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.

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On Wisconsin, Bo Ryan and the Future…

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

At the start of the season, we, along with most everyone else, slated Wisconsin to finish in its usual place among the top four of the Big Ten standings, but also noted that the team would once again be limited in what it could accomplish in the NCAA Tournament. Examining the preseason roster, we thought the Badgers would be be better on the perimeter with the return of the Josh Gasser; we knew Sam Dekker was a pro talent, the likes of which doesn’t usually wear a Wisconsin uniform; but we also wondered whether Frank Kaminsky was capable of stepping up and playing at the level that Jarred Berggren had provided. Without mincing words, we were wrong. Six months and a Final Four appearance later, we now know that these Badgers were the most talented squad Bo Ryan has coached in Madison, and although they came up just short of a shot at the title, next season looks even brighter. Almost the entire roster is coming back and Wisconsin will be projected as an elite team by almost every prognosticator based on this year’s run. A run to the Final Four wasn’t supposed to happen with this group, so how’d they do it?

Bo Ryan has finally reached college basketball's mountain top.

Bo Ryan has finally reached college basketball’s mountain top. (AP)

Wisconsin’s 30-8 season was built on the talents of individual players who outperformed expectations and this particular squad’s great offensive chemistry in Ryan’s system. The junior Kaminsky emerged as a terrific college player and a legitimate future contender for National Player of the Year. After averaging only 4.2 PPG and 1.8 RPG in 2012-13 behind Berggren, Kaminsky led the Badgers in scoring (13.9 PPG) and rebounding (6.3 RPG) and was the second-most efficient player in the conference (127.5 Offensive Rating). Additionally, Nigel Hayes went from an unheralded high school recruit to a spot on the All-Big Ten freshmen team behind his 7.7 PPG and 2.8 RPG. The emergence of a viable scoring frontcourt — combined with a versatile wing like Dekker and a deep shooting back court in Traevon Jackson, Brust, and Gasser — created the most potent offense Ryan has ever put on the floor. By the end of the season, the Badgers carried an adjusted offensive efficiency of 1.21 points per possession (fourth in the country).

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Opportunity Missed, But a Season to Cherish for Wisconsin

Posted by Bennet Hayes on April 7th, 2014

Saturday night’s wild finish between Kentucky and Wisconsin offered yet another poignant display of the vast range of emotions that this Tournament is capable of causing. While the Wildcats celebrated another stirring victory, the Badgers saw their season end in the most sudden, grief-inducing of fashions. Bo Ryan’s team was seconds away from heading to the National Championship game as favorites. One seismic moment later, and both season and dream were finished. So is life in the emotional rollercoaster that is the NCAA Tournament, but less-than-glorious conclusion notwithstanding, the Badgers accomplished plenty this season. In the wake of Saturday night’s classic, here are three thoughts on Wisconsin’s 2013-14.

After Saturday's Crushing Final Four Defeat, Bo Ryan, Traevon Jackson And The Rest Of The Returning Badgers Will Seek A Happier Ending Next Winter

After Saturday’s Crushing Final Four Defeat, Bo Ryan, Traevon Jackson And The Rest Of The Returning Badgers Will Seek A Happier Ending Next Winter

  1. Even after a brilliant season, to ignore the Badgers’ missed opportunity would be both near-sighted and disrespectful. Of course, Kentucky had much to do with seizing victory from the Badgers on Saturday night, but Wisconsin should not be misconstrued as a “had a great run, was just happy-to-be-here” type of team. Final Fours don’t grow on trees, especially during those chilly Madison winters (this was just the program’s third national semifinal appearance), but this Badger team was talented, well-coached and legitimately elite. They had every right to believe that they could leave Dallas as champions – especially after Florida fell in the first semifinal. Wisconsin should be lauded for a fine season, but frustration is only fair when visions of a National Championship were as salient as they were for the Badgers.
  2. Next season, the Badgers’ senior backcourt tandem of Traevon Jackson and Josh Gasser may be the toughest, most experienced pair of guards in America. The duo will be forever frozen on the wrong end of Final Four history – Jackson for his missed jumper on the game’s final possession, Gasser for his contest of the Harrison jumper – but both Badgers were integral pieces of this run, and will be cornerstones for Wisconsin success next winter. Wisconsin diehards had to know who would be taking the final shot before it happened, as Jackson has developed into a late-game go-to guy for Bo Ryan over the past two seasons. Clutch and accurate (he shot 38 percent from behind the arc this season), Jackson’s three seasons of experience have also aided his development as the perfect conductor for Ryan’s swing offense. His classmate Gasser is equally learned in the intricacies of the Badger system, although Gasser’s main value is on the defensive end of the floor. That’s saying something after a season in which he posted an O-rating of 128.6 (24th-best in the country), but Gasser will be back next year to continue his harassment of the best wings in the Big Ten.
  3. Kaminsky! So, yea, the hype surrounding Frank the Tank may have been slightly outsized after his scintillating 28-point, 11-rebound Elite Eight performance. I’m not sure how much of this has to do with the fact that Turner has a studio crew that has watched exactly zero college basketball before March (hi Charles!), but Kaminsky appeared to have become the second-coming of Dirk Nowitzki for the past seven days. Dirk he is not, but Kaminsky’s presumed return to Madison is a game-changer for the Badgers. His offensive versatility makes him a unique weapon in the college ranks, and with Nigel Hayes’ rugged athleticism offering a nice complement, Wisconsin’s interior (especially offensively) will be difficult to handle in 2014-15.
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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Final Four

Posted by Brian Otskey on April 4th, 2014

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#1 Florida vs. #7 Connecticut – National Semifinal (at Arlington, TX) – 6:09 PM ET on TBS

The Final Four tips off with a Florida team that has won 30 consecutive games facing the last team to beat it, Connecticut. The Huskies knocked off the Gators in Storrs way back on December 2 on a Shabazz Napier buzzer-beater. Although it was four months ago, much can be learned from that game. Contrary to popular belief, Florida’s top six rotation players suited up for it, although Scottie Wilbekin left the game with about three minutes to play due to injury. In that contest, Florida absolutely dominated the paint by holding Connecticut to 41.4 percent shooting from two-point range and winning the rebounding battle by eight. However, the Gators lost the game at the three-point line, where they allowed the Huskies to make 11-of-24 attempts. Sixteen Florida turnovers also didn’t help matters for Billy Donovan’s team.

Napier Has His Eyes Set on Another Title (Credit: UConn Athletic Communications/Stephen Slade)

Napier Has His Eyes Set on Another Title (Credit: UConn Athletic Communications/Stephen Slade)

Fast forward to April and the Gators’ front line is formidable as ever. While Connecticut’s interior play has improved and its rebounding has been terrific in the NCAA Tournament, facing Patric Young and the nation’s top-ranked defense will be a tall task for the Huskies. Connecticut is talented but young and raw up front. Amida Brimah and Phillip Nolan are just a freshman and sophomore, respectively, while DeAndre Daniels loves to drift away from the paint and is not a back-to-the-basket kind of player. For Kevin Ollie’s team to have success, Napier must continue his dominant performance and Daniels has to make jump shots. Napier and Ryan Boatright are the two constants on this team, but it is Daniels who takes it to another level when playing well. He will likely be guarded by Will Yeguete, Dorian Finney-Smith or Young, or any combination of the three. If Daniels cannot get anything going, Napier will have to score 30+ points and Connecticut will have to have another terrific night from the three-point line in order to advance to Monday night’s national championship game.

Defensively, there is no doubt that Connecticut can match Florida. The Huskies’ defense has been phenomenal all season long and doesn’t get the credit it deserves with Napier stealing the spotlight most of the time. Connecticut ranks 10th in adjusted defensive efficiency and actually has a slightly stronger interior defense than Florida when you look at opponents’ two-point percentage (one percentage point better than Florida). An important part of Ollie’s game plan will be to limit Scottie Wilbekin and prevent him from easily getting Florida into its sets and taking over the game. Easier said than done, of course.

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Five Crucial Wisconsin Moments That Shaped Its Run to North Texas

Posted by Brendan Brody on April 4th, 2014

However things turn out in North Texas this weekend, Wisconsin has had a season to remember. The Badgers started the year at 16-0, rose to No. 3 in the polls, and generally dispelled any previously-held stereotypes about their brand of basketball under head coach Bo Ryan. This was a different kind of unit, filled with dead-eye shooters, tremendous ball movement, and a fun team to watch. Four players averaged double figures and no one particularly cared who got the credit for the team’s prodigious success. As a sort of tribute from a writer covering this program for the first time, here are my top five moments from Wisconsin’s Final Four campaign, presented in no particular order.

When Frank Kaminsky scored 43 points against North Dakota, the college basketball world took notice.  (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

When Frank Kaminsky scored 43 points against North Dakota, the college basketball world took notice. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

  1. Frank Kaminsky scores 43 points against North Dakota: If you have a second or two to kill, check out the thing of beauty that is Kaminsky’s shot chart from this game. He put on an absolute offensive clinic, going 16-of-19 from the field, hitting all six of the three-pointers that he attempted, and making the whole college basketball world take notice of “Frank the Tank.”
  2. Traveon Jackson hits a game-winner against Michigan State: Coming into this February 9 match-up, Wisconsin had been in the midst of a 2-5 slide where it had started to undo the credibility it had built up during the non-conference schedule. They had just lost to Northwestern and Ohio State at home, and simply couldn’t afford to drop another one in Madison at this point in the season. After falling behind in the first half, Jackson effectively ended a close game with a deadly pull-up jumper from 17 feet. The Badgers went on to win six more games in a row after this one, and in many respects, saving the season. Read the rest of this entry »
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Final Four Previews In-Depth: Wisconsin Badgers

Posted by Andrew Murawa on April 3rd, 2014

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As part of our ongoing NCAA Tournament coverage, RTC is unveiling a detailed look at each of the Final Four teams throughout the week. Kentucky and UConn have already released. Today: Wisconsin.

In the days between Selection Sunday and the actual start of the NCAA Tournament, Wisconsin flew under the radar. In a West Region lacking the punch of, say, the loaded Midwest Region, the #2 seed was picked by just 20 percent of ESPN.com‘s bracket entrants to advance to the Final Four, while nearly half of those brackets instead favoring Arizona. But after riding the a little home-cooking through the Milwaukee pod in the first weekend then taking care of business in Anaheim against two of the hottest teams in the nation (Baylor and Arizona), it is the Badgers that are left standing, delivering the first Division I Final Four in Bo Ryan‘s successful career.

Wisconsin Earned Its Third Final Four Appearance With A Dramatic Win Over Arizona On Saturday (Jae C. Hong, AP Photo)

Wisconsin Earned Its Third Final Four Appearance With A Dramatic Win Over Arizona On Saturday (Jae C. Hong, AP Photo)

Pre-NCAA Tournament Capsule. Coming into the season, expectations were somewhat measured for the Badgers. With last year’s frontcourt stalwarts Ryan Evans, Jarred Berggren and Mike Bruesewitz all having used up their collegiate eligibility, Ryan was going to have to rely more on his veteran backcourt of sophomore Sam Dekker and some additional to-be-determined frontcourt players. Very early in the season, we got a big hint as to which of those candidates had the most potential, as junior seven-footer Frank Kaminsky, after scoring only 10 points in his first two games, dropped 43 points on just 19 field goal attempts in the Badgers’ fourth game of the season. From that point forward, Kaminsky regularly scored in double-figures for Wisconsin, and he did so in a highly-efficient manner. Meanwhile, in fewer minutes, freshman big man Nigel Hayes was also establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with, turning a preseason question mark into a serious strength for Ryan’s club.  With the backcourt of Traevon Jackson, Ben Brust and Josh Gasser locked into their roles and Dekker taking the obvious next step in his development, Wisconsin got off to a great start, winning its first 16 games of the season and jumping into the national top five. Playing with more pace and offensive punch than they had in previous years under Ryan, the Badgers were recognized roundly as maybe the coach’s best bet at a Final Four.

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Pending NBA Draft Decisions Will Shape Next Season’s Big Ten

Posted by Brendan Brody on April 2nd, 2014

Even with this season not completely over yet, it’s hard to avoid projecting what the future holds for the 2014-15 edition of the Big Ten. Last year at around this time, only five conference underclassmen ultimately put their names in and heard their names called on NBA Draft night. Three of the five were selected in the first round (Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller, and Michigan’s Trey Burke), while two went in the second round (Michigan’s Tim Hardaway Jr., and Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas). This year, that number could potentially double. Ohio State’s LaQuinton Ross and Indiana’s Noah Vonleh have already declared; Michigan State’s Gary Harris is reportedly about to do so; and many others face some rather tough decisions between now and April 27. Unless super-recruit Myles Turner decides to go to Ohio State, their aren’t really any other incoming one-and-done types on the horizon for any of the teams in the league. That makes some of these upcoming early entry decisions all the more important in terms of projecting next year’s Big Ten championship. What follows here is an outline of what those teams will look like if they lose some of their key players over the next few weeks.

Losing Nik Stauskas would be a huge blow for Michigan. (Getty).

Losing Nik Stauskas would be a huge blow for Michigan. (Getty).

Michigan is likely going to lose as many as three of their sophomore trio of Nik Stauskas, Mitch McGary, and Glenn Robinson III. McGary and Robinson flirted with coming out of school last season, but opted to stay in Ann Arbor for another year. If the Wolverines lose only Stauskas, they’ll have a ready-made replacement in Zak Irvin. Some play-making ability would be lost, but they’d keep another deadly shooter on the floor. If Robinson goes, then look for Kameron Chatman and redshirt freshman Marc Donnal to get John Beilein’s first looks in replacing his minutes. Losing McGary to the draft along with Jordan Morgan to graduation would leave Jon Horford as the primary big man with Ricky Doyle — a 6’9″ incoming freshman from Florida — also potentially in the mix.

  • Best Case Scenario: All three come back because they want to win a National Championship. They are automatically a top five preseason team and a Big Ten co-favorite with Wisconsin.
  • Worst Case Scenario: All three leave, with Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr. left to pick up the pieces. An eight-man rotation of LeVert, Walton, Irvin, Horford, Donnal, Chatman, Doyle and Spike Albrecht would still be a fringe Top 25 team, but their would be a good deal of question marks here.

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Rushed Reactions: #2 Wisconsin 85, #7 Oregon 77

Posted by Walker Carey on March 22nd, 2014

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Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion@RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

The Wisconsin Home Crowd Carried the Badgers Through to Victory

The Wisconsin Home Crowd Carried the Badgers Through to Victory

  1. Wisconsin’s second half comeback was monumental. An Oregon offensive flurry had the Ducks leading 49-37 at halftime, but Wisconsin responded with its own flurry to begin the second half. The Badgers went on a 22-9 run to begin the second stanza to take a 59-58 lead at the 13:26 mark. The two teams battled back-and-forth for the rest of the game until a three-pointer from Wisconsin guard Ben Brust gave the Badgers a 77-75 lead with 1:07 to play. That was a lead they would not relinquish. There were many reasons why Wisconsin was able to charge back in the second half, but none was more important than its increased intensity on both ends of the court. After allowing Oregon to shoot 55.6 percent from the field in the first half, the Badgers tightened the screws on their defense and only allowed the Ducks to make 9-of-22 field goals in the second half. The increased intensity on the offensive end of the court was highlighted by its 11 second half offensive rebounds and seven second half three-pointers.
  2. This was essentially a home game for the Badgers and that environment played a role in the team’s comeback. The Bradley Center in Milwaukee is only 75 miles from Wisconsin’s campus in Madison, and that resulted in the Badgers being extremely well-represented at the arena. For the game with Oregon, a reasonable estimation would be that the crowd was 99-to-1 in favor of Wisconsin. The crowd was raucous at the start of the game, but you could sense a nervous energy when Oregon took a 12-point lead into the half. With Wisconsin’s scorching start to the second stanza, however, the crowd once again regained its mojo and made the Bradley Center a hostile environment for the remainder of the game. If you did not know better, the environment would have made you believe that the game was being played in Wisconsin’s home arena. When the victory was in hand in the final seconds, Wisconsin forward Sam Dekker made a point to salute the crowd in a pretty grand fashion.
  3. Wisconsin’s inconsistent defense is going to be an issue in Anaheim. During the Bo Ryan era at Wisconsin, defense has been this team’s calling card. This season’s more offensive-minded personnel has resulted in a shift in mantra. Consequently, Wisconsin’s defense has been a bit all over the place this season. For example, the Badgers held American to just 35 total points and 29.7 percent shooting in Thursday’s round of 64 victory. And while Oregon is a much more talented team, it not arguable that Wisconsin’s defense played with far less intensity in the first half Saturday. Oregon took advantage of a plethora of open looks to put up 49 first half points on a sizzling 55.6 percent shooting. The Badgers made some adjustments in the second half and had far more success containing the high-powered Oregon offense. If Wisconsin is not able to string together more consistent defensive efforts this coming week at the West Regional, the Badgers’ stay in Anaheim could only last a single night.

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Rushed Reactions: #2 Wisconsin 75, #15 American 35

Posted by Walker Carey on March 20th, 2014

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Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion, @RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Bo Ryan's Badgers showed that they can beat tough teams despite their weaknesses.

Bo Ryan’s Badgers had an easy time Thursday afternoon. (AP)

  1. The talent disparity was quite evident. While American started quickly out of the gates and threw off Wisconsin’s offensive rhythm a bit with its defensive attack, it quickly became apparent how different the two teams are from a talent standpoint (and that is a pretty common in #2/#15 match-ups). American led 19-13 at the 7:05 mark of the first half, but from that point forward, Wisconsin outscored the Eagles by a margin of 62-16. Winning the Patriot League Tournament title is a great accomplishment for the Eagles, but its performance against Wisconsin displayed that American just does not have the talent necessary to compete with the high-major programs in the NCAA Tournament.
  2. Ben Brust woke Wisconsin up after an early lull. With 7:05 remaining in the first half, American held a 19-13 lead and Wisconsin’s offense was struggling mightily to get anything going. Enter Ben Brust. The senior guard scored eight points over the remainder of the half to help carry his team to a 10-point halftime lead. While the rest of Brust’s teammates eventually got going in the lopsided second half – most notably Traevon Jackson, who finished with 18 points – it was Brust who got woke up the Badgers after what was an uninspiring start to the game. Senior leadership is often an important factor in a team’s success and Wisconsin showed that it has that courtesy of an experienced veteran in Brust.
  3. Wisconsin’s defense does deserve some credit. It would be easy to attribute American’s 15.8 percent — you read that correctly — shooting performance in the second half just to its poor offense. While the Eagles were very poor on that end of the court, it should be recognized that Wisconsin’s defense was suffocating all afternoon. The Badgers forced 17 turnovers and made something as simple as moving the ball a very difficult task for Mike Brennan‘s squad. All season it has been said that this is not a normally strong Bo Ryan defense, but holding an NCAA Tournament team to 13 points in a half is a very impressive feat that should be recognized.

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The RTC All-Big Ten Team: Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 7th, 2014

Next up on our countdown of the RTC all-Big Ten team is Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky. Bo Ryan’s had a number of big men who could shoot over the past few years — Keaton Nankivil and Brian Butch, to name a couple — but Kaminsky is so unique because of his combined ability to drive to the basket and hit the perimeter shot with ease. Without Kaminsky’s 13.3 PPG, the Badgers wouldn’t be second in the Big Ten in offensive efficiency, averaging 1.13 points per possession. Outside of just pure scoring, his main contribution to the team is his versatility and flexibility.

Frank Kaminsky is the fifth best player in the Big Ten.

Frank Kaminsky is the fifth best player in the Big Ten.

Why Frank Kaminsky is the fifth best player in the league: During the first two months of the season, Kaminsky showed that he can put up points with ease, but the main reason behind his ranking here is his performance over the last five games. During a key stretch of the season, he averaged 17.4 PPG against the likes of Iowa, Indiana and Michigan. After a mid-season slump when the Badgers lost five of six games, Kaminsky led them back to top-15 status and making them a lock for a top-three NCAA seed. It is clear that he isn’t just a three-point shooter, as he has begun to attack the basket consistently with a signature turnaround move in the paint. Few big man defenders can come out to the perimeter to guard his three-point shot off the pick-and-roll and at the same time cycle back on defense if he chooses to take it to the rack. His versatility is indicated the following metrics: 62.9% TS and 41% 3FG.

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Why Not Frank Kaminsky as Big Ten Player of the Year?

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on February 25th, 2014

As the saying goes, “basketball is a game of runs.” This season’s Wisconsin team is a prime example of that notion. The Badgers started the season with 16 straight wins, including impressive victories over Florida and Virginia. Then they hit a midseason lull to lose five of six games, dropping their conference record to a middling 4-5 by the start of February. After winning its last five games, Wisconsin appears to have righted the ship. Through it all, it has been seven-foot junior Frank Kaminsky who has remained consistently effective during the ups and downs. Lately, he’s also added “clutch performer” to his resume. On Saturday, the junior big man scored 20 points at Iowa, including two key baskets to build a lead and some clutch free throws to seal the game away. Kaminsky has not only led his team back to a placement in the top three of the standings, he’s also leading the league in terms of overall efficiency.

Frank Kaminsky is the most efficient player in the league. (Getty)

Frank Kaminsky is the most efficient player in the league. (Getty)

Back in November, fellow Big Ten microsite writer Brendan Brody wrote that Kaminsky could follow in the footsteps of former Badger Jared Berggren and other bigs in Bo Ryan’s system by taking a significant leap in production with his expanded role. Hopes were already high because of returning starters Traevon Jackson, Ben Brust, Josh Gasser, and Sam Dekker; but Kaminsky, a three-star prospect who had provided spot duty for two seasons in Madison, was regarded as the unknown commodity in the starting lineup. He had shown some indications that he was capable of taking on a bigger role, but his capabilities were regarded as suitable for a “pick-and-pop” forward most typical of Wisconsin’s big men. With the departures of Berggren and Mike Bruesewitz from last year’s team, there was also significant concern that Kaminsky would not be a reliable rebounding presence on the blocks. He’s done nothing but blown all of these misconceptions out of the water, exhibiting a developed footwork skill set that has allowed him to score either directly under the basket or create a layup from 10 feet away. When Bo Ryan needs a bucket now, he instructs his players to get the ball to Kaminsky on the blocks.

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Big Ten M5: 2.13.14 Edition

Posted by Jonathan Batuello on February 13th, 2014

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  1. It’s never easy having everyone’s eyes on you every time you play. Michigan State‘s Gary Harris has certainly had this coming into this season as a Big Ten Player of the Year candidate on a national championship contending team. After his worst performance of the season against Wisconsin he admitted part of his up-and-down play can be directly attributed to the pressure that comes with being in the spotlight. It’s an interesting perspective to hear Harris realize coming back would make it harder and some of the sacrifices he made this season, including not using Twitter. Harris hasn’t been as “great” as anticipated, but the expectations for a phenomenal player to take a big jump were unfair. It’s rare, if not impossible, for a player near the top of the college game last season to make an even bigger jump this year. He may not be the national player of the year, but his player overall has still been more than solid. Don’t expect that to change.
  2. It isn’t new a story. Ohio State‘s offense struggles. It’s become repetitive, but that doesn’t make it any less harmful for the Buckeyes. Once again in the loss to Michigan Tuesday night Ohio State had a terrible offensive night in every facet that cost it the recent momentum it had gained. In the loss the offense was struggling even more than normal, hitting only 11 field goals after the 13:35 mark of the first half. Even more troubling is that three of those came in the final few minutes when Michigan had built a lead that basically had the game out of reach. For the Buckeyes to win, everyone knows what matters. During its recent win streak the team shot 42 percent. In its losing streak earlier in Big Ten play and against Michigan, it was well under the mark.
  3. On the other side Ohio State-Michigan game was the play of Wolverines freshmen Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin. The two had plenty of struggles early in the season, enough that Michigan went from a preseason top 10 team to some wondering if it would make the NCAA Tournament. Since conference play start, though, the two have turned it on and continued that last night. They combined for 23 points against Ohio State to give Michigan its first win since 2003 at Ohio State, when they were 8-years-old. It’s obvious the Wolverines recent uptick in play has come from the freshmen starting to play up to their preseason hype. It may have take some time but with them playing like this Michigan will be in the thick of the NCAA Tournament race once again in March.
  4. Minnesota stopping its three-game losing streak with a win against Indiana was huge. The conference appears headed to six bids and with both teams on the bubble it put them on the inside track. Now, it appears the Golden Gophers need to reach 9-9 in the conference to get themselves in and the rest of the schedule makes this possible. It seems simple for Minnesota right now, realistically, looking at the schedule. It needs to beat the three teams not considered tournament teams in Illinois, Northwestern and Penn State. Out of the other four games, it needs to win at least one to be on the bubble and two likely guarantees it is in. The path is there, the Golden Gophers just need to capitalize.
  5. The past few weeks haven’t been the easiest for Wisconsin‘s Sam Dekker. His scoring percentage took a little bit of a drop as the Badgers started losing some games. For him, it just took thinking back to his dad’s comments to get back on track. Good thing he had that to think of as he got back on track and is now leading the Badgers to victories again. This leadership role is something important for the sophomore as he has had to learn to speak up and take charge, especially as the team began to falter. With a challenging three game stretch coming up at home against Minnesota and then on the road at Michigan and Iowa, Wisconsin needs Dekker to continue to lead and listen to his dad now more than ever.
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