By Rex Sheild @RexfordJunior on April 1, 2014
Coming into this year's NCAA tournament, you wouldn't have been incorrect to assume the Badgers would flounder, given past teams' up-and-down play in March. Rest assured, Bo Ryan's squad was not denied in their quest to reach the Final Four for the first time since 2000. Wisconsin will be immensely challenged on both ends of the court this weekend, but these five reasons suggest the program will cut down the nets for the first time since 1941.
As it has been throughout his entire career, the fourth-year junior is delegated to shutting down the opponent's top perimeter player, which he did tremendously against Arizona's Nick Johnson, forcing him to shoot 6-of-16 from the field. While his defensive efforts will be vital if the Badgers want to cut down the nets, Gasser's offensive skill set will need to need to be on display throughout, especially from beyond the arc.
Point guard Traevon Jackson is the unsung leader of the offense, but Koenig has showed superb flashes of his career trajectory in a red and white uniform. He poses as a prototypical Bo Ryan-style offensive option, as he can beat defenders off the dribble to find the open shooter, rise above other guards for a pull-up jumper and hit a nothing-but-net three-pointer. These triple-threat abilities will need to be at a premium to man the offense.
Going against future NBA players in Arizona's Aaron Gordon and Kaleb Tarczewski, the Ohio native played as if he would be a future lottery pick. Hayes plays well above his 6-foot-7 stature with powerful moves in the paint and can stretch the defense with his above-average perimeter game, shooting 47 percent during March Madness. There's no better time for him to be an exemplary complement to fellow big man Frank Kaminsky.
Despite a relatively quiet NCAA tournament thus far, Dekker's regular season body of work makes one believe he can return to those roots. He solidifies the pre-collegiate hype when he puts the ball on the floor, and attacks defenders in the paint and around the rim. There's no doubt the swingman can be an integral part of Wisconsin's run in crowning itself national champions, but he cannot be passive, something he's deferred to all too often.
The Benet Academy (Ill.) product may not look the part with his long face and droopy eyes, but Kaminsky has been the farthest thing from one of the seven dwarfs this NCAA tournament; he's been magnificent. If the West Region MVP, fresh off a 28-point, 11-rebound performance against Arizona, can keep intact his corky post moves and give Wisconsin an edge from beyond the arc, the Badgers will be king of the college basketball world.
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