While there’s no denying the fact that Wisconsin 7-footer Frank Kaminsky enjoyed a breakout junior season in 2013-14, averaging 13.9 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, he posted just two double-doubles the entire year. Sunday afternoon Kaminsky tallied his second double-double in as many games this season, accounting for 15 points, ten rebounds and four assists in the second-ranked Badgers’ 89-45 win over Chattanooga.
Kaminsky was part of a balanced offensive attack led by four players scoring in double figures, with the senior being joined by Sam Dekker (18 points), Traevon Jackson (16) and Nigel Hayes (15, 13 rebounds). Josh Gasser was the lone starter to not reach double figures, scoring nine points in the win.
Wisconsin can hurt teams in a variety of ways offensively, and that was evident against the Mocs. The Badgers shot 53.3% from the field and made eight of their eighteen three-point attempts, and they also assisted on 20 of their 32 made field goals.
Also of note in the win was the play of sophomore forward Vitto Brown. With senior Duje Dukan serving the final game of his NCAA-mandated suspension Brown took advantage of the additional minutes, accounting for six points and nine rebounds in 20 minutes of action. Obviously Dukan will absorb some of those minutes when he returns to the rotation, but Brown’s play in Wisconsin’s two victories (seven points, four rebounds in 14 minutes Friday night) is a positive sign for the Badgers moving forward.
With Dukan and guard Bronson Koenig both returning from last year’s Final Four team Bo Ryan has seven experienced players he can call upon this season. If Brown can be the eighth, that can only help Wisconsin in the long run.
With the loss of Jared Berggren, Mike Bruesewitz, Ryan Evans from last season’s 23-win squad, Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan will rely on returnees such as guards Ben Brust and Josh Gasser and wing Sam Dekker to lead the way in 2013-14. Also of importance for Wisconsin is the arrival of a talented five-man freshman class, including guard Bronson Koenig and forward Nigel Hayes.
With two of the team’s top three scorers from last season (Berggren and Evans) gone those newcomers will have an opportunity to earn a spot in the rotation (they also took a summer trip to Canada to help with the learning curve). 6-foot-8 forward Vitto Brown is one of those players, and he can belt out a tune as well. Prior to the start of the team’s Red-White Scrimmage on Saturday Brown, a native of Bowling Green, Ohio, sang the national anthem.
As for the scrimmage the Red team won 67-65 with Brust and George Marshall leading the way offensively with 16 and 14 points, respectively. Dekker led the White team with a game-high 18 points, but more important than any stats from the game was the fact that Gasser made his return to the floor after tearing his ACL prior to the start of the 2012-13 campaign. In 26 minutes of action the redshirt junior tallied 11 points and two assists.
Without Gasser last season more was asked of both Marshall and Traevon Jackson, with the latter making 28 starts and posting averages of 6.9 points and 2.8 assists (led the team) per game. Now with Gasser healthy and the arrival of Koenig, the Badgers have a lot more depth at the point guard position than they did a season ago.
Wisconsin may have lost some key contributors, but since Ryan took over in 2001 the Badgers have yet to finish worse than fourth in the Big Ten in any season (that includes ties for fourth). If the newcomers prove themselves capable of helping out the returnees, Wisconsin will have a good chance of keeping that streak alive.