Men’s basketball: Wisconsin positional preview for the 2015-16 season

first_imgIn perhaps the best season in Wisconsin men’s basketball program history, the Badgers marched to the Final Four for the second-consecutive season before falling to Duke in the national championship game.Wisconsin earned its first No. 1 seed in program history and won a school-record 36 games. It was the first time the Badgers had played in the national championship since 1941 when UW took home its only national title.But with the departure of Wisconsin’s top two players to the NBA, the 2015-16 Badgers won’t have an easy task in getting back to the Final Four. Wisconsin will rely upon younger players to step up, while only two players from last season’s starting lineup return next season.Here’s a look at Wisconsin’s roster for next season:Guards (listed year is for the 2015-16 season)Who Started Last Season (number of starts in 2014-15): Bronson Koenig (24), Traevon Jackson (17), Josh Gasser (40)Who’s Leaving: Josh Gasser, Traevon JacksonWho’s Coming Back: Junior Bronson Koenig, redshirt junior Zak Showalter, redshirt sophomore Jordan Hill, redshirt sophomore Riley Dearring, redshirt senior Jordan Smith, sophomore Matt Ferris, sophomore T.J. SchlundtWho’s Coming In: Brevin Pritzl (6-3, De Pere, Wis.)2014-15 RecapThe Wisconsin backcourt was forced to play promising sophomore guard Bronson Koenig when senior Traevon Jackson went down with a foot injury in January.But Koenig turned that promise into a reliable skill set that the Badgers rode through the rest of the season en route to two Big Ten championships and another trip to the Final Four. In 23 games as a starter, Koenig averaged 11.6 points per game at point guard, taking over, and even improving on the play of Jackson.Hayley Cleghorn/The Badger Herald“Captain America” Josh Gasser was as reliable as ever for Wisconsin this season, starting all of Wisconsin’s 40 games last season. He leaves Madison having played in 16 NCAA tournament games and complied a 13-3 record. Gasser averaged 6.6 points and 3.5 rebounds as a senior and owns the Wisconsin record for career starts and minutes played. He is one of two Wisconsin players to post 1,000 rebounds, 500 rebounds and 250 assists for his career.Missing half the season with his injury, Jackson came back in the NCAA tournament to play spot minutes in Wisconsin’s last four games. He finished the season averaging 8.5 points and 2.6 assists per game and started 84 games in his career at Wisconsin.2015-16 OutlookThe Wisconsin backcourt is in much better shape than the frontcourt heading into next season with Koenig anchoring the group. If Koenig continues to improve, he could end up as one of the better point guards in the Big Ten and will be heavily relied upon to lead the Badgers in his junior season.Jackson and Gasser won’t be easy to replace at guard but redshirt sophomore Jordan Hill, redshirt junior Zak Showalter and incoming freshman guard Brevin Pritzl should all compete to fill the two-guard position next to Koenig.Jason Chan/The Badger HeraldShowalter saw playing time once Jackson was injured and showed sparks with his high motor and energy that he brought off the bench. His best performance came in the Sweet 16 against North Carolina when he scored six points and sparked Wisconsin to victory over the Tar Heels. In the third round against Oregon, Showalter added another five points and five rebounds.Hill, a 6-3 guard from Pasadena, California, was regarded as one of the players who improved the most this season while he took a redshirt. With the second guard spot wide open, Hill could easily be the top candidate to start alongside Koenig next season should he have a strong summer and preseason.Arguably Wisconsin’s top recruit for the class of 2015 is Pritzl who is ranked as the 50th player in his class by Pritzl came on this past summer after signing with the Badgers last May. The 6-3 guard is known for his ability to shoot the three which is something Wisconsin will need next season with the departure of Gasser. Pritzl competed in the American Family Insurance 3-Point championship earlier this month against some of the nation’s top 3-point shooters and placed second.Koenig, Showalter, Hill and Pritzl should round out the guard play next season with redshirt sophomore Riley Dearring competing for minutes as well.ForwardsWho Started Last Season: Sam Dekker (40), Nigel Hayes (40), Frank Kaminsky (39)Who’s Leaving: Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, Duje DukanWho’s Coming Back: Junior Nigel Hayes, junior Vitto Brown, redshirt freshman Ethan Happ, redshirt sophomore Aaron MoeschWho’s Coming In: Khalil Iverson (6-5, Delaware, Ohio), Alex Illikainen (6-9, Grand Rapids, Minn.), Charlie Thomas (6-8, Clarksville, Mary.)2014-15 RecapWisconsin was dominant in the frontcourt in most games this season, which was no surprise with two likely mid-first round draft picks in Kaminsky and Dekker leading the way. The trio of Kaminsky, Dekker and Hayes were the top three scorers for the Badgers this season.Kaminsky (18.8), Dekker (13.9) and Hayes (12.4) were the only players to average double-figures for Wisconsin this season while all three were the top three rebounders on the team, averaging 19.9 rebounds combined per game. Only twice in 2014-15 did somebody other than Kaminsky, Dekker or Hayes lead the Badgers in scoring for a game and only once did another player grab the most rebounds for the game.Jenna Freeman/The Badger HeraldThe National Player of the Year, Kaminsky, had perhaps the best season in Wisconsin program history and led the team in nearly every offensive category. He held team highs in points (18.8), rebounds (8.2), field goal percentage (54.7), assists (103) and blocks (57). Kaminsky tallied 732 points for the season, which set a new school record.Dekker was hobbled by an ankle injury earlier in the season but came on strong in the final half of the season and in the NCAA tournament. He reached double figures in scoring in 17 of Wisconsin’s 21 Big Ten games this season (including the Big Ten tournament) and shot less than 40 percent only four times in those 21 games. Dekker stepped up the most in the NCAA tournament scoring career-highs in back-to-back games in the Sweet 16 (23) and Elite Eight (27) against North Carolina and Arizona respectively.2015-16 OutlookObviously it won’t be easy for Wisconsin to return to a third-straight Final Four, but the youthfulness and lack of depth in the frontcourt could cause the Badgers some troubles next season.After he was named the Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year as a freshman, Hayes improved vastly from year one to year two, averaging 12.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, shooting 49.7 percent in 2014-15. The 6-7 forward added another dimension to his game with a 3-point shot, knocking down 40 of his 101 attempts from the beyond the arc after not attempting a single 3-point shot as a freshman. Hayes will be relied upon heavily to carry the Wisconsin frontcourt next season as a junior.Hayes is the lone starter that returns with Kaminsky graduating to the NBA and Dekker forgoing his senior season to follow Kaminsky to the pros. Fifth-year senior Duje Dukan will also be gone. Along with Hayes, Brown is the only other forward who saw meaningful playing time in 2014-15 and he’ll have to improve his play in his third season as a Badger if Hayes is going to receive some help in the frontcourt.Jason Chan/The Badger HeraldRedshirt freshman Ethan Happ should compete for a starting job next season after he elected to redshirt this past season. Happ, who was Wisconsin’s top recruit for the class of 2014, impressed in preseason practices and the coaches were impressed with how much he improved over the course of the season. Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports says Happ is “primed to have a major role” for Wisconsin next season. The Badgers will need Happ to step up, and if he does, he could provide Hayes and the Badgers with a nice addition to the frontcourt.Incoming freshman Khalil Iverson is an athletic wing (see video below) and could push for playing time as a freshman. Iverson averaged 17 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists as a senior and was a first-team all-state selection in Ohio.Iverson is only 6-5 which could lead to both Alex Illikainen and Charlie Thomas seeing time on the court should Wisconsin need to put guys with some height on the court behind Hayes, Happ and Brown.last_img