File photo (Fouad Egbaria)
The Wolverines opened up their season against a vastly overmatched Concordia squad last night, eventually leaving the floor with a 117-44 victory. Although much of the preseason focus has been on the Wolverines and Spartans this season, this is the Big Ten; several other teams will be in the mix for title contention this season.
As usual, one of those teams will be the Badgers, who began their season tonight against UW-Platteville in the Kohl Center for an exhibition tune-up before taking on St. John's next Friday in Sioux Falls.
Bo Ryan is faced with the task of replacing multiple key pieces seemingly every year, and yet the Badgers always seem to turn out all right. The 2012-13 UW squad went from a mediocre 6-4 start to a 4-seed (and a first round bye). This season, the Badgers have to replace Jared Berggren, Mike Brusewitz and Ryan Evans in the frontcourt.
However, UW returns rising star Sam Dekker, Ben Brust and Traevon Jackson at the point, not to mention Josh Gasser from injury.
Dekker, Gasser, Jackson, Brust and Frank Kaminsky got the start for the Badgers tonight; given the aforementioned departures, the Badgers will need big minutes from Kaminsky this season. In any case, this will certainly be a backcourt-oriented squad this season.
Due to technical difficulties, I missed the first 4:30 or so. Platteville gained a 12-11 lead early.
RS Jr. Duje Dukan came in for Dekker at the first break. Naturally, Jackson pushed it in transition and hit Dukan in the corner, who nailed the open trey. I say "naturally" because Dukan is, of course, 6'9'', continuing the UW tradition of big guy three-point shooters.
The 6'7'' freshman forward Nigel Hayes also entered the game early; he took a bad jumper from the left side and then failed to convert on a second chance opportunity around the rim. The same competition caveats brought up re: Michigan's exhibition yesterday apply here; it's difficult to tell what to expect from certain guys after a game like this. With that said, given the lack of much proven frontcourt production, the Badgers will have to rely on the freshman Hayes and fellow freshman (and fellow Ohioan) Vitto Brown.
As far as backcourt reserves go, freshman Bronson Koenig is an interesting prospect. At 6'3'' 190 pounds, the freshman offers up some solid size at the guard spot. Also at the guard spot, 6'3'' freshman Jordan Hill joins the fray.
Platteville hung tough for about the first 10 minutes, but after Hayes reeled in a rebound off a missed Kaminsky three and put it in, the Badgers boasted a 29-18 lead.
Given the guard-heavy nature of this squad, some wondered if this iteration of UW basketball would like to push the pace more than it has in the past. The commentators mentioned this, but even though this was just an exhibition, the Badgers found quite a bit of success in transition, running the floor with nice spacing and hitting the open man at the right time.
Now, I don't expect the Badgers to play like Louisville or anything this Big Ten season, but don't be surprised if they do attempt to get some mine some easy buckets in transition.
Dukan had a bit of a rough sequence in which he was slow to help after Platteville executed a nice backdoor pass; on the ensuing offensive possession, Dukan threw up a rough shot on the block. It seemed like he expected a foul, but there didn't seem to be much contact.
The Badgers went into the half up just 37-30. UW's three-point shot would not fall in the first 20 minutes, as the Badgers shot just 1-for-11 from beyond the arc, including a pair of misses at the end of the half when Platteville switched to a zone.
Wisconsin shot just 33% as a team last season, good for 7th in the Big Ten and 225th nationally, so it's not as if they shot the three well last season either. Gasser shot a tremendous 45% from three back in 2011-12, and Brust has shot exactly 38.9% each of the last two seasons. If those two can fill it up from downtown, whatever contributions the Badgers can get from bigs like Kaminsky and Dukan will be gravy.
As with yesterday's post, I'll skip the second half narrative and jump to miscellaneous observations via bullet.