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Badger Bits: Wisconsin enjoying early play of Bronson Koenig

Wisconsin's freshman sensation has received rare early playing time from Bo Ryan. What's ahead for Bronson Koenig?

Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

First, a brief note: A few readers have asked about the status of Badger Bits, which have largely fallen by the wayside. That was unintentional, due to time constraints and a diversion of our attention toward other content and such. But a nice part -- arguably the nicest -- of Badger Bits was the morning discussion it kickstarted each day. So we'll be bringing them back, geared more toward that approach than one of a simple link dump. We'll throw in any news of the previous day that we might've missed, and we encourage you to do the same in the comments. Please feel free to sound off on whatever you'd like, and as always, we welcome your feedback. Unless it's mean.

Bronson Koenig opening eyes early on

Considering Bronson Koenig quite obviously doesn't lack the slightest bit of confidence and Bo Ryan is, well, Bo Ryan, you'd expect Wisconsin's head coach to be a little more sly in his assessment of the freshman point guard's early play.

Alas, when Ryan met the media Monday for his weekly press conference, he was refreshingly straightforward and complimentary.

Asked how Koenig has responded since being sidelined with a hamstring injury early in the preseason and what he's done well, Ryan said, "Well, a little bit of everything. And he pays attention in the video room, keeps a good notebook.

"He's pretty perceptive. It's amazing how tough a competitor you are, the more things you grasp in a short period of time, because you figure out a way to be successful."

It's not exactly mind-blowing praise, but that last part resonated with me, about figuring out a way to be successful. Koenig's already surpassed George Marshall in the rotation -- more on that below -- and should be considered a vital contributor off the bench. Koenig has appeared in all of Wisconsin's games, save for the Nov. 12 Florida game. In 138 minutes, he's gone 12-of-23 from the floor (52.2 percent) and 5-of-12 from three-point range (41.7 percent). He's pulled down 11 rebounds and carries a 2-to-1 assist-turnover ration (10/5).

Again, nice numbers, but nothing spectacular. So that's why the picture isn't complete without Ryan's assessment, which of course takes into account his play in other areas.

"It has really shown on the court in practice how he has moved ahead and done some really good things because he's learned, well, I need to be here on defense. I need to rotate here, pinch here, sink there. And those are all things that, if you want to play and you've got some ability, you've got a chance.

"So he's picked up in every area, and the game was probably a little quicker, a little stronger for him in the beginning when you're looking at it, but he knows now that he can compete, and he's ready to get more. I like hungry people."

I like hungry people, too, Bo. Let's see how far that appetite takes him.

George Marshall's situation "all personal"

I'm not sure if anyone expected Ryan to publicly detail whatever led George Marshall to begin looking into transfer options. Indeed, Ryan didn't share any additional details when asked about the situation Monday.

"That's all personal," he said when asked for his reaction to Marshall's decision. "That was done, and I made a statement with the release, and that's where that stays. We've got 16 guys I'm working with, and they're working hard. That's all I know."

Ryan's statement didn't share much either, taking the naturally supportive stance you'd expect from such a release.

"George came and talked to me and he informed me that he wanted to pursue his options of playing somewhere else," Ryan said. "I told him we would help in any way we could to facilitate his transition to a new school. He's a great kid, from a terrific family and we wish him luck as he continues his academic and athlete career."

One bit of relevant information: Ryan did say he wasn't looking to add another player to fill Marshall's vacated spot.

"No, we're okay right now," Ryan said. "Yeah. I think we're all right. If you know anybody that we're missing or somebody that we don't know about that's on campus, let me know."

Surprise: Ryan isn't going nuts about his undefeated, top-five team

Stunning, really. People asked the inevitable "But how will they respond?" questions after Wisconsin rose to the top five in the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2007. Ryan's responses:

"This team's attention will be on the clips from Saturday and the UWM scouting report. That's all we'll talk about."

"Everybody's going to want to, even more so, try to get a piece of the Badgers. There's a lot of sports on campus that have been in that position."

And this last one's kinda long, but I think it's the most meaningful at this still-early moment in the season:

"I think, because of the leadership we have, I think the right things are being said in the locker room and the right directions are being given out on the court with the players, with the upperclassmen. Even though it's not a real old group at all, there's guys that have been around.

"You know, they've knocked off in years past teams that were highly ranked. So they know highly ranked teams are just as vulnerable as anybody else. It's the way of sports to try to rank people and rate people. But they understand it's 40 minutes of basketball Wednesday night, or at least that's how we'll approach it."

Links 'n' stuff

-- Critical information: A breakdown of the gifts each bowl game gives out. I was gonna do a power rankings-ish post breaking down the best gifts, including nice watches and such, but realized I might not be all that qualified considering my $25 Casio makes me perfectly happy. Should the Badgers win the Capital One Bowl, though, each player will receive a $450 Best Buy gift card and shopping trip, a Timely Watch Co. watch and Russell Athletic workout shirt. Not a bad haul.

-- In case you missed it -- and if you didn't, you still might want to revisit it -- SB Nation's complete bowl schedule is sexy as heck. We get paid precisely zero bucks for dropping mothership links in here, so believe me when I say you'll quickly get sucked into the rabbit hole of mousing over each bowl from the Beef 'O'Brady's to the national championship game, evaluating the predictions and wondering what might make Dan Rubenstein the only one among six voters to pick South Carolina over Wisconsin.

-- This mothership link might be even cooler, particularly because it's more fine work from Bill Connelly: eight brackets depicting what the College Football Playoff could look like if it currently existed.

-- Along the lines of fun predictions and such, we've had some great FanPosts from you guys here that are well worth sharing:

  • A running Wisconsin recruiting thread from BuckysBadgers that I sincerely hope y'all keep rolling forever and forever.
  • Loyal reader/commenter/hero drstre blindly presents some basketball stats and asks you to name college basketball's best team.
  • All together, we had a healthy surge in the number of FanPosts in November. That's really awesome, and we hope to see that number grow even more in December. You can make it happen right here.