ROSEMONT, Ill. -- At Thursday's Big Ten basketball media day just outside Chicago, it wasn't tough to tell which team stands alone as the conference favorite.
Throughout the morning, hordes of media surrounded the contingent from Wisconsin, a team unanimously selected by Big Ten beat writers to win the conference and ranked fourth in the country in the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll.
The core reason lies in the decisions made by Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker to forgo the NBA for another year in Madison. Both are now projected as NBA first-rounders.
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Badgers embrace the hype at Big Ten media day
The Badgers showed up to Big Ten media day with a clear message -- they know how big the target is on their backs, and they're perfectly fine with it.
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"The NBA can wait," Kaminsky wrote on his blog in April. "The NBA isn't going anywhere, so neither am I. I know my benefits of coming back to school just as well as I know my risks. But in this case, the benefits outweigh the risks. I made a commitment to the University of Wisconsin, and they made a commitment to me."
Kaminsky led the Badgers last season with 13.9 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. He scored a career-high 43 points in November against North Dakota and notched 28 points in the Elite Eight against Arizona, grabbing 11 boards in the victory. Kaminsky, or "Frank the Tank" as Wisconsin fans have reverently nicknamed him, was voted by Big Ten media as the preseason conference player of the year and is comfortably on the radar for the Naismith College Player of the Year.
Joining him is Dekker, a junior forward who scored 12.4 points per game and posted 16 games of 15-plus points. Dekker was selected to the preseason All-Big Ten team along with Kaminsky and three others, and is also considered a preseason candidate for both the Big Ten Player of the Year and Naismith awards.
"It's cool to see," Dekker said. "You take that with some pride, but it also makes you get back in the gym to get better -- you then have stuff to uphold. As a player, you have expectations of yourself and how you can help the team and better yourself. Those expectations are deep-rooted inside of me. I'm excited for what the future holds."
Senior guard Josh Gasser appeared delighted to have two of his teammates in the national spotlight.
"It's extremely exciting," Gasser said. "I'm glad they're on my side. I wouldn't want to play against those guys -- playing against them in practice, it sucks. They're just that good of players.
"They deserve all the attention they're getting-Frank, for what he did in the tournament last year, and Sam, for his natural talent and ability, his improvements from last year to this year. I'm expecting big things out of them."
Kaminsky shutdown the notion of individual accolades becoming a possible distraction for him.
"I don't want to think about any individual achievements because I'm more concerned about what our team is going to do this season," Kaminsky said. "I don't really care about that kind of stuff. I just want to win. That's why I came back to Wisconsin for my senior year-to win basketball games."
Dekker also delivered a team-first message.
"Individual awards don't come without a team around you, without team success," Dekker said. "With the group of guys like we have and with the team around us, those individual awards will come, but you just have got to worry about making your team better. If you do that every day, things will fall into place."