You might as well consider Wisconsin's 85-31 victory over Kennesaw State more of a second exhibition than a home opener, as the Owls put up less of a fight than UW-Stevens Point did. The Badgers went 10 deep in a laughable first half that saw Kennesaw State make its second and third field goals with 11:21 left and 0:14 left respectively. Wisconsin led 41-8 at the break.
From my seat, it looked like the Owls from Georgia missed a bunch of easy shots to dig that hole. On the other end, the Badgers sank a blazing 15-of-25 (60%) shots from long distance. Thanks to a lot of unselfish play, nearly every Badger got into the act, led by Josh Gasser hitting all four of his 3-point attempts for a team-high 14 points. Eight different Badgers made a 3-pointer.
Wisconsin has a clear core rotation of six guys. What I like the most about these early season matchups is getting the first true look at the younger players who may not see many minutes during the meat of the schedule. On Saturday we saw a few guys make their opening statements for more playing time.
"Our guys look for each other ... they're not selfish," Bo Ryan said afterward. "But I certainly liked the way we responded with the different lineups. Sometimes you sub like that and everything gets disjointed."
Here are five guys -- old and new -- that stood out to me on Saturday:
Big Frank was a fan favorite this weekend. He looked very comfortable on the floor and should get minutes ahead of Evan Anderson this season, as he did against Kennesaw State. He even got into the 3-point parade, hitting 1-of-2. In 10 minutes, Kaminsky scored 5 points, grabbed 5 rebounds and added a blocked shot. The only downside was smaller defenders were able to poke the ball away from him in the lane a few times. But they were really only the result of him using his own dribble in from the perimeter. In other words, it's a nice problem for a 6'10" freshman to have. Bonus points for having the most hilarious scoreboard player video in years.
Evans made his first career start and continued to show flashes that he will be a big contributor this season. After a quick hook following a turnover to watch "from a different angle and refocus" as Bo put it, Evans returned to make life miserable defensively for Kennesaw's junior stud Markeith Cummings. Though Cummings finished garbage time with 18 points (more than half the Owls' total), at one point he was 2-of-11 from the field. Offensively, Evans continues to get to the free throw line and has worked on his baseline jumper. The redshirt junior scored 13 points, but more impressively, Evans pulled down six rebounds and dished out four assists in his 20 minutes of burn.
I know it wasn't the toughest opponent for a big man like Berggren, but I liked how well he moved. In particular, he had his way moving in the paint on two straight possessions in the second half where he seemed to be about two steps quicker than his defenders to make himself available. And when he got the ball, two swift thunderous dunks were the result. None of this layup stuff. Though Berggren may not ever be a great rebounder, it was at least encouraging to see him stay out of foul trouble.
Jackson entered the game about halfway through the first half and logged 13 solid minutes for Bo Ryan. The most pleasant part of his game was his physical defense. I spotted him several times bumping his man as he tried to fight through the lane on picks and such. The contact was hard enough to disrupt and frustrate effectively, but also subtle enough that he didn't draw whistles. Jackson got away with over-dribbling a tad later in the game, but that is correctable. As I wrote on Friday, Trae appears to be a Ryan favorite. He's steady and confident ... very similar to Rob Wilson already, but a little less explosive into the lane.
The most peculiar moment in the game came inside the final minute of the first half, when Uthoff checked in at the scorer's table with Duje Dukan out of a timeout. Though Uthoff was supposed to replace Berggren, he apparently had to wait until the next stoppage, which never came. So, having expressed a desire to play prior to the game, Ryan reiterated to Uthoff at halftime that he could wait and think some more about redshirting. The result was Uthoff being held out of the second half.
As it stands now, it's safe to say Uthoff is seriously considering a redshirt. The moment just reinforced how trivial events can change the course of a player's career instantly in the same way an injury or a game-winning shot can. The Uthoff decision gets major props from me since I have repeatedly stated that a player as skilled as Uthoff is the kind you want to have stick around for five years. Once he adds weight, he will be a force. In fact, had he checked into this game, I am certain he would have played a key role in at least one game this season.
George Marshall and Jordan Smith were the only other Badgers that did not play.
"[Uthoff's] okay no matter what he does," Ryan said. "So he's still contemplating. And you'd expect that from a 4.0 student out of high school. George, I think, is still thinking."