Now I’m not one to get ahead of myself and take a big look into the future. But after last night’s loss to the Kentucky Wildcats, I couldn’t help myself take a peak into what the Wisconsin Badgers are capable of accomplishing next season. And I couldn’t help thinking that this team is very capable of making a run to the 2015 Final Four.
Call me crazy if you want. Go ahead, I’ve been called a lot worse. But at least hear me out before you start calling me everything under the sun.
For starters, the core from this year’s team is returning with the exception of Ben Brust. Although it will be a blow to lose Brust’s 12.8 points per game and his school-record 235 career three pointers made, they have players that will be able to step up and fill that spot.
Which brings me to my next point. Freshmen Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig have proved this season that they are more than capable of taking on more prominent roles with the team next season. Does that mean that either of these players will find themselves in the starting lineup next season? Jury is still out on that one, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see either one landing a starting role.
Point guard Traevon Jackson played well this season, although some would argue he had one too many turnovers. At times yes, he did the turn the ball over in some key situations. But he also hit some big shots this year as well. Remember who hit the game-winning shot against Michigan State February 9th? If you guessed Traevon Jackson, you would be correct. Jackson was also the one Bo Ryan would turn to in the closing seconds of games to take the big shots for this team. If Jackson is able to take better care of the basketball and step-up his defense next season, this team could be very dangerous.
Junior Frank Kaminsky was far-and-away the most improved player on this team. His hard work in the offseason really paid dividends for him and for the Wisconsin Badgers. Kaminsky’s footwork, shot, defense and overall game improved greatly. Frank the Tank was an All-Big Ten first team selection and was also named Most Outstanding Player of the West region in the NCAA Tournament. I can only imagine the improvement this offseason will bring to Kaminsky’s game.
Speaking of offseasons, Sam Dekker had some of the highest expectations heading into this season. After averaging 22.3 minutes and 9.6 points per game in his freshman season, the Sheboygan, WI native was positioned to be the star of the Badgers this season. That didn’t quite happened as he took a backseat to Kaminsky. Dekker’s season wasn’t horrible by any means (12.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg), but look for him to really breakout with Kaminsky as the leading weapons on this team.
And don’t overlook Josh Gasser, who came back this season from ACL surgery to be a defensive catalyst. Although Gasser only averaged 8.8 points a game, he shot 43% from beyond the arc and played stellar defense throughout the season. That is also why he was so devastated after Aaron Harrison hit the game-winning, three-point shot over him in the Final Four on Saturday. There wasn’t much more that Gasser could do to thwart Harrison’s shot. That is going to make Gasser work that much harder to make sure something like that does not happen again.
I understand the 2015 Final Four is 365 days away. But with the core of this team returning after getting seconds away from going to the national championship game just to have the rug taken out from under them, it’s tough not to think this team can’t make it to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis next year.
Still want to call me crazy?