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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Big Ten M5: 03.12.14 Edition

Posted by Brendan Brody on March 12th, 2014

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  1. Nik Stauskas of Michigan was named Big Ten Player of the Year on Monday by both the coaches and the media. He went from primarily a spot-up shooter to someone who put in a tremendous amount of work to become the best player in the league. It’s been documented often about the strength training that he and fellow sophomore Caris LeVert went through in the off-season, and it quite obviously paid off for both. Stauskas managed to still be able to knock down plenty of three-pointers, yet added the ability to drive and distribute on a much higher level than many expected. He is a worthy Big Ten POY.
  2. Playing in the shadow of a famous father is never easy. Playing in the shadow of a father that not only played in the NBA for 14 years, but also serves as an analyst for the network that covers your conference is borderline impossible. But Wisconsin point guard Traveon Jackson has made things work both on and off the court due to a renewed sense of spirituality. Jackson struggled with the responsibilities after unexpectedly having to take the reigns from Josh Gasser once the guards tore his ACL. He turned to drinking and partying as a way to escape from the stress on the court, but has found that things like scripture reading and attending church services have helped him on and off the court.
  3. It’s the eve of the Big Ten Tournament, and not many people within the college basketball community can figure out Michigan State. Coach Tom Izzo feels the importance of the tournament this year more so than in past seasons because, as he says, “we’re just trying to bring back some of the magic we had early in the year when we had everybody playing together.” It will be extremely interesting over the course of the weekend to see if the team can start clicking like they did early on before injuries ruined any sense of flow and cohesion the team had.
  4. The main architect for the Nebraska basketball facelift was named Coach of the Year by his coaching peers on Monday. Coach Tim Miles worked his way up from coaching Division II in obscurity, to potentially coaching in the Big Dance next week. He credits his players for keeping a positive attitude, not letting the porous basketball history of the program prohibit them from changing things.  If they can win three games this weekend, the change will be even further magnified.
  5. After seeing him play in the non-conference part of the season, no one would have guessed that Kendrick Nunn would earn a spot on the Big Ten All-Freshman team. Nunn did just that however, and Illinois has gone 5-3 since he and fellow freshman Malcolm Hill were inserted into the starting five. Indiana Coach Tom Crean has taken notice, as he likened Nunn to Victor Oladipo when asked about preparing for the Illini on Thursday when the two teams square off in first-round play of the Big Ten Tournament.  Nunn has averaged double-figures in those 8 games, and can enhance his ever-growing reputation even more if he continues his solid play, and Illinois wins a game or two in Indianapolis.
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The “Save Your Season” Bowl: Key Questions for Ohio State-Wisconsin

Posted by Brendan Brody & Alex Moscoso on February 1st, 2014

The nosedive that Ohio State and Wisconsin have undergone in the last two weeks has been one of the biggest surprises in all of college basketball. Both teams have gone from the top five nationally to a combined 7-9 conference record. That’s part of what makes Saturday’s contest in Madison such a must-win for both squads. Forget the fact that this would have been a marquee NCAA seeding win two weeks ago. Now, both teams just need a win, period. Big Ten microsite columnists Brendan Brody and Alex Moscoso have decided to break down what these desperate teams need to do in order to start the process of getting things back on track Saturday.

Amir Williams needs to take advantage of Wisconsin's shaky post defense on Saturday. (Kirk Irwin, Getty).

Amir Williams needs to take advantage of Wisconsin’s shaky post defense on Saturday. (Kirk Irwin, Getty).

BB: Amir Williams has shot over 60 percent from the field for the majority of the season. Does Ohio State need to make a more concerted effort to get him the ball in the post and use his muscle against Frank Kaminsky?

AM: Absolutely. Wisconsin only has a block rate of 8.7 percent (268th in the nation) and they give up more shots at the rim than any other area of the court. The Badgers’ defense is more effective at denying looks on the perimeter where only 24.8 percent of their opponents’ shots are taken. Given this fact, going inside is the obvious and preferred choice for the Buckeyes. Williams is shooting 73.2 percent under the rim but is only sixth on the team in field goal attempts. He also has the highest eFG percentage on the team (61.9%) while Shannon Scott, Aaron Craft, and Sam Thompson — three players who all take more shots per game than the big man — have an eFG percentage below 50 percent. Thad Matta would be wise to figure out a way to get Williams involved even if it means diverting shots from players who are used to getting the ball. Lastly, getting Kaminsky to play more defense on the low block may rough him up a little and tire him out, which will take away from his offensive abilities.

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Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky: The Next Jared Berggren?

Posted by Brendan Brody on November 5th, 2013

Wisconsin does not function like most of the other perennial Top 25 teams. In this age of one-and-done factories, they actually have players that wait their turns as freshmen and sophomores before taking on bigger and more meaningful roles as upperclassmen. The latest player in this Madison assembly line is junior Frank Kaminsky. Kaminsky is the next in a long line of pick-and-pop big men to take on a larger expected role now that he’s a junior. With the graduations of senior Badgers’ Ryan Evans, Mike Bruesewitz and Jared Berggren, Kaminsky is the only post player on the roster who has any kind of experience, and his development will be a key factor in whether Bo Ryan’s team drops from its usual 20-plus win season. With an experienced backcourt and a rising star in sophomore Sam Dekker, how much production Wisconsin gets from Kaminsky will be the difference between having simply a good or a great season.

Frank Kaminsky will play a large part in how successful Wisconsin's season is this season. Frank Kaminsky will play a large part in how successful Wisconsin's season is this season.  (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Frank Kaminsky will play a large part in how successful Wisconsin’s season is this season. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

In his first two seasons, Kaminsky has shown flashes of being able to handle an expanded role. He has no problem being aggressive on the offensive end, as he has used 21.3 percent of Wisconsin possessions when he is on the floor. He also has shown no issue taking threes despite his 6’11″ stature, shooting 80 triples out of a total of 154 field goal attempts in his his two-year career. His eFG% of 51.0 percent could be better, but it sits right at about the level of another very productive former Wisconsin big man, Keaton Nankivil, who also waited his turn. In looking at the numbers of the last two big men in Ryan’s swing offense, it’s a safe assumption that Kaminsky is due for a statistical jump across the board. Nankivil went from averaging 14 minutes, 4.5 points, 2.5 rebounds per game, and nine made threes, to 25 minutes, 8.1 points, 4.7 rebounds per game, and 24 threes as a junior. Berggren had an even greater statistical spike between his sophomore and junior years, going from 6.9 minutes, 2.4 points, 1.1 rebounds per game, and 22 threes, to 27.8 minutes, 10.5 points, 4.9 rebounds per game, and 45 made threes. It’s safe to assume that Kaminsky is next in line to make the jump.

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