I have been going to Wisconsin's annual Red/White Scrimmage for several years now and there are a few rules of the road that keep your expectations in check. One of them is that it's typical for the team you expect to get blasted by the "more talented" team to surprise you, if not win the game altogether.
On Sunday, however, the favorite never relented. In the first public look at the men's basketball team, the Red squad consisting of Ryan Evans, Jared Berggren, Sam Dekker, George Marshall, Zach Bohannon and others controlled the scrimmage in the first half en route to a 78-61 final score after a running clock sped up most of the second half.
That is not to say that nothing unexpected occurred. In fact, a pair of performers on the White squad were extremely impressive. Below you'll find a breakdown of what stood out from each player during this year's scrimmage.
At times Jared Berggren looked like a man among boys on the Kohl Center floor Sunday. He swatted at least four shots by my count, including one point blank on a Frank Kaminsky attempt at the rack. What is hard to glean from a scrimmage or any of these early practices is whether Berggren has developed the consistency offensively and on the boards that the Badgers will need from him. As a senior, we pretty much know Berggren's game by now. Yet it's still great to see him go up strong to rebounds and back up again quickly to the hole for a follow-up score. He also flashed his three-point touch and baby hook.
What Zach Bohannon confirmed immediately Sunday was that he's going after every loose ball and he won't stop just because someone on the other team got it first. Bohannon was the guy poking balls loose, but also the one on the floor quickest to corral it. He's no Dennis Rodman, but Z-Bo does have a knack for slipping into spaces where the ball is going to be and he wound up with a handful of offensive rebounds for his team. He showed off a versatile offensive game consisting of a couple 3-pointers and several trips to the foul line. The other thing is, Bohannon simply doesn't get rattled. It's partly his genes and partly that Air Force training in him. You can tell by the way he squeezes the rock looking for his next pass with a guy in his face. Watching him play, it was easy to imagine Z-Bo playing plenty of minutes this season.
Unfortunately Sam Dekker had a rough first outing in front of the fans. Consistent with what we've heard Bo Ryan speak about regarding Dekker's development, the celebrated freshman forced several shots to try to get himself going. He was able to convert a tough three-point play and bang home a trey, but I expected a bit more I guess. Dekker's dribble looked a little loose and he wound up with a few turnovers simply because he lost the ball out of bounds. Memo to opposing Big Ten coaches: When trying to figure out how to guard Dekker, don't go small. He will abuse you.
Honestly the thing that stuck out most to me about Dekker, though, is the fact that he's always directing traffic, always calling for the ball. It's in his DNA. That came in handy on one particular possession where his Red team was up against the shot clock. But overall, don't underestimate what an adjustment this is for Dekker and how his alpha dog tendencies could potentially rub older teammates the wrong way. In the end, of course, this will be a major benefit to having Dekker around.
The flattop is here to say, Evans says, and he added some cripsy all-white shoes to his look for the scrimmage. Where he really shined was his ability to swoop to the basket after a few dribbles and finish at the rim. Earlier in his career, he couldn't dribble towards the hole, let alone finish with touch if he got there. Evans let the game, er scrimmage, come to him and looked smooth in racking up 18 points and a game-high seven rebounds. Much like Berggren, this was Evans' fifth go-round in the scrimmage and he breezed through it.
My first thought during player introductions was, boy, Marshall is short. He may not be a full 5'11" as listed by Wisconsin, but he ran the point admirably for the most part. Marshall's go-to move at this point appears to a quick probe-and-retreat with his dribble. Although he looked a bit shaky with the ball for the first few minutes, Marshall really settled into a groove midway though the first half. And it wasn't with the mid-range game we expected, but from long distance. Despite appearing to twist his body to the left on his jumpers, Marshall splashed in 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting from 3-point land. It's too bad he missed badly on a fastbreak alley-oop pass intended for Dekker that would have brought down the house just after halftime.
As I tweeted during the scrimmage, one of the highlights for me was simply seeing Showalter flying through the air going after rebounds in the trees. He certainly holds up well physically against the rest of the Badgers and looked like he could be a valuable defender for Wisconsin. Showalter narrowly missed a few steals that could have led to some highlight reel plays. I remember one turnover after Red broke White's press and another when Evans couldn't get up in time for a nice alley-oop pass, but Showalter didn't look out of place at all, which is great to see from a freshmen. Not a bad looking stroke on his 3-pointer either.
Even standing next to Marshall, Smith is the smallest (not shortest) guy on the team. He just doesn't have a Big Ten body. To his credit, he still tried taking the ball inside, but didn't find much success. Smith did knock down one of Red's 11 treys on the night.
The big guy got plenty of run in an extended twin towers look from White's coaches with Kaminsky. The best thing I saw him do was feed Kaminsky down low over the defense from out near the 3-point line. A really great play I wouldn't have expected from Anderson. He reamined relatively foul free and also got to the charity stripe.
Brust showed off that burst of his which really is at a different level than any of his Badger teammates. The junior hardly launched any outside shots, preferring to take his man off the dribble towards the basket. Brust opened his scoring early with a left-handed drive and finish -- a welcome sight to any Badger fan who noticed his ball handling limitations as a freshman and sophomore.
Though Dukan reportedly battled mononucleosis this summer, he clearly has made progress in the weight room the past few years. He tended to blend in during this scrimmage before putting in a few late buckets for the trailing White team. Dukan was matched up with Evans quite a bit, so you can see why may not have blown folks away with his performance. I'd definitely say he's looking up at Bohannon in terms of playing time.
Fahey showed off impressive hops in the pregame dunk line and continues to be a bulldog-type on defense. Sporting two black eyes and some padded shoulder armor, Fahey dove over the first row of chairs to save the ball right by a seated Mike Bruesewitz to highlight one stretch, drawing nothing by praise from his injured teammate. I had my doubts about Fahey scoring since he's such a glue guy, but he did put in a bucket and draw a foul (though he missed the freebie).
There is just something about Traevon. Along with Kaminsky, Jackson carried the White team in the scrimmage. He missed just one shot (7-for-8) on his way to 16 points. More importantly, he handled the offense without committing a turnover. Jackson scored the first four points for his squad with beautiful looking pull-up jumpers from the free throw line. He put through an identical shot later on right over Berggren. Jackson showed off his strength against taller players, too, using his backside to clear Dekker out of rebounding position at one point.
Jackson plays with a deep confidence in himself and that really seems to make up for any perceived lack of physical shortcomings in real game scenarios. He is playing with a huge chip on his shoulder this season in my opinion. I think he's well aware of the fact that Marshall was anointed the point guard of the future without any real experience, not to mention Gasser beat them both out for the job early on. Even so, Ryan called his point guard candidates "interchangeable" afterwards.
I can only imagine the epic practice sessions that will take place between Kaminsky and Berggren down low throughout the year. Big Frank is going to be a battle-tested junior next year for sure, but looked good to go already. Pacing all scorers with 20 points on Sunday, Kaminsky came out strong on the boards in the first half and looked great from the free throw stripe. He flashed his passing skills with a nice lateral bounce pass from the high post to a cutting teammate.
Much has been made of Kaminsky's reshaped body, but he could still do some work on his upper body to complement his sturdy base. He notched several blocks of his own -- including a returned favor on Berggren -- but may have worn down a bit toward the end. He's got to stay out of foul trouble too.
The only player to not get on the scoreboard during the scrimmage, Wise had one basket waved off by a charging call Sunday evening.
As for the injured players, Bruesewitz was vocal as usual, sporting a brand new permed carrot top. Josh Gasser made his way out on the court with crutches during warm ups to get his squad ready for the game and was announced to the largest ovation before the game.
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