At this rate, the No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers will waltz into the New Year undefeated, untested and undeniably one of, if not the top team in the nation.
Their 86-61 victory over the Eastern Kentucky Colonels was the latest exercise in demolition for Wisconsin, who showed improvement in the only two areas that the team was seemingly struggling: free throw percentage and rebounding. The Badgers shot 25-of-33 from the free throw line (15-of-20 in the first half alone) and out-rebounded the 7-4 Colonels 33-20.
Are there any real weaknesses on this team? If so, they sure haven’t reared their ugly heads often. Wisconsin came into today’s game leading the nation in fewest turnovers per game (8.9) and kept their stranglehold on that position as they only committed 11 turnovers against Eastern Kentucky, which had been sixth in the nation in forcing turnovers (18.9 per game).
One concern coming into the week was the rotation that Bo Ryan seems to favor, as the starters are each averaging a staggering 28 minutes per game. The three bench players average between 10-15 minutes per game, led by freshmen revelations Bronson Koenig (15 MPG) and Nigel Hayes (14).
Redshirt junior Duje Dukan contributes 10 minutes per contest, but has seen his minutes decrease to about eight per game after playing 21 minutes in his season-opening outburst against the St. John’s Red Storm.
Junior center Frank Kaminsky was questionable to play today after sitting out practice on Wednesday and Thursday, but he was able to start. At halftime, he already had nine points, five rebounds and three assists. He finished the contest with 13 points, six rebounds and four assists while playing sparingly in the second half.
Both Dukan and Hayes (career-high 17 points, 13-of-17 from the free throw line) showed today that they are more than capable of handling heavy minutes as Kaminsky rested more than usual. Sophomore sensation Sam Dekker took over Kaminsky’s scoring load as he eclipsed his season scoring average in the first half alone with 15 points. Overall, the Badgers continued to scorch the nets, putting up 86 points with four players scoring in double-figures.
When will this team lose? Big Ten Conference play opens on January 2 with the Badgers taking on the Northwestern Wildcats on the road, but Northwestern hasn’t shown anything to make people believe they’re capable of pulling off an upset.
The biggest challenge seems to be a home date with the No. 23 Iowa Hawkeyes on January 5, and although the Badgers also face challenging matchups with the Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers (at IU) and Michigan Wolverines between January 5-18, there seems to be a real possibility — however unlikely — that Wisconsin could travel to No. 3 Ohio State on February 1 with a 21-0 record.
The Buckeyes could easily be undefeated at that time as well. What a game that would be! Neither team has had a noticeable dip in performance to this point, and with some fortune on both ends, the college basketball world could be in for a real treat on February 1. Badgers fans have already been gorging themselves on the team’s early success, but they can surely make room for a matchup between undefeated teams in February.