traevon Jackson out for as many as six weeks with a broken foot, sophomore Bronson Koenig will be thrust into the starting lineup to lead Wisconsin for most of the remainder of the regular season. Koenig made his first career start in the Badgers’ surprising loss to Rutgers on Sunday, entering the lineup as another guard as center Frank Kaminsky sat with concussion-like symptoms. Koenig has been the acting point guard for Bo Ryan’s team 22 percent of the time this season, with Jackson picking up the rest of the minutes. He is undoubtedly the Badgers’ point guard of the future, and ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, among others, thinks that the pressure-packed experience he’ll gain at the helm will ultimately help the team in March. With 14 Big Ten games standing between Wisconsin and Selection Sunday, Koenig will have plenty of opportunities to adapt to his more demanding role as the floor general.

Bronson Koenig will make the second start of his career Thursday night against Nebraska. (Reuters)

Bronson Koenig will make the second start of his career Thursday night against Nebraska. (Reuters)

The La Crosse, Wisconsin, native will get his first run as the starter tonight in a home game against Nebraska, a team that he has only faced once before. In that meeting, the Cornhuskers topped the Badgers by nine, holding Jackson to eight points and four assists and forcing him into four turnovers. While the Badgers will miss Jackson’s proven play-making ability, Koenig is generally safer with the ball in his hands – and that will be a positive against a team that has forced a miscue on 21.9 percent of their opponents’ possessions this year. On the flip side, Nebraska ranks 225th in the nation in offensive turnover rate, handing the ball over to the opponent on 20.4 percent of their possessions. That weakness will be mitigated somewhat by the Badgers loss of Jackson, who is tied for second on the team in steal percentage (2.5%).

The Badgers stay in Madison for their January 20 match-up with Iowa, a team with a 3-1 conference record and a penchant for blowing leads with poor second half performances. In Iowa’s five losses, it’s been outscored 119-52 in the first 10 minutes of the second half. In its four Big Ten match-ups, Iowa’s been outscored in the first 10 minutes of the half of every game. That bodes well for Wisconsin, regardless of who is at the point – but Koenig could find himself in trouble with respect to the game’s tempo. The Hawkeyes play at the 74th fastest pace in the country, while the Badgers come in at 333rd. In the last four games between the two, Wisconsin has both scored and allowed more points than their season average, likely due to the Fran McCaffery’s more aggressive tempo. Koenig could struggle here due to the compounding of his inexperience and Iowa’s increased pace.

While Jackson is slated to be in street clothes until the end of February, Wisconsin’s conference schedule tends favorably toward the development of a backup point guard. The Badgers face conference-leader Maryland, third-place Indiana, fifth-place Michigan State and sixth-place Ohio State only once this year. With Kaminsky cleared to play tonight against Nebraska, Jackson’s absence from the lineup won’t hurt quite as much. The Badgers need not worry too much about how they’ll fare in the remainder of conference play so long as they have healthy versions of he and Sam Dekker in the lineup. What should worry Wisconsin is the health of Jackson come Tournament time – and whether their favorable Big Ten slate adequately prepared Koenig for the bright lights of March.

Eric Clark (30 Posts)

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