Wisconsin basketball fans have been accustomed to watching a Bo Ryan team that controls games by slowing the tempo down with their fundamentally sound defense and low scoring offense. For the past 13 years of the Bo Ryan era, that style of basketball has been a recipe for success for the Badgers. However, Ryan has this year’s team dialing up a whole new level of play that has left most of the college basketball community stunned and speechless.
The Wisconsin Badgers are ranked No.8 in the Associated Press Top-25 poll. This is the best ranking they have earned since the 2007-2008 season where they reached No.6 in the rankings. In that same year, the Badgers (31-5, 19-2) received a No.3 seed in the NCAA Tournament and saw its season come to an end after falling to Stephen Curry and the Davidson Wildcats in the Sweet 16.
For the first time during Bo Ryan’s incumbency, Wisconsin basketball has started out their season 8-0 and is looking like a completely transformed team. The offense is playing up-tempo with an increased sense of urgency and is putting up substantial points on the scoreboard. The Badgers are averaging just under 77 points per game and astonishingly reached the century mark in Week 4 against North Dakota. Wisconsin’s 103-point outburst was the most points scored in a game by the Badger’s since Bo Ryan took over as head coach. Additionally, junior forward Frank Kaminsky shot lights out in that same game, scoring a new school record of 43 points.
The Badger’s continued their hot start to their season in the Cancun Challenge in Mexico. Wisconsin first defeated the Saint Louis Billikins 63-57, riding Traevon Jackson’s game-high 16-points and playing trademark, Bo Ryan shut-down defense.
Wisconsin then took care of business against West Virginia in the championship game, winning 70-63. Sam Dekker led all Badgers in scoring with a team-high 21 points and also snatched 12 rebounds to give him his first career double-double. Dekker’s phenomenal performance earned him the tournaments MVP award and also gave Wisconsin basketball fans a glimpse of what he’s capable of.
Only a sophomore, Dekker’s ceiling is limitless and is beginning to show promise as a player with the ability to take over a game. He still has some growing pains to go through as he matures, but Bo Ryan and his coaching staff will provide him with all of the necessary tools for success in becoming a possible elite player in the Big Ten.
Some causes for concern with this new transformed Wisconsin basketball team surprisingly is on the defensive side of the ball. The Badgers have been giving up an average of 66 points per game and are struggling to shut down the opposing teams top scoring threats.
To highlight some examples, Green Bay’s Keifer Sykes scored 32 points and North Dakota’s Troy Huff put up 37 points on the Badgers. Continuing to allow opposing teams top players to score at will could start hindering their success, especially against better teams in the Big Ten. Wisconsin’s first conference game against Northwestern is still a month a way, which should be more than enough time for Bo Ryan and company to stiffen up on defense.
The next game for the Badgers will be a much tougher test this Wednesday, December 4th. Wisconsin will travel on the road to face Virginia (7-1) for the Big Ten/ACC challenge. Although still very early in the season, this exciting matchup is an enormous opportunity for Wisconsin to prove the legitimacy of this team and show the country how strong the Big Ten conference really is this year.
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