Wisconsin has not received much attention so far this year. Bo Ryan’s teams have always been known for their consistency, defense and shooting. They are not exactly exciting, which has allowed Wisconsin to fly under the radar up to this point. Another factor in the lack of hype behind the Badgers is the fact they have not beaten many good teams.
That was, until Saturday.
The Badgers started the game off up 34-9, and never looked back. Offensively, they were on fire and making shots from all over the floor. Defensively, they exploited the Illini’s one-dimensional jump shooting attack. Ryan even admitted, “That’s as well as we’ve played for a total of 40 minutes against that caliber of a team.”
With their first big win, you have to wonder if Wisconsin is for real this season. Many have wondered how they will be able to fare after losing Jordan Taylor. He was the lightning spark in their slow offense. When they needed a big play, Taylor was the guy.
Now, new faces like Sam Dekker and old faces like Jarred Berggeren, Ben Brust, Mike Bruesewitz and Ryan Evans are picking up the slack.
Dekker has averaged over 9 points a game and has shot 42% on three pointers. The former top 50 recruit has also shown his explosiveness. During the rout over Illinois, in which Dekker scored 13 points off the bench, he slammed home a transition dunk, adding an exclamation point to their big day.
Berggeren has become a double-double machine. He is one of the most underrated big men in the Big Ten, averaging 13 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks a game. He has a superb 32.1 PER, the 9th best in the entire country.
Now, one impressive win over a ranked conference foe does not legitimize a team. Wisconsin still has work ahead of them to become an NCAA Tournament team. But, Saturday was the first step in getting in to a groove and picking up momentum.
Unfortunately for Wisconsin, they now have to travel to play at Indiana. Minnesota showed that Indiana is beatable at home, when they brought the Hoosiers down to the wire, before losing. It will be quite the challenge, but also an opportunity for Wisconsin to make another statement. Saturday, Wisconsin reminded the college basketball world they still exist. In a loaded Big Ten, every win is huge.
It is going to be a royal rumble until the end, and Wisconsin just jumped in to the ring to join in.