Wisconsin guard T.J. Schlundt throws up the 3. (Photo by Rebecca Haas/sconniesportstalk.com)

Wisconsin men’s basketball season review: Bench report cards

Yesterday, we reviewed the Wisconsin Badgers’ starters’ report cards.

Today, we take a look at the bench. Since none of these players really had expectations entering the season and have smaller sample sizes, the evaluation will be less detailed.

Jordan Hill

Season statistics: 29 GP, 16.1 MPG, 3.0 PPG, 1.4 RPG, 0.8 APG, 0.3 SPG, 38% FG, 33% 3PT.

Wisconsin guard Jordan Hill awaits his turn. (Photo by Rebecca Haas/sconniesportstalk.com)
Hill started playing under Gard, a move that was pivotal to the team’s success (Rebecca Haas/sconniesportstalk.com).

Season recap: After not playing more than a minute in Bo Ryan’s last eight games in charge, Greg Gard offered an immediate vote of confidence to Hill immediately upon taking over. He began receiving 15-20 minutes per night as the first guard off the bench, and proved to be a stellar on-ball defender along with a surprising source of scoring. As the season went on under Gard, he continued to play consistent minutes, but his offensive influence more or less disappeared. However, he was still trusted to play important minutes in important games due to his lockdown capabilities on the defensive end. His minutes guarding Yogi Ferrell against Indiana, Myles Davis against Xavier, and his late steal and layup against Notre Dame were characteristic of the important defensive influence that he brought to the Badgers after being reinserted into the lineup.

Overall verdict: Yes, his impact defensively was nice, but a little more offensive production from Hill could have gone a long way to helping this team. Increased success from deep and more assurance late in the shot clock could have allowed Gard to go small more often without fear of losing any offensive fire power. Evaluating Hill’s season as a whole though, he did quite well for himself. Getting consistent DNPs as a redshirt sophomore on scholarship is never a good sign, and he did well to take the lifeline that Gard offered to him and use his pesky defensive skills to his advantage.

Grade: B

Khalil Iverson

Season statistics: 34 GP, 13 MPG, 2.6 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 0.6 APG, 0.6 BPG, 0.4 SPG, 1 TOPG, 47% FG, 52% FT, 16% 3PT.

Season recap: Iverson received substantial minutes under Bo early in non-conference play as Hill sat on the bench; but as his production tailed off, so did his minutes. Gard played him sparingly throughout his first nine games at the helm, but a break out game against Illinois, in which he scored 10 points in 30 minutes, won him back a solid place in the rotation. His minutes fluctuated due to his complete inability to shoot the ball, but his athleticism, defensive ability, and strength in finishing around the rim proved key factors in certain games. In one of those games, the win at Iowa, he provided us with a double-pump baseline dunk that was surely the highlight of the year before Koenig’s buzzer beater. He ended the season leading the team in block percentage and blocks per 40 minutes, illustrating the positive impact of his athleticism and defensive prowess throughout the year.

Overall verdict: It is really tough for guards who cannot shoot the ball in any capacity to have success in college basketball, but on some level Iverson managed to do so. He provided energy, explosion, and versatile defense off the bench, and showcased all of those qualities in his Sweet 16 minutes against Notre Dame. However, the severe limitations of his offensive game were a problem to deal with.  If his shot continues to be woeful next year, he must improve his ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the rim, and also cut down on his turnovers if he want to be a contributor on that end of the floor.

Grade: B-

Alex Illikainen

Season statistics: 33 GP, 9.8 MPG, 2.2 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 0.1 BPG, 41% FG, 32% 3PT.

Season recap/overall verdict: Despite Gard’s attempts to give him significant minutes in the rotation, Illikainen never really took advantage of them in his freshman year. He was touted as being someone who could fill the role that Vitto ended up filling, but instead wound up struggling to find his niche offensively and getting dominated by stronger, more aggressive players in the paint defensively. However, he showed flashes of what he can do with his European-type skill set in performances against Purdue, Ohio State, and Michigan State.

Grade: C

Charlie Thomas

Season statistics: 30 GP, 9.4 MPG, 2.4 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 0.4 BPG, 37% FG, 47% FT, 27% 3PT.

Season recap/overall verdict: Thomas’ season was confounding in every sense of the word. It was a season of glimpses and nothing more. He spent all season not being able to hit water from the ocean with any type of shot from anywhere on the floor, but nailed two beautifully stroked clutch threes in games against Iowa and VCU. He routinely was outworked in the post and on the glass, rapidly accumulating fouls and giving up offensive rebounds, but dominated the glass and blocked three shots vs. VCU and ripped down four rebounds in five minutes against Xavier’s massive front line. I guess the bottom line is, Thomas has the size and has some hint of all the tools, and when he shows those tools he has a great impact, but those occasions were far to seldom this year. Still, Gard did a great job of inserting him into the lineup in the right moments.

Grade: B-

Aaron Moesch

Season statistics: 13 GP, 3.7 MPG, 0.3 PPG, 0.4 RPG, 0.2 SPG, 50% FG, 100% FT

Season recap/overall verdict: At the beginning of the year if I told you Aaron Moesch would guard the Naismith Award Runner-Up (Denzel Valentine) for an extended period of time and keep him in check, would you have believed me? No. Also he and Matt Ferris surely have a TV show in the works already on the back of their “Moesch Madness” videos, right?

Grade: Passing

Jordan Smith

Smith stepping to the line and sinking two free throws in the closing moments of Senior Day against Michigan will be one of the heart-warming and abiding memories that Badgers fans take away from this season. What a way for a truly special Badger to end his four years of dedication and service the program.

Grade: Passing

Will Decorah, TJ Schlundt, Jackson Bax

Grade: N/A

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s