Men’s basketball: Badgers sitting 17th in the country, second in the Big Ten

first_imgWith four conference games down and 14 more to go, the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team is sitting at No. 17 nationally and No. 2 in the Big Ten.The Badgers (14-3, 3-1 Big Ten) are off to a solid 3-1 conference start in the chase for the Big Ten regular season title and a half-game back from No. 25 University of Maryland at the top of the standings.While four games out of an 18-game test is a rather juvenile progress report, establishing consistency through the first handful of challenges can set the tone for an entire conference slate to come.Football: Wisconsin’s T.J. Watt declares for 2017 NFL draftThe Watt lineage on the University of Wisconsin football team officially ended Tuesday morning, when T.J. Watt announced on Twitter Read…At this point last season, Wisconsin was 1-4 and found itself looking up from the bottom of the Big Ten table as questions continued to flurry around Greg Gard and his abrupt integration into the team as head coach following Bo Ryan’s departure.Despite his team’s rocky start last year, the Badgers rallied to a 12-6 conference finish, complemented by a Sweet 16 run and Gard has done a phenomenal job translating that late season momentum into this year’s start.Leading performersWisconsin has developed a strong balance in both scoring threats and production on the court this season. Unlike many other teams that run offensive schemes through a key scorer or star shooter, the Badgers boast a different leader in all three of the major statistical categories.Senior guard Bronson Koenig is the team’s leading scorer with 14.4 points per game, while redshirt sophomore forward Ethan Happ leads Wisconsin in rebounding with 9.2 boards per game. Happ also averages 12.9 points per game thanks to a dual threat relationship in the paint with senior forward Nigel Hayes, whose 3.2 assists per game are the most by any Badger this season. Areas of dire improvementSo far, all three of Wisconsin’s losses have come to teams ranked in the Top 25 both at the time of the matchup and in the latest Week 11 AP Poll. The trio is comprised of No. 9 University of North Carolina (16-3), No. 7 Creighton University (17-1) and No. 21 Purdue University (14-4, 3-2 ACC).While this seem to be a perfect excuse for their lone three faults, there are two ways to process these results.One interpretation is Wisconsin is in great shape considering all three of the Badgers’ losses have come to competitive, and perhaps favored teams. Another is the losses are an ominous gravestone that marks a futile tournament exit at the first sign of top 25 talent come March.It’s easy to pawn off Wisconsin’s blemishes to strength of schedule, but if UW can’t compete with Sweet 16 or debatably Elite 8 talent, then it’s going to be impossible to reach those heights.Football: Badgers sink Broncos 24-16 in Cotton BowlWhile the loss to Penn State University in the Big Ten Championship game still looms large for the Badger faithful, Read…Key remaining gamesThe Badgers already pocketed a quality win against then-No. 25 University of Indiana on the road in Bloomington in early January, but UW also dropped a key game to Purdue. With only one clash with the Boilermakers on the schedule, a head-to-head loss may come back to haunt Wisconsin at the end of the season.With the surprising emergence of the University of Minnesota (15-4, 3-3 Big Ten) this year, expect both matchups with the Golden Gophers to be tough ones down the stretch, especially the March 5 clash in Madison in the final game of the season. UW’s first game against Minnesota is this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in Minneapolis.Similar to its scheduling against Purdue, Wisconsin has only one shot at current conference leader Maryland (16-2, 4-1 Big Ten) this year, which is set for Feb. 19 in the Kohl Center. Assuming junior star guard Melo Trimble and the Terrapins continue their hot start through the next month, February’s meeting could showcase the deciding factor between No. 1 and No. 2 in the standings come March.last_img read more