After knocking off the 38-0 Kentucky Wildcats in the Final 4, the Wisconsin Badgers weren't able to seal the deal as they were defeated by the the Duke Blue Devils in the NCAA Championship Game. Made up of mostly veterans, the Badgers will need to reload with a much younger team. Do they have the ability to be a contender?
I've said it before and I'll say it again. Wisconsin's championship game was when they defeated the Kentucky Wildcats in the semifinals. The Wildcats were touted as one of the best teams of all times, have 7 guys that have opted to go to the NBA, and Wisconsin spoiled the Cats perfect season. That in itself is a victory. Try telling that to head coach Bo Ryan and NCAA Player of the Year, Frank Kaminsky.
The season is over and now recent news have alerted us that Sam Dekker's college career is over as he's made himself eligible for the NBA Draft. Wisconsin is currently rated around #20 in the nation, but this is a team that will have to rebuild. Are the Badgers capable of being contenders? They certainly have unfinished business after a poor call in the championship game against Duke and a 9 point lead that they gave away.
A Ticket and A Dream
This is the thought process and theme for the state based lotteries in the United States. In Nigel Hayes' case, he elected to stay a Badger in hopes of "winning the lottery", so to speak.
Hayes has a ticket, but his NCAA Basketball odds are much better than the average Joe as he had a much improved sophomore season. For the season, he averaged 12.4 points and 6.2 rebounds while shooting nearly 50% from the field. This is a player that had to share the basketball with Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker. At 6 foot 7, 250 pounds, Hayes has great size and a great deal of experience. He'll be the go to guy on this club and Bo Ryan will be expecting a monster season out of Hayes. Hayes has proven that in huge games that he can consistently produce.
Guard, Bronson Koenig, will also be returning for his junior season and providing much needed experience for Wisky. I measure a player on how he plays in the big games and Koenig provided Wisconsin back to back double figure games in the Elite 8 and Final 4 in which he was the team's 4th option. Expect Koenig to raise his stock for future references. This is a player that shoots 40% from beyond the arc and converts on over 80% of his free throws and that comes in handy in some of these heart-wrenching inter-conference matchups.
Nobody Want's To Play At Wisconsin?
I wouldn't know why as this team is a perennial top 10 contender, but recruiting appears to be Wisconsin's Achilles heel. The Badgers have no 5 star recruits. That's not to say that any of the incoming freshman won't make an immediate impact.
The Badgers welcome in 4 star recruits, home grown Brevin Priztl (SG-5th ranked guard in the state) and Alex Illikanen (top forward in the state of Minnesota). Illikanen could be underrated (where a 4-star player is concerned), but we'll have to find out. Also joining the team are 3 star recruits, Charles Thomas and Khalil Iverson. Thomas has great size and is a borderline 4-star player. It's safe to say that Wisconsin has not been as effective in recruiting as Kentucky and Duke as they have no players in ESPN's top 100, but there's definitely a possibility that a freshman can step up.
This is a team that will always play top-notch defense and the the offense will be the deciding factor next season for our NCAA Basketball picks. Look for Hayes to come up big as he's the equivalent to a player in his contract season and I do expect Wisconsin to be a pesky team that can go deep into the Big Dance once again,