We’re ten games into the season, and the Wisconsin Badgers have already experienced a multitude of successes, but they’ve been doing it in an atypical Bo Ryan-coached Badgers fashion.
When asking a random crowd of basketball fans three words to describe Wisconsin Basketball, one can expect to hear three words (or any synonyms of these words): lackadaisical, dormant, and passive. The Badgers epitomize Big Ten Basketball; basketball played with lots of movement, lots of passing, and constantly looking for the best shot possible (usually winding down the entire shot clock). The Badgers play slow ball, and even lost a game in 2011 to Penn State by a score of 36-33. It goes without saying that scoring is not the Badgers’ forte.
Well, it hasn’t been their forte until this year, that is.
This season, everything has changed for the Badgers. They’re averaging about 74 points per game this season. To many teams, this is still a fairly low number. To the Wisconsin Badgers, however, that number is a far cry from the past few seasons, as they haven’t averaged 70 points per game since the 2006-2007 season [ESPN]. Now, Wisconsin’s pace hasn’t drastically quickened or anything, so what exactly has happened?
Well, for starters, the Badgers have seen the emergence of the seven foot-tall Junior Forward Frank Kaminsky. Kaminsky is finally beginning to log solid minutes, averaging about 18 minutes more than he did last season, and it’s really paying off for the Badgers. Kaminsky is a model for why Wisconsin is scoring much higher than they have been scoring in previous seasons-he’s shooting about 55% from the field this season. Fifty-five percent. That’s a spectacular number, and it shows the offensive efficiency of Wisconsin’s slow pace, as he’s only putting up about 10 shots per game, while still averaging 15 points in each outing. He’s able to be unselfish with the ball, and only take shots when he knows that he is able to make them.
Now, these efficiency numbers aren’t just limited to Frank Kaminsky. His teammates Josh Gasser and Sam Dekker are also two of the Badgers’ top scorers this season, and they’re both putting up quality field goal percentage numbers at 57% and 47%, respectively. And the key part about these numbers is that they are coming from players that play almost 30+ minutes per game. They are out there for the large part of the game, and they’re staying true to the system that Coach Bo Ryan has implemented, passing frequently and making sure that the shots they take are of the highest quality.
Wisconsin is currently number 8 in the nation, and after winning yesterday against Marquette, they are improving every game. I would say that the Badgers are in for real tests soon, as Big Ten play is slowly approaching, but they are already a battle-tested team, winning early-season matchups against some of the nation’s top teams, an aspect of their game that they’ve had trouble with in the past few seasons. In fact, this was the first time that Wisconsin has beaten a ranked non-conference opponent since 2009. If the Badgers are to maintain this level of success, they must stay true to Bo Ryan’s principles that have made them a solid team, and continue to shoot the ball as well as they have been so far. If they do keep up this level of play though, and manage to keep improving, they can be a great team, a Big Ten title contender, and perhaps a final four favorite.