After advancing to the Final Four last season – and coming within a three-pointer of playing for a national championship – Wisconsin entered this season with high expectations. The No. 5 Badgers (23-2, 11-1) have been as good as advertised, but are they a legitimate tournament threat against Kentucky, Duke, Gonzaga and others?
Gary Parrish believes so.
“Oh, they’re really good and absolutely a tournament threat,” the CBSSports.com college basketball writer said on Gio and Jones. “And not only to get back to the Final Four, but they’re good enough to (win) the whole thing. They’re not the favorite because Kentucky is obviously the favorite – and by a pretty significant margin. But you’re talking about a team that is literally the best in the country when it comes to offensive efficiency. They’ve only lost once all season with Frank Kaminsky healthy. And that was a home loss to Duke that isn’t good – anytime you lose at the Kohl Center, that’s not ideal – but it’s to a Duke team that has proven capable of beating anybody in the country.
“Outside of that, they’ve been perfect,” Parrish continued. “They took the loss at Rutgers (67-62 on Jan. 11), but again, Frank Kaminsky – who is their best player, who’s the Big Ten Player of the Year and maybe the National Player of the Year – didn’t participate in that game because of a concussion. So when they’re healthy, they are on another level and one of the most elite teams in the country, clearly.”
Kaminsky is averaging 17.6 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.5 assist per game, while Sam Dekker is averaging 13.0 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.1 assists. Both are shooting at least 52.6 percent from the field.
“Sam Dekker is probably the best pro prospect on the roster outside of Kaminsky – and maybe even including Kaminsky,” Parrish said. “He’s a 6-9, 230-pound junior, a terrific athlete – a guy who, since he’s entered college, has grown about two inches, put on about 30 pounds. He’s just terrific. He’s unable to, I think, show everything he can actually do given the system that Wisconsin runs, but he’s still posting nice numbers consistently with this basketball team.”
So is Bronson Koenig, who has filled in admirably for Traevon Jackson (foot), who was injured in the loss at Rutgers. Wisconsin has since won eight straight.
“After Traevon Jackson got hurt, he sort of was thrust into a starting role, and frankly, nobody knew how that would go,” Parrish said. “They knew the kid was talented and that it’s still a Bo Ryan-coached team and it’ll probably be all right, but you could argue that Wisconsin is actually better since Bronson has been pushed into the starting lineup. Again, they’re operating at a really high level. This team could be a little better defensively, but still, they’re so good offensively and they’ve just really been running away with the Big Ten.”
Wisconsin faces Penn State (15-11, 3-10) on the road this Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET before returning home for a Saturday home game against Minnesota (16-10, 5-8) at noon.