2015 NCAA Tournament: Wisconsin’s Bench Needs to Step Up For Badgers to be Successful


Before we know it, selection Sunday will be upon us and March Madness will be in full effect. The Wisconsin Badgers are looking at trying to grab one of the number one seeds that will be up for grabs in the next week during conference tournaments. But for Wisconsin to do that and to be successful in the 2015 NCAA Tournament, the Badgers bench will really need to step up in the coming weeks.

We all know how well Frank Kaminsky and the other four starters have been playing as of late. The starting five is not a cause for concern by any means. It’s the players coming off the bench that need to find a way to elevate their game to the next level heading into the tournament.

Bronson Koenig did provide a spark off the bench, but since Traevon Jackson broke his foot back on January 11th Koenig has been thrust into the starting spot and has performed well. In the next few games, Wisconsin’s bench didn’t really seem to miss a beat as they have averaged just under 10 points per game in five games. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but not having Koenig come off the bench anymore and that number takes a slight hit.

However in the last eight games, the bench has been virtually non-existent. They’ve averaged a measly 2.6 points per game in the last eight and really have done nothing to help out the starters and give them a rest. You can almost bank on that when Kaminsky and Sam Dekker head to the bench, the momentum starts shifting towards the other team.

Paging Mr. Dukan…PAGING MR. DUKAN!

Duje Dukan emerged on the scene last season and gave the Badgers quality minutes off the bench. That seemed to carry over to start this season, but the second half of the year has been a completely different story. In his first 16 games of the season (remember he sat out the first two Badger games because of a stupid NCAA violation), Dukan scored in double figures four times including a season-high 14 against Northwestern. Dukan averaged about 6.5 points per game in that stretch and was a trusted option coming off the bench for Bo Ryan.

Since then, Dukan has not performed up to his expectations whatsoever. In the last 12 games Dukan is averaging just 2.3 points per game and has failed to score in four of those games. His minutes have gone down slightly and has yet to seem to get it going as of late. It’s no coincidence that the rest of the bench has gone down the same time as Dukan’s numbers have as well. As Duje Dukan goes, so does the rest of the bench players.

Zak Showalter and Vitto Brown are the two other bench players that also need to elevate their games heading into the NCAA Tournament. There was a stretch there in the middle of the season where Showalter performed at a high level and provided another spark off the bench along with Koenig.

Brown is a player that will not fill up a stat sheet, but has the ability to give this Wisconsin team some quality minutes off the bench. He proved it earlier this season, although it was against lesser competition compared to the teams of the Big Ten. But he, along with Dukan and Showalter, have not given the Badgers much to work with off the bench.

If the Badgers want to reach the Final Four again this year, the time is now to start getting hot and go on a nice little run again. But if they are to do that, they will need their bench players to elevate their game to another level. Bench play will be key in the NCAA Tournament and Dukan, Showalter and Brown all need to start to step up to the plate.