Apr 5, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Wisconsin Badgers forward Frank Kaminsky (44) shoots the ball against the Kentucky Wildcats in the second half during the semifinals of the Final Four in the 2014 NCAA Mens Division I Championship tournament at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
2013-14 Result: 30-8, 12-6 in Big Ten
NCAA Tournament: Final Four (74-73 loss to #8 Kentucky)
Head Coaching Prospectus: Bo Ryan (321-121 at Wisconsin, reached NCAA tournament in all 13 years)
The Big Ten is littered with some phenomenal coaches, but very few are as consistent as Bo Ryan. In his 13 years at the school, Ryan has reached the NCAA tournament in every season, and has only failed to win a game on one occassion. The credentials pretty much speak for themselves.
- 13 NCAA tournament appearances
- 4 Sweet 16s
- 3 Big Ten championships
- 1 Elite Eight
- 1 Final Fours
- 2 Big Ten Tournament Championship (Runner-up twice)
Entering his 14th season in Madison, Ryan is a household name around the country, not just in the Big Ten. No matter what amount of talent the Badgers lose, Ryan always manages to retool every year and have Wisconsin near the top of the conference.
As many are aware, Wisconsin doesn’t play the most exciting brand of basketball around. Ryan has implamented a system that based off of precise passing angles and spacing. The Badgers get to the free throw line while keeping their opponents off of it, make sound passes, and take care of the basketball. It’s a system that’s worked in the Big Ten for Ryan as he’s never finished worse than fourth in arguably the top hoops conference in the nation.
The program hasn’t gotten over the hump quite yet. The Badgers didn’t reach the Final Four for the first time until this past season when they ultimately fell to John Calipari’s Wildcats. However, Ryan has produced some incredible players in the likes of Dallas Mavericks guard Devin Harris, Memphis Grizzlies forward Jon Leuer, and Toronto Raptors center Greg Stiemsma. He has also produced a large amount of successful collegiate players that are perfects fits for the type of system that Wisconsin runs.
In a year where teams like Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State lost a few key pieces, can Ryan and the Badgers finally get to Championship Monday?
Key Returning Players
F Frank Kaminsky (Sr.)
F Sam Dekker (Jr.)
G Traevon Jackson (Sr.)
G Josh Gasser (Sr.)
As was mentioned above, consistency is an extremely big factor for any Bo Ryan-coached team. For the 2014-2015 Badgers squad, it’s a group that returns four of their top five scorers (61.9 percent of their scoring), including star forward Frank Kaminsky. Kaminsky was instrumental in Wisconsin’s Final Four run, and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the West Regional where the Badgers upset number one seeded Arizona. The Illinois native has a tremendous face-up game, but also has the ability to beat teams from beyond the arc (37.8 percent shooter from three last year).
One of Wisconsin’s more underrated players is point guard Traevon Jackson. Jackson did averaged four assists per game as a junior, but is also quite the scorer when given space. The Ohio native can be deadly from the outside (38.2 percent), but also has no problem putting the ball on the floor. Jackson is another senior that is more than capable of helping carrying the scoring load.
When you think of a team like the Badgers, they can burn you in multiple facets of the game. With guys like Kaminsky and Dekker down low and Jackson and Gasser shooting from outside, Wisconsin is an incredibly lethal squad. The Badgers will be one of the toughest outs in the Big Ten if not the entire nation.
As stated previously, the frontcourt is the bread and butter for the Badgers. Kaminsky is one of the most players in the Big Ten and maybe even the nation. The kid can do it all. Kaminsky can back down opposing defenders like any post threat, but his range is wider than most big men. The senior forward shoots nearly 38 percent from three, and a remarkable 52.8 percent clip from the floor. Kaminsly connected on 37 three-pointers during the 2013-2014 season, and could do even more damage this coming season. He’s one of those players that opposing teams need to know where they are on every single trip down the floor.
As good as Kaminsky is in the frontcourt, Dekker is just as talented. He’s obviously a little smaller, but one of the most athletic guys around. Dekker is somewhat of a slasher that can get to the backet on a moment’s notice. You can almost say that Dekker has a knack for getting to the rim. The 6’7 forward also has some pretty solid range from deep. While he only shot 32.6 percent from the outside last season, opposing teams still have to respect what Dekker can do from a shooting perspective.
Despite returning most of their top talent, the backcourt will look a little bit different in Madison this season. Guard Ben Brust graduated and his nearly 13 points-per-game will certainly be missed. However, the Badgers do have a solid group of guards that can get the job done.
As was stated above, Jackson is an exceptional point guard that can take control of Bo Ryan’s offense. Jackson can stop on a dime and thread the needle, but is also a very strong scorer. The lefty guard has a decent shot and can rain one in from just about anywhere on the court. The son of former Ohio State star Jim Jackson, the younger Jackson is a pick-and-pop type of shooter. His father was a 36.5 percent shooter from beyond the arc , just a few notches below where his son shot during his junior season at Wisconsin.
Gasser is a guy that not many Big Ten fans probably now about. However, the senior guard is essential to the success of the Badgers this coming season. Gasser is the definition of a marksman as he shot a staggering 43.1 percent from beyond the arc a season ago. There were only 12 games last season where Gasser failed to connect on at least one three-pointer. One of the reasons that Gasser is so effective is the fact that Wisconsin prides itself on its crisp passing and strong concept of sharing the basketball.
With quite a few teams losing significant talent in the Big Ten, this is Wisconsin’s year to take the regular season crown. Kaminsky deciding to return to Madison was one of the biggest decisions around, and he should pick up right where he left off in March. With four of their top five scorers back in the fold, Bo Ryan’s group could make some serious noise not only in the conference, but in the entire country. For those factors alone, I think that the Badgers win the Big Ten this season.