Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

OPINION: Wisconsin basketball continues sliding

Wisconsin basketball is not in a good state.

Mishaps at in-opportune times, poor shooting performances, defense breakdowns and simple lack-luster play … all from a team that at one point and time was considered one of the top three teams in all of college basketball.

Wisconsin, who with their loss at home to Ohio State, Saturday, sealed their fate inside the Big Ten regular season title race, just doesn’t have their game in the right place at the moment.

Their win streak to start the season seems like a distant memory. So does Wisconsin’s idea of fighting with the top dogs inside their league and continuing their run as a nation’s elite.

Tweets surrounded Saturday’s game, seemingly willing to baptise Nigel Hayes into the next group of great up-and-coming players for Wisconsin.

But lets be real, he’s a freshman and he shows it.

Will Hayes become great? Possibly. But when a team that’s struggling starts talking about a freshman swooping in and saving the day, something needs to change.

The road tonight leads to Champaign, Illinois.

Wisconsin faces what might be their fifth attempt at turning point already this season. Should the Badgers struggle once again, Tuesday, it’s possible the finger-pointing could lead right to the top.

Hard to imagine Bo Ryan’s coaching ability being called into question, and I would NEVER be the one to pass blame from the players.

Players make plays and players win games.

Wisconsin’s running out of time to get some momentum built for a March run, with less than a handful of games that stand between them and selection time looking into the NCAA tourney.

WHO’S TO BLAME

Right now, the poor play falls on the players. Selfishness at the point guard position, inability to get stops when the other team is up against the shot clock and missing opportunities to close out games at the free throw line.

Traevon Jackson should have Bronson Koenig breather down his neck for a starting position. Plain and simple, the point guard play in tough situations haven’t gone in Jackson’s favor, and Bo Ryan might seriously need to look at it sooner than later.

Sam Dekker is lacking confidence. He doesn’t want to pull the trigger early in the shot clock, passes up on post positions inside and doesn’t want to find the basketball when Wisconsin needs a score. All those characteristics will need to fall in place if he plans on keeping his stature among the best up-and-coming players in the NCAA.

WHO NEEDS TO BECOME BIGGER

Frank Kaminsky’s school-record performance seems like years ago. And much like Dekker, his confidence with the basketball in his hands seems to have fallen under scrutiny as much as anything with this team, of late.

Being a big man demands certain aspects. Playing tough defense with your back to the basket is one of them.

Wisconsin will eventually run into a team that will threaten to end their season from inside. The track record of forwards and centers controlling the paint this season against Wisconsin doesn’t speak too highly of the chances looking ahead. Plain and simple, Frank needs to reach into his tank and muster up some better play.

THE BENCH

Every team needs that sixth and seventh man.

So far this season it’s been a mix of Duje Dukan, Koenig and Hayes who’ve been the three most called upon to fill meaningful minutes, and their progression as vital parts of this team needs to continue if Wisconsin wants to run through the end of the season and NCAA tourney.

Tags: Badgers Big Ten Basketball Bo Ryan Duje Dukan Frank Kaminsky Sam Dekker Traevon Jackson Wisconsin Basketball

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