2017 should be a great year for the Wisconsin Men’s Basketball team. Filled with a great blend of youth and veteran leadership, the group is speculated to be a top contender in the Big Ten. But there’s always room for improvement. As tradition goes, the Badgers should look to include some of the following on their list of resolutions to start out 2017.
1. Get Off to a Hot Start
Wisconsin will head to Bloomington, Indiana to take on an extremely talented Hoosier basketball team. Led by big man Thomas Bryant and junior James Blackmon Jr., Indiana is sure to be a Final Four threat. Indiana seeks to avenge a gut wrenching loss from last season, where the Badgers defeated Indiana, 82-79 at the Kohl Center. Wisconsin has won 15 of the last 17 meetings with the Hoosiers. When Indiana is hot, they’re one of the best teams in college basketball, beating Kansas and North Carolina already this season. But when they’re off, they’ll lose to teams like Nebraska and even IPFW. The Badgers can start off 2017 right by getting a statement win in Bloomington.
2. Feed Ethan Happ the Ball (Then Feed Him Again)
Ethan Happ has developed into one of college basketball’s finest big men. After winning the Big Ten Freshman of the Year last season, Happ has settled into his role by taking the pressure off of Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes. Through 14 games this season, Happ has averaged 12.7 points and 9.6 rebounds. His presence is the key to a successful Big Ten season and possible run in the NCAA tournament.
3. Utilize the Bench
We’re looking at you, Khalil Iverson and Charles Thomas. First, let’s start with Khalil Iverson. The sophomore has turned into Greg Gard’s number one spark plug off the bench. Iverson’s explosive offensive capabilities and defensive prowess have earned him minutes on a crowded bench. Besides, the Kohl Center is always entertained by Iverson’s almost-nightly slam dunks. The big man, Charles Thomas, needs to get going for Wisconsin to be successful. Thomas is one of the best big man options Gard has on his bench. When Vitto Brown and Ethan Happ are in foul trouble, Thomas is going to get the call. If he doesn’t take advantage of his minutes, anticipate Gard to look towards Minnesota high school star, Alex Illikainen, to take the brunt of the playing time.
4. Get Freshman D’Mitrik Trice Involved
Thought we forgot about him? Don’t call him the brother of former Michigan State player Travis Trice any longer. Freshman D’Mitrik Trice has quickly became a household name among Badger fans. Trice is the go-to-guy when Bronson Koenig is having a slow game or in foul trouble. Wisconsin has even been dangerous when Koenig and Trice are put in the game together, allowing Koenig to play in more of a shooting guard position. Trice’s inexperience early on hasn’t shown – in just under 18 minutes a game, he’s averaging 6.5 points with almost two rebounds and assists per game as well. Even more impressive: a ludicrous 58% three-point shooting percentage (18/31) on the season. He’s unfazed and should be a star to watch.
5. Dream Bigger than the 2015-2016 Season
Every Badger fan can admit it: the 2015-2016 season was a roller coaster ride and a half. The Badgers return all but one player from last season and 99.6% of last season’s points scored. The team should aim to do better in their Big Ten schedule. That would mean doing better than 12-6, a very achievable feat to accomplish. Maybe after that, a possible Big Ten tournament run could be in the cards, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. 2017 may be the Badgers’ year, and they certainly have their work cut out for them.