All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.
Last Season: 23-12, 12-6 Big Ten (t-4th); Lost to Ole Miss in the Round of 64
Head Coach: Bo Ryan (13th season at Wisconsin: 291-113 overall, 143-60 Big Ten)
Key Losses: Jared Berggren, Mike Bruesewitz, Ryan Evans
Newcomers: Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig, Riley Dearring, Jordan Hill, Vitto Brown
– G: Traevon Jackson, Jr.
– G: Ben Brust, Sr.
– G: Josh Gasser, Jr.
– F: Sam Dekker, So.
– C: Frank Kaminsky, Jr.
– Bench: Bronson Koenig, Fr.; Nigel Hayes, Fr.; George Marshall, So.; Evan Anderson, Jr.; Zach Bohannon, Sr.; Zak Showalter, So.
They’ll be good because …: They always are. That’s simply how it works in Madison. Regardless of what happens during football season, Badger fans can rely on the fact that their basketball team is going to be good enough to compete for a Big Ten title. That’s just the way it is. If you’re a Big Ten hoops fan, the following stat won’t come as any surprise to you: Bo Ryan has been the head coach at Wisconsin for 12 years, and he’s never finished worse than fourth in the league in those 12 years despite the fact that the Badgers seemingly lose two or three “indispensable” pieces each spring.
You don’t really need an argument better than that one, but I’ll give it to you anyway: Sam Dekker. Dekker was a five-star recruit coming out of high school that was relegated to the bench in his first season with the Badgers. He still managed to averaged 9.6 points despite playing less than 23 minutes a night on a team that plays as slow a pace as anyone in the country. But Dekker, a 6-foot-7 wing with all the prerequisites (length, athleticism, handle, deep range), is good enough to be considered a sleeper to win Big Ten Player of the Year, which means that he’ll be good enough to carry the Badgers if, by some stroke of fate, Ryan can’t figure out a way to get Dekker’s supporting cast of no-names to look like all-league performers.
But they might disappoint because …: The Badgers really don’t have all that much size this year. Frank Kaminsky looks like he could end up being the next pick-and-pop big man to thrive in Ryan’s Swing Offense, but he averaged 4.2 points and 1.8 boards in 10 minutes last year. That’s solid production, but will it translate when he sees his minutes increase? And rest assured, his minutes will increase, because the Badgers don’t have any other proven assets in their front court. Nigel Hayes is a four-star recruit, but the 6-foot-7 forward is a lanky athlete that doesn’t really have the bulk to bang with the big boys just yet. Evan Anderson and Duje Dukan are big redshirt juniors that have been in the program since 2010 and played a combined 46 games in those three seasons.
There are some good big men in the Big Ten this season — Adreian Payne, Mitch McGary, A.J. Hammons, Noah Vonleh. How will the Badgers match up with them?
Outlook: I have complete and utter faith in Bo Ryan at this point. I can look at this roster and point out the holes — they don’t have enough size, their back court is flooded with little guards, the point guard spot will again be a question mark this season if Josh Gasser doesn’t return to form this season coming off of ACL surgery, they really don’t have a true four on their roster — and come February none of it will matter. It happens every year, and, as we noted earlier, every year that Bo Ryan has been at Wisconsin, he’s finished in the top four.
So yes, I agree with you. I look at this roster and very little about it screams to me “top 25 team”. But until Bo Ryan fails to finish in the top four of the Big Ten, he will find a spot in my preseason top 25. Because if you are one of the top four teams in the Big Ten, you are one of the top 25 teams in the country. That’s just how it works.