2013-14 College Basketball Season Preview: Wisconsin

Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, David Kay and Peter Christian of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
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Wisconsin Badgers (Last Year: 23-12, 12-6 in Big Ten)

2013-14 Projected Depth Chart:

C: Frank Kaminsky (Jr)/Evan Anderson (Jr)

F: Sam Dekker (Soph)/Zach Bohannon (Sr)/Nigel Hayes (Fr)/Vitto Brown (Fr)/Duje Dukan (Jr)

SG: Ben Brust (Jr)/Riley Dearing (Fr)

G: Josh Gasser (Jr)/Zak Showalter (Soph)/Jordan Hill (Fr)

PG: Traevon Jackson (Jr)/George Marshall (Soph)/Bronson Koenig (Fr)

Gone: C-Jared Berggren, F-Ryan Evans, F-Mike Bruesewitz

2013-14 Outlook:
Another season, another year in which Bo Ryan will have his Wisconsin Badgers in the thick of the Big Ten race. Unlike last season when the Badgers relied on their experienced frontcourt, the strength of this year’s team comes from its talented guards.

The loss of Josh Gasser to a season-ending torn ACL was expected to throw a wrench into Wisconsin’s plans last season, but in typical Bo Ryan fashion, the Badgers made the most of the talent on their roster. With Gasser back in the lineup, Ryan returns a versatile guard who can do a little bit of everything on the floor, including really getting after it on the defensive end. Gasser was a glue guy during his first two seasons in Madison, but he needs to become more offensive-minded this year.

Wisconsin figures to use a three-guard look with Ben Brust and Traevon Jackson flanking Gasser. Brust led the team in scoring last season and does most of his damage behind the arc as he hit 39% of his triple tries a year ago. Brust also rebounds well for his size. Jackson took over the point guard spot when Gasser went down last Fall and was solid, but not spectacular. He is a capable game-manager and physical defender but doesn’t shoot it that well from the outside.

Ryan should keep a tight four-man rotation at guard with George Marshall being the primary reserve. Marshall is more of an offensive-minded point guard, but he needs to earn Ryan’s trust on the defensive end to warrant more minutes. Zach Showalter was used in spot minutes a year ago, and that should once again be the case this season with Riley Dearing and Jordan Hill not expected to see much floor time as freshmen.

With starting forwards Ryan Evans and Mike Bruesewitz moving on, Sam Dekker is expected to be one of the true breakout players of the 2013-14 season. He is a talented, all-around scorer on the offensive end as he can stroke it from deep and brings some explosiveness at the rim off the bounce. With Wisconsin expected to use a smaller lineup, the biggest question is how Dekker survives on the defensive end since he will likely have to guard bigger, stronger guys since he is technically the “power forward” of the starting five.

Continuing in the Badger tradition of big men who can step out and knock down outside shots is Frank Kaminsky. He only played about 10 minutes per game last season behind Jared Berggren and isn’t the back-to-the-basket, shot-blocking threat that Berggren brought to the floor. Kaminsky also needs to be more aggressiveness on the glass.

Frontcourt depth is a serious question mark for Wisconsin since Zach Bohannon and Evan Anderson were seldom used last season and the only returning players. Bohannon is an undersized, energy role player, while Anderson is a former top-100 recruit who just hasn’t come close to reaching his potential with the Badgers. As a result, freshmen Nigel Hayes and Vitto Brown are candidates to see minutes right away. Hayes appears to be ready for quality bench minutes due to his physicality down low and ability to step out and knock down mid-range jumpers.

Since Bo Ryan took over as head coach 12 years ago, the Wisconsin Badgers have never finished lower than fourth place in the Big Ten and have made the NCAA Tournament every year. Wisconsin’s style of play is far from sexy, but perhaps no coach in college basketball gets more out the talent on his team than Ryan. While there are concerns about the depth up front, I certainly am not foolish to underestimate the Badgers as they should certainly be a top-four finisher in the conference and a staple among the Top 25.

Player to Watch: Sam Dekker, SF
The home-state kid is the most talented wing player to wear a Badgers jersey since Alando Tucker. With the current makeup of this year’s team though, Dekker will have to play out of position defensively which is a concern. However, he will be a nightmare matchup for opposing teams since he is a well-rounded offensive threat. For the record, any NBA Mock Draft that is forecasting Dekker to leave school after this season is foolish. The kid isn’t going anywhere after this year.

Key Non-Conference Games:
  • 11/8 vs. St. John’s (in South Dakota)
  • 11/12 vs. Florida
  • 11/16 at Green Bay
  • 11/26 vs. St. Louis (Cancun Challenge)
  • 11/27 vs. West Virginia/Old Dominion (Cancun Challnge)
  • 12/4 at Virginia (Big Ten/ACC Challenge)
  • 12/7 vs. Marquette

  • Predicted Big Ten Finish: 4th

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