Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports
The No. 8 Wisconsin Basketball team is off to a perfect 10-0 start and is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. The Badgers are undefeated in non-conference play and won the Cancun Challenge, which is a respected tournament that occurs annually in Mexico.
It seems as though the Badgers already have enough quality wins to bolster a NCAA tournament resume and conference play hasn’t even begun. They have defeated St. Johns on a neutral court, No. 11 Florida, Saint Louis and West Virginia in the Cancun Challenge, Virginia on the road and their bitter rival Marquette.
The Badgers’ tough schedule, that they’ve breezed through, will have them battle-tested once their conference schedule does begin.
The Big Ten is the toughest conference in the country and no one will be more prepared to endure it than Wisconsin. February could be described as “Hell Month” for the Badgers so it is important that they have been stacking up the quality wins over the first month of the season.
Ohio State is the only other undefeated team in the Big Ten but they have played two less games than the Badgers and haven’t played nearly as many tough opponents.
The Badgers have three remaining non-conference matchups before the conference schedule begins. They have a real chance of going into Big Ten play unblemished with a 13-0 record. Their next three games are at home against inferior opponents in the Milwaukee Panthers, Eastern Kentucky Colonels and the Prairie View A&M Panthers. But the Badgers shouldn’t sleep on these teams which consider playing in Madison their biggest game of the year.
If the Badgers finish their non-conference slate 13-0 they should expect to be in or near the top-5 in the country. The Badgers’ first conference game is at Northwestern (5-5) so hopefully the Badgers carry their momentum deep into conference play.
There is no sense in not dreaming about a fourth Big Ten Championship for Bo Ryan since he began leading the Badgers. Jeff Goodman of ESPN believes the Badgers have final four potential and I’d have to agree.
Highlight of the Season: Frank “The Tank” Kaminsky’s 43 point explosion against North Dakota, setting the school record for points in a game and is the most points scored in division-1 college basketball this season. The Crazy part? He did it on 16/19 shooting in only 28 minutes.
MVP so Far: TIE: Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker. Both players are averaging over 14 points-per-game on the year and both have hit huge shots as the season has unfolded.
Surprise of the Season: Freshman Nigel Hayes’ contributions, minutes played and scoring ability. He is playing more than most true freshmen have ever played under Bo Ryan. Hayes can create his own shot based on athletic ability alone and plays solid defense. Honorable mention goes to fellow freshman Bronson Koenig who has shown his savvy ball-handling skills and shooting ability. He has also received more minutes than I anticipated he would get; I’m okay with being wrong on this one.
Thing that Needs to Get Better: The Badgers could get a little bit more scoring from the bench but it is hard because of how impressive the five starters have been this year. No one on the bench is averaging over 4 points-per-game on the year (Hayes is averaging 4.0 points-per-game).
Impressive Stat of the Season: All Five of the Badgers’ starters are averaging double-digit points-per-game. It is impressively consistent and incredibly rare to have such balanced scoring. Starters Points-Per-Game: Frank Kaminsky 14.6, Sam Dekker 14.4, Ben Brust 11.4, Traevon Jackson 11.2 and Josh Gasser 10.4. If the Badgers can continue this balance as the conference schedule grinds on they should be in position to compete for the Big Ten championship and a very high seed in the NCAA tournament.
Keep it up Bucky, this season has been fun to watch and there is still over three months left to be played.
Who else is excited?