Big Ten Basketball Preview: Wisconsin

Story posted November 6, 2013 in Sports, CommRadio by Jeff Jezewski

Key Returning Players

Wisconsin’s top returning players include Ben Brust (11.2 PPG), Traevon Jackson (6.9 PPG) and Sam Dekker (9.6 PPG). Brust was arguably Wisconsin’s top player last year. He averaged 11.2 points per game while pulling down 5.1 rebounds per game. The senior guard has improved every year and could have a breakout season.

Traevon Jackson enters his junior year looking to play a bigger role for the Badgers. Last year he averaged just under seven points and three assists a game. Sophomore Sam Dekker returns after a solid freshman campaign. The 6’7” Wisconsin native was fourth on the team in scoring in just 22 minutes per game. His role will expand this year as he will have to help shoulder the scoring load.

Key Losses

Wisconsin loses their whole frontcourt in Jared Berggren (11 PPG, 6.9 RPG), Ryan Evans (10.1 PPG, 7.3 RPG) and Mike Brusewitz (6.4 PPG, 5.3 RPG). Each big man averaged over 28 minutes per game for the Badgers last year. Wisconsin’s only returning big man, Frank Kaminsky, played ten minutes per game in the 2012-2013 campaign.

Wisconsin loses 27.5 points per game and 20 rebounds per game from the trio. Kaminsky and the other Badger big men will need to step up to replace these three solid contributors.

Offensive/Defensive Rankings

            Points per game- 66.2, 206th in nation

            Field Goal Percentage- 42.6%, 211th in nation

            Points per Game Allowed- 55.9, 7th in nation

            Field Goal Percentage Allowed- 39.4%, 33rd in nation

            Rebounds per game- 36.9, 71st in nation

Non-Conference Schedule

Wisconsin’s non-conference schedule is incredibly challenging for the 2013-2014 season. Wisconsin will take on the likes of Saint Johns, No. 10 Florida, Notre Dame, Saint Louis, No. 24 Virginia and No. 17 Marquette.

The Badgers will be tested early, opening up the season with an up-and-coming Saint John’s team on November 8th. In their second game of the season the Badgers will play tenth ranked Florida on November 12th. While the game against Florida will certainly be a challenging task for Wisconsin, I look at the December 4th matchup with Virginia as the key non-conference matchup for this team.

The Badgers will not be expected to beat Florida, but the matchup against No. 24 Virginia will be a solid gauge of the talent this Wisconsin team has. They have a month of non-conference games to figure themselves out before the game in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Conference Schedule

Wisconsin got lucky in its conference schedule, only playing Ohio State and Michigan State once each. They also get the opportunity to player lesser Big Ten teams like Purdue and Northwestern twice.

The key stretch for this Wisconsin team falls between February 1st and February 16th. During this period Wisconsin will take on Ohio State, Illinois, Michigan State, Minnesota and Michigan. They have to find a way to win three or four of those games to be a true threat to the Big Ten elites. Luckily for the Badgers, three of their five games are in Wisconsin.

Coach’s Hot Seat

Scale (1-10): 1

Bo Ryan is an outstanding coach. He is beloved in the state of Wisconsin by the fans. There is little to no chance he gets fired. Heading into his 13th year at Wisconsin, Ryan has led the Badgers to the most successful stretch in Wisconsin basketball history.

He has won 291 games and five Big Ten titles. Wisconsin has made the NCAA tournament in each of Ryan’s 12 seasons at Wisconsin. Ryan will look to continue his success and will not be forced out of Madison anytime soon.

Season Outlook

Wisconsin will have to figure out how to replace its frontcourt of Berggren, Evans and Brusewitz as soon as possible. The Badgers claim to fame under Bo Ryan has been defense and I believe that will continue going into this season. However, Wisconsin will need to score more than they did last year. Look for Brust and Dekker to shoulder a good portion of the scoring load.

Wisconsin starts the 2013-2014 season ranked 20th in the AP Poll, but I don’t believe they will finish the season in the top 25. Wisconsin’s tough early schedule will help define this season for Wisconsin. If they struggle early, the season could get long for the Badgers when they enter Big Ten play. I see this team finishing sixth in the Big Ten and making the NCAA tournament for the 13th year of Bo Ryan’s tenure.

Jeff Jezewski is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email jvj5228@psu.edu.