The Badgers will be hoping to make another deep run come March this season. It's time to break down the college basketball odds and see what Wisconsin's chances are.
The Badgers got achingly close to winning it all last season, only to lose to Duke in the NCAA Championship game.
After finishing 36-4 in the regular season, which included a terrific 16-2 record in the Big Ten, Wisconsin kept elevating its play leading into March. Come tournament time, the Badgers overcame Michigan State to win the conference, and then outlasted Coastal Carolina, Oregon, North Carolina, Arizona and Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament on their way to the finals. That's quite an array of top-notch programs that Wisconsin was able to beat.
Individually, Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker led the way for the Badgers. Kaminsky averaged 18.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, while Dekker put up 13.9 points and 5.5 boards a contest; both were outstanding throughout the entire season and especially during the high-pressure moments in March. Other key contributors were Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig, Traevon Jackson and Josh Gasser.
First things first: let's look at who's gone from last year. Kaminsky, Dekker, Jackson and Gasser are the biggest names who won't be around at all. Because of those departures, it's really not all that surprising to see oddsmakers list Wisconsin pretty far down low on the futures odds list. Right now the Badgers are available +6500 range at Bet365 to finish as national champs, even behind teams like Texas A&M, LSU and Purdue.
The big news heading into the season is the status of head coach Bo Ryan, who announced he was planning on retiring following the 2015/16 season. However, there have been reports surfacing that he's been re-thinking that idea, so who knows at this point. The Badgers would obviously love for the legendary coach to stick around as long as possible.
In terms of the squad, it's going to be up to Hayes and Koening to be the foundation pieces. Both will get a huge uptick in minutes and offensive responsibilty now that so much offensive production has to be replaced. Koening will run the show from the point, but it's Hayes that's likely to be the team's leading scorer and overall biggest contributor. He's extremely talented and should be able to thrive in the expanded role. Zak Showalter, Ethan Happ and Vitto Brown should also see plenty of minutes this coming season.
As far as we're concerned, the Badgers are always going to be a threat for as long as Bo Ryan is patrolling the sideline.
Thing is, this team has the talent in place to be contending once again, even in spite of the fact they've lost some serious production in the form of Kaminsky, Dekker and the rest. It's never easy to replace players like that, but Wisconsin has always gotten by through great team chemistry and defensive intensity, and they should still have that in spades this coming season.
All that being said, it's almost impossible to foresee the Badgers making as deep of a run come tournament time as they did last season. The NCAA basketball odds suggest they could suffer somewhat of a letdown campaign, which isn't all that surprising considering just how good this team was in 2014. This will be one of the most inexperienced teams Ryan will have coached in his career.
As that relates to your NCAA basketball picks, we'd recommend being very cautious with Wisconsin. We expect these guys to be challenging as one of the best teams in the conference again, and they're going to make some noise nation-wide too, but ultimately there doesn't seem to much value in a futures wager on them to win the title, even at the steep odds.