Nothin’ but net with Nick

Bucky could definitely get back to the promised land in 2015


Graphic by Karl Enghofer, The Spectator

Story by Nick Erickson, Managing Editor

Aaron Harrison’s shot still painfully replays in my head. My heart hasn’t dropped that far since Josh Framm let Air Bud go, which may be one of the saddest moments in the history of cinema, and you’re a fool if you think otherwise.

I digress. Harrison’s 22-foot 3-pointer over Josh Gasser Saturday night ended the finest season for Wisconsin basketball in the Bo Ryan era with a gut-wrenching loss. But there’s still a lot for Bucky fans to be excited about, and 2015 could even top this magical three-week run.

So I’m going to bring out my inner Bo Ryan and point out some necessary adjustments so the championship trophy will come back to

The Badgers only lose Ben Brust from this year’s Final Four squad. Brust was an extremely vital part of the team, and his shooting ability and overall leadership will be extremely missed, no doubt. But there are ways to fill the void, and the first question is who Ryan will start in his place next season.

First off, it’s noteworthy to point out Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky both committed to coming back to UW instead of bolting for the NBA, which is huge. With that in mind, Nigel Hayes should get the early nod for the final spot in the starting lineup.

Hayes proved all year he could play, and he was the one who carried the team midway through the Big Ten season. But if he starts, this would give Wisconsin a more traditional swing offense look by starting two bigs and three guards instead of the four guard, one big lineup it used this season.

Hayes would play the power forward spot, which Dekker technically occupied this season. But Dekker is more of a small forward, and starting Hayes would get Sammy D back to his natural position. In this position, Dekker can post up smaller players, and he’ll be just as quick if not quicker than anybody guarding him.

If he can take it to the hole with authority like he did against Kentucky and even get to the free-throw line, he could break out into a National Player of the Year candidate. He’s that good.

I also really like Bronson Koenig coming off the bench for energy. He played his best game of the season Saturday night by scoring 11 first-half points against the high flyers of Kentucky. He can shoot the ball, which will help fill Brust’s absence. Also, Koenig can flat out pass. He got a little more confident in making those “wow” passes he made constantly at La Crosse Aquinas High School, and he’s only going to get better.

Next, I’d really like to see the ball wind up in Gasser’s hands a little bit more. The guy is a playmaker. He always has been. He got to the rim several times in the tournament, and he’s a smart guy who can create for others. I think if he even runs the show at times when Traevon Jackson is on the bench, Wisconsin could truly benefit.

But here’s the biggest key to next season: the offense has to revolve around Kaminsky, who became America’s darling during the tournament. His improvement from his sophomore to junior season was one of the best turnarounds in recent memory, and he proved all year he could score in any way.

He can shoot long balls. He can score in the post. And the most impressive way he scores is driving to the basket from the top of the key. Ryan needs to run pick and rolls with him all day long to give him the option to score in those three ways.

He literally carried Wisconsin against Arizona by doing this. And as we saw against Kentucky, when he is the center of a team’s defensive game plan, he creates offense for other guys like Dekker and Jackson, who both had excellent games.

Really, though, not a whole lot needs to be changed in Madtown. Bucky was one desperate and miraculous 3-pointer away from playing in the National Championship game. They were 30-7 overall. Next year, however, don’t be too surprised to see them finish the job and bring a national championship to America’s Dairyland. I wonder if State Street would celebrate?