How Will Traevon Jackson’s Return Impact the Badgers?

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 26th, 2015


There isn’t much stopping Wisconsin’s offensive stride right now. The Badgers won the Big Ten regular season and tournament championships by averaging a whopping 1.21 points per possession despite playing the last 17 games of the season without senior point guard Traevon Jackson, who broke his foot on January 11. Some observers thought that the injury would set the Badgers back on both ends of the court but Wisconsin instead has held strong with its only loss since coming at Maryland. Sophomore replacement Bronson Koenig has done a terrific job of running the offense by hanging on to the ball, distributing it in the right spots and shooting 41 percent from beyond the arc.

Traevon Jackson's confidence to take big shots during the final minutes of key games will be needed over the Sweet 16 weekend of Wisconsin.

Traevon Jackson’s confidence to take big shots for Wisconsin during the final minutes of key games will be needed in the Sweet Sixteen and possibly beyond. (Getty)

Jackson said yesterday that he has confidence in his foot and he is “100 percent” ready to play against North Carolina in the Sweet Sixteen. With two more wins needed to reach the program’s second consecutive Final Four, it is an intriguing dilemma for Bo Ryan to determine how many minutes Jackson should play. The argument against inserting him completely back into the rotation is that the move could disturb the seamless rhythm of what has been an offensive juggernaut. The argument for playing him is that he was the starter of last season’s Final Four squad and it’s not as if the Badgers were doing poorly before he was injured (15-1 with the sole loss coming to Duke). Ryan will definitely play his senior point guard some minutes tonight, but the question is how much and in what spots? The reason that this is a particularly difficult decision for the head coach is because Koenig has been a more effective player than Jackson.

At this stage of the NCAA Tournament, scouting reports are detailed on the strengths and weaknesses of each team. Josh Gasser will get frequent help in checking Marcus Paige and the Tar Heels will do the same in guarding Frank Kaminsky. When the All-American center is double-teamed in the post and kicks the ball out, who will have the guts to take the long-range shot for the Badgers? Look no further than Wisconsin’s December loss to Duke for a possible answer. During that game, the Blue Devils consistently sent help to force Kaminsky to become a jump-shooter. What was interesting was that when he kicked the ball back out to the perimeter, nobody seemed willing to attempt a shot! That is, nobody but Jackson. The senior was the only Badger with the courage to repeatedly look for his shot — hitting on 7-of-12 from the field (3-of-5 from distance) and finishing with 25 points in that game.

While Koenig is a better three-point shooter (41%) than Jackson (28%), the sophomore isn’t as nimble or capable as the senior in creating his own shot. Granted, Jackson’s jumper is ugly, but he somehow creates space going to his left and pulls up with confidence at the top of the key. Even with Koenig’s facilitation of the offense, there are times when the Badgers get too comfortable passing the ball around the perimeter and nobody is willing to make an offensive move toward the basket. Jackson’s ability to muscle his way into the paint to bail out Kaminsky or Dekker is something that Koenig cannot bring to the table. Ryan should consider subbing his senior  in for Hayes or Gasser when his offense begins to stagnate. With a healthy Jackson bringing another element to the Wisconsin element in necessary spots, it might just be the difference between a run that ends in Los Angeles this weekend or one that stops on the first Monday in April.

Deepak Jayanti (270 Posts)

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