Last week, we predicted that Wisconsin would finish fourth in the Big Ten. Our ranking was rooted in Bo Ryan’s long history of consistency. Since he’s been the head coach in Madison, Wisconsin has finished fourth or higher in the Big Ten every single year. Given the talent on his roster, had we replaced the name Wisconsin with that of any other team, we would have had the Badgers ranked much lower. The most obvious concern for this year’s team is the loss of several major contributors; Ryan will need to replace the 28.0 points and 19.5 rebounds a game of graduated players Ryan Evans, Jared Berggren and Mike Bruesewitz.
But this is something Ryan does every couple of years. Like the programs of yesteryear, Wisconsin has made an art out of bringing in unheralded recruits and developing them into effective college players. By the time they are upperclassmen, they can seamlessly step into contributing roles and keep the Wisconsin basketball machine operating at a high level. In our preseason post, we mentioned Nigel Hayes as one those players who could make a significant jump. But as Wisconsin’s impressive 86-75 win over a talented St. John’s team on Friday night showed, Duje Dukan has emerged as a player who can be a significant scoring option off the bench.