After seeing Wisconsin live for the first time this season, several things popped out to me on Tuesday during the Badgers’ win over the Florida Gators. I know it's early, but some themes you just know are going to be recurring throughout the year. Through two games, fans have gotten a good look at this team facing off against Big Ten-quality competition and also a glimpse into the future.
The future of Sam Dekker
Sam Dekker is very talented and unquestionably the star of this team. When it comes to all the off-season hype and his place on NBA Draft lists, however, I think we are jumping the gun a tad. To put it plainly, Dekker must add another element to his game to be taken seriously as an early entrant candidate, or to be able to completely take over a game and carry the Badgers this season.
I love Dekker’s ability to go to either his left or right to the goal, but he cannot do this very often unless his defender makes a mistake and gives him the opening. Note that Dekker is indeed adept at identifying and seizing those openings. But he can’t blow by many people from the top of the key, in part due to his still developing handle. Therefore, I would really like to see Dekker develop one or two go-to moves from the post, whether with his back to the basket or face-up. Getting Dekker the ball on the post would put UW's best offensive weapon closer to the basket at a much higher rate -- that's a good thing, right? Any semblance of a post game would make Dekker incredibly tough to stop.
It is just incredible that Bo Ryan can consistently field good rebounding teams no matter the tools at his disposal. He has unleashed Ben Brust’s energy on the glass yet again this year, only this time it is part of a larger group effort from the guards. That group mentality is a necessity with the lack of size and experience up front.
A Badger guard has posted the game-high rebounding total for either team in each of the first two games -- Josh Gasser had eight versus St. John's, Brust had nine against Florida (and Traevon Jackson added seven for good measure). If their defensive rebounding percentages hold up, this will be a historic effort by the starting guards. Right now, Jackson is grabbing 17.6% of possible defensive rebounds, while Brust and Gasser are grabbing 15.6% and 14.9% respectively.
Keep crashin' boys, Wisconsin needs it...
Hayes looks legit
Some people said Nigel Hayes looked out of place defensively against St. John’s, but what I saw against Florida was very encouraging. Despite picking up four more fouls, Hayes played a very solid 18 minutes in relief of Frank Kaminsky, scoring eight points. His B1G-ready body is helping him grab easy put-back chances down low and he is not shying away from a shot when he sees it. Even his misses are encouraging because of the mentality. Between Hayes and Kaminsky, the Badgers will have at least some low-post presence offensively this season.
The future looks bright for Hayes. The foul issues don't worry me yet; that will take care of itself. Hayes never lets on that he is getting flustered by a bad call or missed shot out there. He has a desire to score inside. I think Hayes will be ready to lead this team in a few years when it’s his turn. And any sort of off-season improvement in his explosiveness will have Hayes on track for a special career.
Join the Badger conversation on Facebook! Go to our Facebook page and "like" us!
For more Wisconsin basketball coverage, follow Phil on Twitter @hoopsmarinara.