Friday, October 13, 2017

How much longer until the season starts?

So, I’m getting pretty antsy waiting for the Badger Basketball season to start. Getting a taste by watching the Australia/New Zeeland footage was nice, but I am ready for the real thing. In an effort to assuage the anxiety of waiting, I am going to put up some ideas/hopes for the season, and keep telling myself that it’s just a few more weeks.

Unsurprisingly, I am more bullish on this season than most people seem to be. With so many players leaving from last year’s team that may seem foolish, and I won’t argue to much with that. At this point any projections are long shots with so many unknowns. This is more about what I am hoping the Badgers will become, as much as it is what I think they will become. In any case, here goes.

I like the guards. This is going to be a fun bunch of players to watch. All 4 seem to have a good all around skill set with some ability to shoot, handle the ball, and drive. They all obviously have strengths and weaknesses, but I see this group as less of the "one skill" kind of guards UW has had a lot of in years past. Think of Jason Bohannon who shot great, but did nothing else on offense and was limited athletically on defense. Think of Jason Chappell who provided a big body and rebounded, but nothing else. This group seems to be better all around players.

The guards will all play, not because they have to because of the numbers, but because they deserve to play. UW recruiting since Bo Ryan took over has been big man heavy, usually having only 4 scholarship guards at a time (out of 13 scholarships). That way more scholarships could be used for big guys that are more hit or miss in terms of recruiting, or take a couple years to develop. That sometimes means you have to play young guards, and that’s all we got this year. Luckily guards are better equipped to play right away, and with a healthy Pritzl, and 2 physically mature players in King and Davison, this group should not hold Bucky back.

I kind of wish Jordan Hill hadn’t transferred. As anyone who went to a game with me the past 4 years knows, I was no fan of Jordan Hill. Call me crazy, but I don’t like point guards that can’t dribble and take bad shots. Nevertheless, with 4 young guards it is almost inevitable that this group struggles on the defensive end of the court. While he had his faults, Hill was an effort defender, and you could get by with him on the court for a spell. Sometimes when you have young players, it’s nice to have that effort defender you can put on the court, and let them watch from the pine while a less talented player gets their minutes because he is doing the right things on defense. 

I expect Iverson to play a lot this year. His quickness and defensive versatility is going to let him take over Showalter’s role last year taking on the best perimeter player, but with his size he can guard a bit bigger players too. In my many fantasies about the Badgers lineups this summer, (yes, I know that is kind of weird) I have had Iverson playing everything from 2 guard to 4. While he fits this team as a 3, depending on what other players step up, I could see him playing a lot at any of three positions to accommodate other talent, because he is so versatile defensively. I sure hope he gets better at shooting and dribbling. If he can improve those 2 skills, he can be a star. I think Iverson eats up almost all the minutes at the 3 position this year, and Bucky ends up playing 3 guard lineups the rest of the time, but Moesch, Ford, and even Illikainen may get some backup minutes there too.

Then there’s Happ and the rest. Happ is poised to break all kinds of Badger records including some I teased last year. I have no doubt Happ will be great fun to watch as he was the last 2 years, but seems likely he will struggle statistically this year. With no Koenig and Hayes around, it’s all Happ. He will get doubled and tripled mercilessly this year. Kaminski had that happen to him too, and he went through a stretch where he struggled while figuring out how to pass out of/dribble out of/split doubles. I expect Happ will have similar growing pains, and while it will ultimately make him better, stats will suffer.

I have no idea what to make of the rest. I don’t want to take too much from the trip down under as that was a different kind of game, with different rules, and the coaches had different goals in mind with regard to playing time. That said, what I saw from the 3 other Juniors was not encouraging. Van Vliet scored well, but only because he is a chucker. To me he looked like a taller, thinner version of Vitto, minus the quality post defense and rebounding. Illikainen still shows effort on defense, but nothing but promise on offense. For some reason he just seems to have no confidence or aggression on offense. If he doesn’t find it, he won’t be any better than last year. Thomas is sort of the same. He has yet to realize his body is a freight train on the offensive side of the court. He had games last year where he showed he can dominate the defensive boards with his body, and I hope that grows. Bucky will need his bulk at some point to man up against bigger, more physical teams. My hope is that one of those 3 steps up. Just one guy please! I don’t really care which one. The other 2 guys can then battle with Reuvers and Ford for backup minutes.

There you have it. 4 guards, Iverson, Happ, and someone else makes a nice, tight 7 man rotation, with 4 other big guys that compete with each other to provide some depth. 25 wins and a sweet sixteen later, and I have had a lot of fun.

God, I can’t wait for the season to start. Maybe I need another fantasy.

What if Iverson starts at the 2 guard, and then...........

1 comment:

  1. I agree it's going to be a fun year. But I'm going to set my expectations lower than 25 wins and a Sweet 16—I'll say make the tourney or bust. Then see what happens.

    I'm with you on the guards. I believe Pritzl will be a very good two guard. He showed late last year that he's ready and willing to do all the little things, including defense, necessary to get on the court. He struggled from the field, but now is his time. The guy can shoot. Davison, King and Trice should all provide quality minutes. Though question remains whether Trice is ready to be fulltime point guard. He's just got to stay within himself more. I think he'll be fine.

    Iverson remains tantalizing but those pesky dribbling and shooting woes you mention still trouble me. I have to admit I have a bias against expecting someone with his physique (i.e., ripped) to develop great shooting touch and ball skills out of nowhere. But who knows. He'll definitley be on the floor a lot.

    Which brings us to the four spot, which is the biggest mystery on the team. With Happ having no outside game, and Iverson's outside game limiting, we absolutely need a stretch four (or a third guard). I know we'll play three or even four guards (esp. if you consider Iverson a guard) a lot, but we'll also need size on defense, esp. in Big Ten play, and esp. to protect Happ from foul trouble. Options at stretch four are Van Vliet, Illikainen and the freshmen Reuvers. Reuvers figures to to be a year away, and as you say Illikainen has not shown confidence in his shot. Does the Beligan Bomber get a chance? Word is that he had an epiphany last year while considering a transfer and has now "bought in" on the defensive end ... I'm a little skeptical because I don't think all his defensive limitations are just mental ... But we shall see!