Wisconsin destroys Siena 92-65 for first win of season

Madison, WI — It’s safe to say Bo Ryan ran a pretty good practice on Saturday in between the Badgers’ stunning loss to Western Illinois and tonight’s 92-65 win over Siena.

Click here for photos from tonight’s game.

Despite forwards Nigel Hayes and Ethan Happ getting into foul trouble early on and throughout, Bronson Koenig and Vitto Brown led a much better performance by Wisconsin on Sunday night. Koenig had a career high in points with 23 to go with four assists and Brown had a career high 16 points with seven rebounds. The team shot 58.5% from the field, 83.3% from the free throw line, and 41.7% from three. It was a much better shooting performance, and the team’s strong defensive performance (Siena shot 39.3% overall and 18.8% from three) was great to see after Friday’s debacle.

The Badgers were also able to get Siena in foul trouble (although they committed some fouls as well) early on in the first half, and Wisconsin converted on free throws, going 12-16 from the charity stripe in the first 20 minutes. The Badgers played very well in the first half even without Hayes, outscoring Siena 32-19 in his first half absence. Hayes still managed to score 14 points in only 21 minutes of action, and freshmen bench players Charlie Thomas and Khalil Iverson were able to fill in quite nicely.

Wisconsin scored 1.33 points per possession and turned the ball over only 10 times while compiling 12 assists (1.20 assist/turnover ratio). The team was able to get more points in the paint and not settle for as many jump shots, as well as break Siena’s press throughout. The Badgers did struggle protecting the rim again tonight, and it was shown through Hayes and Happ’s foul trouble.

Freshman forward Alex Illikainen did see the floor for 7 minutes and scored 6 points on 2-3 shooting, which indicated that he will not be redshirting this year. There were rumors that he sat down with Bo Ryan this past week to make a decision. Some are speculating that Illikainen’s decision not to redshirt could say something about Andy Van Vliet’s eligibility hearing. We’ll know if Van Vliet won his appeal either tomorrow or Tuesday.

Another freshman also made his debut in guard Brevin Pritzl, who has been getting back to the court after suffering a broken foot over the summer. Pritzl, who is a lights out shooter and four-star recruit from De Pere, is a “difference-maker” for this team, according to Bo Ryan. As he gets back into “basketball shape” (also from Ryan), we will likely see him in the every game rotation, but Pritzl was very slow tonight on defense.

Freshman Jackson Bax, winner of the open tryout, also made his debut tonight in a cool moment along with fellow walk-on Will Decorah. Bax will not redshirt as well, meaning five of the six true freshmen for the Badgers will not redshirt this season.

Tomorrow, we’ll have player grades and the advanced stats breakdown from tonight’s game. Wisconsin takes on North Dakota at home on Tuesday night.

Photo courtesy of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Athletic Department.


Wisconsin vs. Western Illinois: Player Grades and Advanced Statistics Breakdown

The Badgers were stunned by Western Illinois 69-67 on Friday night. From the eye test and basic statistics, there’s no doubt that the Badgers missed too many shots and played lousy defense. Here’s a look at the box score, which tells you a lot about their performance to begin with. Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 11.13.34 PM


Now, let’s take a deeper look at the team’s advanced statistics, which can tell us even more about the team’s poor shooting and who was most efficient. Here are the formulas for the eight metrics I will be using all season:

  1. Game Score= Points Scored + (0.4 x Field Goals) – (0.7 x Field Goal Attempts) – (0.4 x (Free Throw Attempts – Free Throws)) + (0.7 x Offensive Rebounds) + (0.3 x Defensive Rebounds) + Steals + (0.7 x Assists) + (0.7 x Blocks) – (0.4 x Personal Fouls) – Turnovers
  2. (+/-) = Difference in score with player on court
  3. Effective Field Goal % = (FGM + 0.5 * 3PM) / FGA
  4. True Shooting % = Points / [2 (FGA + 0.44 * FTA)]
  5. Offensive Rebound % = 100 * [Player’s Offensive Rebounds * (Total Team Minutes Played / 5)] / [Player’s Minutes Played * (Team Offensive Rebounds + Opponent’s Defensive Rebounds)]
  6. Total Rebound % = 100 * [Player’s Total Rebounds * (Total Team Minutes Played / 5)] / [Player’s Minutes Played * (Team Total Rebounds + Opponent’s Total Rebounds)]
  7. Assist/Turnover Ratio = Assists/Turnovers
  8. Usage Rate = 100*[(Team Minutes)/(5*(Player Minutes))]*[(Field Goal Attempts)+0.44*(Free Throw Attempts)+(Turnovers)/[(Team Field Goal Attempts)+0.44*(Team Free Throw Attempts)+Team Turnovers)]
Wisconsin Badgers Game Scores (+/-) Effective FG % True Shooting % Offensive Rebound % Total Rebound % Assist/Turnover Rate Usage Rate
#10 Nigel Hayes 13.1 -2 34.60% 47.60% 6.81% 5.71% (4-0) 23.17%
#22 Ethan Happ 4.2 -7 66.70% 66.70% 9.57% 18.05% (0-1) 10.94%
#24 Bronson Koenig 11.9 3 56.70% 56.70% 2.46% 6.18% (2-0) 21.06%
#3 Zak Showalter 4.5 -2 40% 38.30% 0% 8.57% (1-0) 13.56%
#30 Vitto Brown 11.2 -4 43.80% 56.30% 10.90% 11.43% (1-1) 26.51%
#15 Charlie Thomas 1.7 4 28.60% 24% 32.47% 20.41% (0-1) 34.58%
#21 Khalil Iverson 9.4 1 16.70% 34.70% 18.94% 16.67% (0-0) 20.87%
#11 Jordan Hill 0 -3 0% 0% 0% 0% (0-0) 0.00%
Team 41.10% 45.89% (8/4) = 2

Looking at the numbers, game scores are usually a good indication of a player’s efficiency. This statistic is related to Player Efficiency Rating (PER), which many basketball fans are well aware of. Hayes, despite his quiet second half, got to the line and scored 17, as did Bronson Koenig.

It’s also worth noting that there were such few assists and turnovers that only Ethan Happ actually had both an assist and a turnover. That’s very rare. The team’s effective field goal percentage at 41% and true shooting at about 45% can basically be said as the reason the team lost. To put into perspective, the Badgers effective field goal percentage last season was 54.8% and true shooting was 59.1%. Based on everything else, by only losing by two points with such low offensive efficiency, the Badgers would have won this game by literally making one or two more shots.

Player Grades

Based on the advanced stats and from watching the team play, here’s how I would grade the players tonight.

Nigel Hayes

Hayes’ effective field goal percentage, low rebounding, and low usage rate compared to other guys shows that he was not only quiet in the second half on offense, but did not really impact the game at all in the last 20 minutes. Hayes did, however, play great defense for most of the game. Grade: B- due to great first half and awful second half.

Bronson Koenig

Koenig, on the other hand, had high shooting metrics due to his three-point shooting and better field goal percentage. His usage rate was a bit lower than Hayes due his unusually low assist and steal numbers. Koenig also struggled on defense, notably getting beat by WIU’s guards. Even with his clutch shooting and offensive management, his poor defense knocks down his grade. Grade: C+

Charlie Thomas

Charlie Thomas’s poor shooting from the field and free throw line hurt his game score, but he had the highest usage rate by far since he stuffed the stat sheet in only 14 minutes of action. His offensive rebounding percentage is absolutely stunning, and I thought he played well despite his shooting percentages. Grade: B

Khalil Iverson

Khalil Iverson had a tremendous game, but it won’t exactly show up in these metrics. That’s why you can’t always rely on these to evaluate players. This will happen to Iverson a lot, since his defensive numbers such as blocks and steals will not show up as weighted here. His defense was stunning in comparison to Koenig and Showalter. Without missing a key layup down the stretch, he played as well as anyone on the floor and had a ton of offensive rebounds for a guard. Grade: B+

Vitto Brown

Vitto Brown had surprisingly good metric numbers, but that was likely due to his many of his poor plays before the last four minutes of the game not even showing up on the stat sheet. Again, numbers don’t tell the whole story, considering Brown played terrible defense most of the game. But, Brown did basically keep the Badgers in the game at the end, which is the only reason he’s getting a grade over a C. Grade: C+

Ethan Happ

Ethan Happ and Zak Showalter had very low usage rates. Happ’s usage rate stemmed from not playing much, but he did rebound the ball well. As Bo Ryan pointed out after the game, the kid didn’t move his feet correctly on defense. His defense was embarrassing at times, but he’s still a top player on this team. Grade: D

Zak Showalter

While Showalter played twice as much as Happ, he took 10 shots and did not have many numbers in the box score, which gave him a low usage rate. Showalter could not stop WIU guard J.C. Fuller, and unfortunately did not rise to the occasion. Grade: D+

Jordan Hill

Jordan Hill played one minute of basketball and did not even register a stat during his time on the floor. Grade: N/A





Photo via University of Wisconsin-Madison Athletic Department.


Five reasons to be excited about the 2015-16 Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team

With the Badgers officially starting play on Friday night against Western Illinois at 8:00 PM CT at the Kohl Center, we gear you up this week for the season. Here are the top five reasons to be excited for this season.

5. The Freshmen

The Badgers have a very young team this year, with only one senior and eight freshmen technically on its roster, with six of those eight being true freshmen. Redshirt freshman forward Ethan Happ will be a starter this season, and he had a double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds) in Wisconsin’s exhibition against UW-River Falls. Among the other freshmen, forward Charlie Thomas and guard Khalil Iverson should see plenty of the floor, as they are both physical players that are already to compete. Forward Alex Illikainen also had a nice game against UW-River Falls, and will likely get some minutes during non-conference play. 6’11” forward Andy Van Vliet could also make an impact off the bench if he wins his eligibility case. Guard Brevin Pritzl has been recovering from a broken foot all summer and has not been cleared to play quite yet as he will likely redshirt. Guards T.J. Schlundt and Jackson Bax will most likely not get playing time, although Schlundt’s shooting may get him some minutes. This is a talented and driven group that is really the difference between the Badgers being a good team or a great team.

4. Guards Looking to Prove Themselves

Redshirt junior Zak Showalter started alongside Bronson Koenig in the exhibition game, and it’s expected that he will start this season. He struggled in that game, but rebounded in the “secret scrimmage” against Northern Iowa on Saturday, putting up 18 points to lead the Badgers to a 71-57 victory. Showalter’s improved shooting, energy, and defense have given him the starting nod over the other two contenders: Jordan Hill and Riley Dearring. Hill, a redshirt sophomore from Pasadena, can play either guard spot and has a nice three-point stroke. He struggled in the exhibition, but he’s one of the leaders of this team. Dearring, on the other hand, played a fantastic game against UW-River Falls, scoring 10 points on 100% true shooting. Dearring has been very focused during practice as well, as the redshirt sophomore fights for minutes. All three guards will have an impact on this team, but who will step up?

3. Challenging, Yet Exciting Schedule

Coming off back-to-back Final Fours, the schedule is indeed going to be tough, especially with an improved Big Ten this season. In just non-conference play, the Badgers will have to play Georgetown (Madison Square Garden), Duke or VCU (Madison Square Garden), at Oklahoma, at Syracuse, home vs. Temple, and home vs. Marquette. After that, the Badgers will of course play Purdue (twice), Indiana (twice), Maryland (twice), Michigan State (twice), and Michigan during Big Ten play. It will be a challenging schedule, but feature some great basketball.

2. The Dynamic Duo: Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig

Wisconsin fans know all about these two returning starters. Hayes, who has been working hard to transition to playing the 3 (small forward/wing position), has been named as a top player in the country and on All-America lists by almost all popular websites and publications. Koenig, who has another year of experience under his belt and has become more of a dynamic scorer, is one of the best shooting point guards in the country along with having one of the best assist to turnover rates in the nation last season. Hayes and Koenig are one of the top duos in the country this season.

1. Bo Ryan’s Last Go Around?

As you have heard about by now, Bo Ryan is considering retiring in the very near future. After stating that this season would be his last, Ryan has gone back on his word and is completely undecided about his future. Badger fans may be worried about this team regressing, but they have to remember how successful Ryan’s teams have been in the past even without superstars like Hayes and Koenig. Bo Ryan always finds a way, and the Badgers will still be a contender in the Big Ten this season. You won’t want to miss out on the future Hall of Fame coach’s last season at Wisconsin.

Image from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Athletic Department


Happ, Hayes, and freshmen lead Badgers in 101-46 (exhibition) win over UW-River Falls

Kohl Center (Madison, WI) — It may have been just an exhibition game against an in-state program, but Wednesday night’s 101-46 victory over UW-River Falls showed us a lot about the 2015-16 Wisconsin men’s basketball team.

Expectedly, the Badgers starting lineup was (G – JR) Bronson Koenig, (G – R-JR) Zak Showalter, (F – JR) Nigel Hayes, (F – JR) Vitto Brown, and (F – R-FR) Ethan Happ. Throughout the game, Badgers head coach Bo Ryan used several different combinations, with three forwards and two guards like the starting lineup, and some lineups with three guards and two forwards.

The Badgers shot 55% to the Falcons 21%, shooting 45% from 3, 65% from the free throw line, and out-rebounded UW-River Falls 57-25.

Click here for our Badger Basketball podcast previewing the 2015-16 season.

Player Grades

Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 9.49.33 PMForward Andy Van Vliet (eligibility), guard Matt Ferris (likely redshirt), and guard Brevin Pritzl (foot) did not play.

F Ethan Happ

Happ had a double-double already early in the second half, finishing with 16 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 19 minutes. He showed a great inside game, showing off a few of his post-moves with both hands, as he was double-teamed much of the night. He also had a tremendous block on a corner three, as you’ll see below. Happ was only 2-5 from the free-throw line, which would be one area of improvement for the big man. Grade: A

“I had my ups and downs. I had some spots where I could’ve done better but like you said, it’s been a while since I’ve been out there in the rotation like that so it was a lot of fun.” – Ethan Happ on his 2015-16 debut.

F Nigel Hayes

Hayes, also known as the wedding crasher, filled out the stat sheet and highlight-reel as well, finishing with 16 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, and 5-12 shooting from the field. He put on quite the performance in his return back to the Kohl Center in his third season, including some great baseline moves, including one dunk you’ll see below. Grade: A-

G Bronson Koenig

The junior point guard led the team with a +39 +/-, shooting 4-7 from the field (2-4), putting together 10 points, 3 assists, and 3 rebounds. He hit a few stepback jumpers, as well as played some great defense against the Division III Falcons. Grade: B

G Zak Showalter

Showalter struggled tonight, going 0-4 from the field, including a missed dunk he had off a steal. He also had two quick fouls in the first half, which led to his benching most of the first half. Not Showalter’s best performance. Grade: D

F Vitto Brown

The junior forward also struggled a bit tonight, with 3 early turnovers and only 5 points and 3 rebounds in 14 minutes. He was tough on defense, however, which will keep him in the starting lineup. Grade: D+

G Riley Dearring

After being upset about being left out of the top 10 at practice, Dearring was a spark off the bench, hitting 2 deep 3-pointers in the first half. He finished with 10 points in 16 minutes in a much needed confidence-boosting game. Grade: B+

F Alex Illikainen

The freshman forward surprisingly had a big impact tonight, going gor 12 points and 7 rebounds on 4-7 from the field, including 3-4 on free throws in 19 minutes. He showed confidence on the floor that we have not really seen in practice, and his performance will earn him some minutes in non-conference play with Andy Van Vliet’s eligibility situation on-going. Grade: A-

“Yeah the past couple weeks have been really good for me. I’ve built up my confidence a little bit and the pace of play is starting to slow down. It’s getting a little easier to make moves and stuff like that, so I’m definitely feeling a lot more confident.” – Illikainen on his first action at the Kohl Center.

F Charlie Thomas

Thomas, who has been a stud in practice so far this season, had a very strong second half. He finished the game with 12 points on 5-7 shooting and seven rebounds. Thomas’s emergence will give Bo Ryan a confident backup for Hayes. Grade: B+

“I think I’m still on the same track. I’m just trying to do all the little things to get on the floor and stay out there, like rebounding, playing defense, and hustling, all the things Coach Bo emphasizes, especially to us freshmen. So I’m just trying to do all the little things.” – Thomas on ability to contribute throughout the year.

G Jordan Hill

Hill played 14 minutes, but did not have a significant impact on this game, only hitting one of his three 3-point attempts on a beautiful behind-the-back play. Dearring had a much better performance tonight between the two backup guards. Grade: C

G Khalil Iverson

Iverson, the 6’5″ freshman, did not have the stat line like Happ or Hayes, but he played a productive 16 minutes. Iverson recorded blocks on back-to-back plays, and added 4 points, 3 assists, and 7 rebounds. Iverson reminds me a more athletic, freshman Josh Gasser. Grade: B+

G Jackson Bax and G Will Decorah

Bax, the “winner” of the open tryout, got two minutes of action, and a huge ovation from the crowd. Decorah, the former Badgers manager, also got to play two minutes, totaling a point and two assists, and some applause. Grade: N/A

The Badgers will travel to Dubuque, IA on Saturday to take on Northern Iowa in a “secret” scrimmage. They officially start the season on Friday, November 13 against Western Illinois at the Kohl Center.

Photo courtesy of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Athletic Department.


Badgers basketball media day: Different voices, but the same feel

If there were two messages the Badgers wanted to emphasize today at men’s basketball media day, it was that the team still has the same expectations as the past two seasons and that the locker room is still just as loose despite losing Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, Josh Gasser, Duje Dukan, and Traevon Jackson.

“Different voices, but the same feel,” Badgers guard Zak Showalter told me when I asked him about not having guys named Kaminsky, Dekker, Gasser, Dukan and Jackson in the locker room.

The Clear-Cut Starters

One familiar face, Badgers forward Nigel Hayes, was his usual self, cracking jokes but giving media sufficient answers throughout the afternoon. Hayes realizes that the spotlight is on him now with Kaminsky and Dekker gone, but he’s ready to embrace his rule as a leader of the team along with guard Bronson Koenig. In terms of his game, Hayes explained to me that he’s been working on his mid-range and that he “needed to transition to the wing. I needed to make sure I can score off the dribble as well as get to the free throw line.” From what I gathered from talking to Hayes and others, Nigel will be playing the 3, with Ethan Happ and Vitto Brown starting in the front court.

There’s a lot of buzz on Happ. Bo Ryan explained that the redshirt freshman was able to play against the older guys in practice like Kaminsky, Dekker, and Hayes, and he’s “no longer that little kid.” Ryan added, “His basketball IQ in the post is very high.”

Forward Vitto Brown explained to me that he and Happ were roommates last year and play one-on-one all the time. “He’s stronger than he looks,” Brown explained.

Brown said he’s been working on post moves and “trying to make it [mid range] almost automatic. In terms of his summer, Brown told me it was  “very productive. I’ve been expecting this. I’ve been working for this moment, knowing I wasn’t needed last year, but would definitely be needed this year.”

One thing Hayes was especially excited about was the improvement of the team’s low-post defense. Hayes explained, “Last year, there were some times that we could switch maybe 2 through 4 or maybe 3 and 4 or maybe Frank and I could switch. With me moving to the 3, with a lineup with Vitto and Ethan at the 4 and 5 respectively, we would be able to switch 3 through 5, which would be tremendous for us to be able to put our height and length. Us being able to switch 3 through 5, would be good for us defensively. It would create a lot of problems for other teams trying to exploit mismatches.”

Although we don’t know who will start alongside Bronson Koenig (and we really don’t know if Brown and Happ will start for sure, although it appears so), he told media that he “wants to be a whole different player, kind of what they saw in the Big Ten Tournament.”

On working on going to the rim, as I told him I noticed in practice, Koenig told me, “I’m just trying to be more of a complete player. I know teams are going to play me for the jump shot…I’m just trying to become more multi-faceted.”

Bo Ryan explained that, especially with the new shot clock, Koenig will shooting toward the end of the shot clock: “A lot of times the ball is going to be in hands, like it was in Jordan Taylor’s…at the end of shot clocks.”

The Fifth Starter

So who will step up alongside Koenig? Zak Showalter (the more than likely starter), Jordan Hill, and Riley Dearring are all in the mix.

Showalter, the junior from Germantown, wants to make a step up for this team just like Koenig did last season. Showalter, who has been stroking three-pointers and playing great defense but turning the ball over a little bit too much in practice, explained, “I look at him [Koenig]…and I want to see myself develop as he has done.”

But, even Showalter admitted, “I think Jordan Hill will start to make a name for himself.” Hill has been working on his dribbling and ball-handling and shooting, and he’s been impressive on the court as a leader of the team in practice.

The last of the candidates, Dearring, noticeably got stronger and several teammates explained to me that he’s been working hard to be more physical. He told me he’s been working on “Just getting stronger, working on my ball-handling a lot so I can take pressure off the other guards, and being a consistent knock down shooter.”


There’s a lot of buzz around the freshmen class, especially Charlie Thomas and Khalil Iverson for their physicality.

I asked both of them if they felt they were ready for the Big Ten. Thomas explained to me, “I’m just trying to transition to college play…But I think I’m transitioning well. Especially in the Big Ten, with my body type, I’m very comfortable with who I am now.”

Iverson attributed much of his physicality to his high school coach Jordan Blackburn getting him into the gym early on in high school. “I feel pretty good about the physicality…Junior year and senior year that was a big jump for me because I put on a lot of muscle. He [Blackburn] knew that would get me ready for wherever I chose to go.”

Iverson will certainly play this season, but Thomas is more likely to make an impact. As Showalter announced to the media: “Charlie (Thomas) is going to have a huge impact.”

Freshman guard Brevin Pritzl (recovering from broken foot) told me he’s a little behind schedule, as he was hoping to play in the Red-White Scrimmage on Sunday. “I’m feeling good. Every day gets a little better. Some days it’s going to feel a little more sore. Physically, my body I feel like I can do some things…I’m a little heavy. We’re getting there.” He told me he does not have a full timetable yet on his return.

From what I’ve gathered, this team is very young and missing key players, but they’re having a great time and look solid just as they have in past years. Bo Ryan’s team may have lost some of its best players, but he’s enjoying teaching this talented, young team in hopes of another run at March Madness. In terms of expectations for the team, Brown explained to me, “We have the same goals, the same aspirations, we want to make it just as far…we want to make it that one step further this year. We’re not slacking at all.”

Bo Ryan Quotes of the Day

  • On Andy Van Vliet’s official visit: “I’ve never had a story about getting Andy here. I did have to get something cleared though. His parents came in and actually brought me some beer. So I had to find out from the NCAA if I’m allowed to accept that. And I guess the ruling was yes.”
  • On retirement: “I’m thinking, a year ago, would anyone have thought that a newspaper would cut their staff in half? I’m in a job that I get into the gym, that’s what I do…The world is not a stable place. There are no guarantees out there. For me to even take two seconds to think about later, just takes away from the job I can do with these young men.”
  • Bo as the backdrop wall started making loud noises: “They’re using the heavy balls, but nobody told them there are interviews going on.”
  • On first day passing drills: “I think we have them on film…Maybe we destroyed them. I was afraid somebody was going to get hurt.”
  • On continuous Ethan Happ questions: “Are you guys his agent or something?…You know that’s an NCAA violation.”
  • On Vitto Brown: “What I would like Vitto to do…is talk a little higher.”
  • On Khalil Iverson and Charlie Thomas: “If there was Big Ten tag-team wrestling, I would take those two…That would be a heck of a duo.”
  • On the rotation: “I’m not Santa Claus with a bag of minutes over my shoulder…They’re not given. They’re earned.”

First Impressions of the 2015-16 Wisconsin Men’s Basketball Team

The Badgers opened up practice today to the media for the first time in the 2015-16 academic year without Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, Josh Gasser, Duje Dukan, and Traevon Jackson.

Whether it was running through half-court set pieces, out of bounds plays, scrimmaging, suicides, or shooting practice, Bo Ryan’s squad was back in action. There were plenty of new faces to get used to seeing on the court, but also some familiar players eager to step up.

The Familiar Faces

Nigel Hayes was hitting shots, getting to the rim, and was in the right position. And of course, he was having fun while doing it.

Ditto Brown blocked a few shots and hit a few jumpers. He noticeably looked much stronger than last season, as some time in the weight room may have paid off.IMG_9179

Zak Showalter actually struggled throughout the practice, turning the ball over during half-court drills and the full-court scrimmage, but I’m pretty confident to say it just was not his day. I also noticed that Showalter was taking more outside shots, and he did block redshirt sophomore guard Riley Dearring on a fastbreak.

Bronson Koenig’s jumper looked as sweet as ever, as you would expect. He was taking care of the ball well, and looked like he will be an even bigger part of the scoring this season.

Players Looking to Make an Impact

Jordan Hill was the most vocal player on the court, as he actually had to settle down Happ after a few frustrating plays. He was noticeably one of the leaders of the team, and he showed some improvement at the point guard position.

Riley Dearring was playing some point guard. During some fast break drills, he was not going to the basket very strongly, getting blocked a few times.

Ethan Happ had a rough day, turning the ball over multiple times and struggling to get involved on offense. He was visibly frustrated throughout the hour I was there. I’m hoping for Happ to make a big impact this season, so let’s hope today was just not his day.

First Look at the Freshmen

Charlie Thomas, listed at 6’8″, 253 pounds, was the most impressive of the group. He had multiple offensive rebounds and followed with put backs. He was much bigger than I thought, guarding guys like Hayes and playing with poise. He hit a few outside jumpers and even a step back 12-footer. From what I saw today, Thomas is a player to watch for the Badgers this season.

Andy Van Vliet, the 6’11”, 203-pound Belgian, looked a little lost on the court, but that is to be expected. He is transitioning to a much different type of system under Ryan from whatever he was playing in Europe. He was getting a lot of rebounds due to his height, and his left-handed stroke looked pretty pure. IMG_9172

Khalil Iverson did not do anything negative that stood out to me, which is a great sign at a Bo Ryan practice. I thought he passed the ball well, and he worked well with the team. Iverson will definitely fit the Wisconsin identity, and his athleticism is going to be something fun to watch.

Alex Illikainen was active down low, but he did not get the ball very much. He, like Iverson, did not do anything overly negative that Ryan called out. The freshman from Minnesota was setting screens and seemed to have a high basketball IQ.

Fellow freshman Brevin Pritzl, who broke his leg over the summer, was on the sidelines, but not noticeably wearing anything that would indicate injury.

Overall Analysis

Ryan’s team was in good physical shape, and he was doing his fair of coaching throughout. The players were playing well together and they definitely get along well. There’s no doubt that this is Hayes and Koenig’s team, but I was impressed by Hill taking a leadership role. There are several question marks remaining, especially for the rest of the starting five, with Brown, Showalter, Happ, Dearring and Hill all in the mix. When it comes down to it, the team lost so many important players that it’s going to take time for the team to be at the same level as the past two seasons, but I like what I saw at today’s practice. And how can we doubt Bo Ryan?

Other Notes

  • It was just practice, but it was interesting to observe the team with the new 30-second shot clock. It depended on the possession, but for the most part, the Bo Ryan, swing offense was very much in tact.
  • It was intriguing to observe assistant coach Greg Gard, who Ryan has continually supported to be his eventual replacement.
  • Will Decorah, who was recently added to the team, will be wearing #0 this season. Will  Jordan Smith, Matt Ferris, Aaron Moesch, T.J. Schlundt, or Decorah make an impact this season?

Wisconsin Badgers Basketball Class of 2015 Preview

Brevin Pritzl is another homegrown Wisconsin player; perhaps the next Gasser in Madison.
The Wisconsin Badgers basketball program is at a higher level than it has ever been. Back-to-back B1G Championships, back-to-back final fours, defending national runners up – the resume speaks for itself. Unfortunately, as is tradition with Badger Basketball, UW has failed to translate their previous season’s success into a premier level recruiting class. The Wisconsin class of 2015 didn’t even make ESPN’s top 40 recruiting classes. While it’s easy to say that head coach Bo Ryan hasn’t had a problem turning “average” recruiting classes into elite teams, it has to sting knowing how good you’ve been and how much you’ve lost.

This year, the Badgers said goodbye to five players: starters Josh Gasser, Sam Dekker, and defending National Player of the Year, Frank Kaminsky; two long-time starting point guard Traevon Jackson; and perpetual X-Factor Duje Dukan. Replacing that much production from a team that prides itself on efficiency is going to be nearly impossible. Wisconsin was the best in the country at not turning the ball over and scoring every time down the floor. The Badgers had a chance to fill in some of that void with hometown product and future NBA Lottery pick, Diamond Stone. Unfortunately, for unknown reasons, Stone elected to attend the University of Maryland, immediately turning them into a National Title favorite. Had the Badgers landed Stone, a big man with elite post moves and jump-shooting (sounds like someone who just graduated), this conversation would be incredibly different. Instead, Bo Ryan is searching for answers in other forms.

The Badgers hope Thomas can become an impact three-star player like so many Badgers have.
The class of 2015 is being drastically underrated. The Badgers bring in two three-star recruits, both of whom head coach Bo Ryan is hoping he can groom into productive role players for the Badgers in the long term. Charlie Thomas of Clarksville, MD comes in as a big-bodied skill player that will learn how to operate an offense for UW. Thomas stands 6’7”, allowing him to be able to make an immediate impact with his size. The other three-star recruit, Khalil Iverson, has already drawn some impressive comparisons. Though he is not the most famous Iverson in the basketball world, his comparison to former Badger great Alando Tucker has the coaching staff excited for him to get to Madison. Here’s Iverson showing all the elements of his game:
The other members of the 2015 class are two that will likely get to see the court this fall. The first is the man that Bo Ryan hopes can replace Josh Gasser – a homegrown, gritty, tough defending shooting guard who will make big plays. Brevin Pritzl, a four-star recruit according to scout.com, is already 6’3′, 185 pounds. With size like that and the ability to handle the rock and defend the perimeter, Pritzl will likely become the next two guard in a recent line of success, following the footsteps of Josh Gasser and Ben Brust. The second recruit is Alex Illikainen of Brewster Academy in Minnesota, a school with a ton of recruits around college basketball for this year’s class. Illikainen, a four-star recruit standing 6’8″ and weighing 225 pounds, hopefully will bring size to a Badgers squad that will be desperately needing to find some at the forward position. He is probably the Badgers best “get”, as he had offers from Indiana, California, Minnesota, Iowa State, and more. Depending on how he plays leading into B1G play, I would not be surprised to see him crack the starting lineup by the end of the season in competition with Ethan Happ and Vitto Brown.

Illikainen could crack the Badgers’ starting lineup in the 2015-16 season.
The only remaining recruit, and a true question mark for Bo Ryan’s squad, comes to Madison from Belgium. Andy Van Vliet, a 6’11” forward, has the fixings to develop much the way Frank Kaminsky did. Right now, his game is very raw. He looks awkward with the ball, he doesn’t always show confidence with the ball in his hands, and he’s a little timid on the floor. However, he also shows flashes of a nice lefty jump shot, smart interior passing, and the ability and will power to corral rebounds and get second chances. If Van Vliet and the coaching staff can work together to mold his game the way they did with Kaminsky, Wisconsin has a bright future ahead of them in the powerhouse conference that is the B1G. Check out Van Vliet’s 33-point outing below:
Overall, the Badgers will need a lot from their incoming class to make up for their five key losses. Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes are poised to have breakout seasons, but their supporting cast will need to really step up to make this team special in the 2015-2016 season.