Wisconsin Looks to Maintain Dominance

Wisconsin Looks to Maintain Dominance

September 23, 2015

It would be easy for Wisconsin to bask in the glow of the last two seasons. After all, the Badgers won 66 of 78 games and advanced to a pair Final Fours, including reaching last year’s championship game for the first time since 1941. It would be easy to enjoy the fruits of one’s labor.

But that is not how Bo Ryan became the winningest coach in Wisconsin history. That is not how his teams have earned 357 victories in just 14 seasons with him running the show. No, it’s back to the grind stone.

The first order of business is replacing a pair of players who were instrumental in the success of the previous two seasons. Frank Kaminsky was the consensus National Player of the Year last season, posting averages of 18.8 points per game, 8.2 rebounds per game, and amassing 103 assists. Sam Dekker was equally as valuable to the Badgers’ success, registering 13.9 points and 5.5 rebounds a game. Neither will be easily replaced.

However, the cupboard is by no means bare. Junior forward Nigel Hayes is a Sporting News preseason first-team All-American after putting up 12.4 points per game, 6.2 rebounds per game, and 79 assists a year ago. Classmate Bronson Koenig handed out 98 assists in the back court to go along with a scoring average of 8.7 points per game.

In order to duplicate the success of the Ryan Reign, others will have to step up and the new guys will have to make the jump from the scholastic ranks.

In July, Mark Alesia of the Indianapolis Star wrote a story about Wisconsin’s recruiting. He cited that in 2013-14, Wisconsin spent $62,082 on recruiting. To put that in perspective, Indiana spent $673,708. So how in the world can Wisconsin keep up in the recruiting wars? Well, when your recruiting base is the fertile land of the Midwest and your program is the Big Ten’s most successful over the last 14 years, you don’t have to go very far to attract top talent.

Seven new faces will be wearing Red and White this season, all but two from the Midwest. Forwards Alex Illikainen (Grand Rapids, Mich.), Khalil Iverson (Delaware, Ohio), and Ethan Happ (Milan, Ill.) and guards Brevin Pritzl (DePere, Wis.) and T.J. Schlandt (Oconomowoc, Wis.) all hail from within 500 miles of Madison. Add 6-8 forward Charlie Thomas of River Hills High School in Highland, Md., who just so happens to be his school’s all-time career leader in points (1,717), rebounds (893), and blocked shots (159), and 6-11 center Andy Van Vliet, who helped lead Belgium to its highest finish ever in the European Championships this year, and you have the makings of a successful continuation of the Ryan Reign.

Wisconsin will face Georgetown in the semifinals of the 2K Classic benefiting Wounded Warrior Project at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 20. The game will be followed by Duke-VCU with the championship and consolation games being played on Nov. 22. Tickets are available at: http://bit.ly/1T10Bfn

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