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On Traevon Jackson's clutchness, Nigel Hayes' NBA prospects

All that, plus thoughts on Wisconsin's vacant running backs coach position.

Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

I've got a little to say on a lot, and we're going to take a journey. A journey into takes. Takes, of varying temperatures.

Will you be outraged? Maybe. Will you be entertained? Gosh, I hope so. But you're here. Feast your eyes.

The Mercurial Traevon Jackson: Clutch Edition

So after the Michigan State game, this question rolled around just how clutch is that Traevon Jackson? And to borrow a phrase from Upworthy, the answer might surprise you.

Let's break it down game by game.

Nov. 12 vs. Florida

Florida, trailing most of the second half, cut the deficit to three points with less than one minute to go. Jackson ices the game with a jumper to put the Badgers up five with 11 seconds left. Not a buzzer-beater, but definitely Good Trae.

Nov. 23 vs. Oral Roberts

The Badgers led by as much as 15 in the second half, but Oral Roberts definitely had the momentum after a Jackson turnover led to a Golden Eagles three-pointer, cutting the Badgers' lead to five. But in a twist, Good Trae showed up and erased the memory of Bad Trae, as he sunk four free throws to ice the game and keep the Badgers' unbeaten streak alive.

Nov. 26 vs. Saint Louis

A script very similar to the Oral Roberts game came not three days later. Saint Louis had the ball with one minute to go, down by five. But here's the twist: Jackson stole the ball, got fouled and sunk two free throws. Then he blocked a shot and was fouled after a Billiken three-pointer. He sunk two more free throws, and thus, Good Trae iced the game and gave the Badgers a win that ultimately developed into one of a fine vintage.

Then, there were a bunch of blowouts. Wisconsin escaped against Iowa. Sinking one of two free throws up three with 6 seconds to go? That is Schroedinger's clutch.

The Indiana game was one where Jackson didn't really have an effect on the final 2 minutes of the game. In fact, it wasn't until mid-January that the judgement of Jackson resumed.

Jan. 18 vs. Michigan

After a Nik Stauskas three-pointer put the Wolverines up four, Jackson drew a foul with 43 seconds to go. He sunk one of two free throws, and the Badgers felt like they had to foul instead of get a stop and play for the tie. They lost by seven. Bad Trae, bad.

Feb. 1 vs. Ohio State

Jackson's worst 20 seconds happened to be the final 20 seconds. We all know that disaster is letting a college player run iso. And once again, Jackson left one on the line. In fairness, Ben Brust, Josh Gasser and Hayes each did as well But Bad Trae reared his head.

Feb. 9 vs. Michigan State

The turnover was bad, but it didn't directly lead to points. The assist to Frank Kaminsky was pretty darn good. And of course, the rare time that iso stuff worked got the Badgers a win. This was mostly Good Trae.

What did we learn? Jackson's generally done well close and late. He's a lot better when he's fighting to keep the Badgers in the lead than when the Badgers are trailing. But all in all, it turns out that if the game is close and the Badgers are ahead, it's actually a good thing that Jackson's on the floor.


Nigel Hayes does not have the league in his near future.

While arguments to the fact that he may be the best player the Badgers have might indeed be true, there are two reasons as to why he's coming back. One, his game needs polish. He's still a little too foul-happy, averaging almost six fouls per 40 minutes. He isn't a great rebounder, at least in terms of rebounding rate. If you're slightly over 20 percent, you're doing great. For example, Kansas' Joel Embiid's right at 20 percent, and he has no perimeter game.

Now here's where you're going to stop me. "Nigel Hayes is a power forward, right?" And I'll agree. "It's not integral to the success of the Badgers." I'll also agree.

But Hayes is 6'7. That's his listed height. It's entirely possible he's more likely to develop into Antonio Gates than an NBA player. That's not to say he can't, but pro sports scouts have a tendency to be superficial, and that's definitely going to be on the strength of a lot of tape. Right now, Hayes isn't going to be drafted.

Who's my pick for Wisconsin's next running backs coach?

I have one. It's Al Washington from Boston College, and quite frankly, I favor him with some distance. Now, I don't expect you to know who exactly Washington is. So, to borrow a bit from the home office, I'll give you three reasons why.

1. He'll be a help in recruiting.

You want to know why D.J. Gillins put Boston College in his hat race? Washington was his primary recruiter. Washington was also involved in helping the Eagles land seven recruits last season. He also recruited in the same areas as Thomas Hammock. He's diving into Georgia, and he did plenty of work on the East Coast. So, his hire would mean we wouldn't have to re-acclimate someone with Hammock's region.

2. Youth.

Washington turns 30 in April. He's young enough to have a Rivals page from his playing days. That's not to say recruiting is a young man's game, but it's a game where energy is a necessity. If the Badgers are going to recruit as hard as they did last year, Washington would be a big help to the cause.

3. Let's not forget the actual working with running backs.

A part of the reason why Hammock was so great was that he was able to get a lot out of some very talented backs. Andre Williams explosion for Boston College, while not the sample size that one might desire, is a very good omen for Washington's skill set in molding the running backs of the future.

I mean, after one year, he produced a Heisman Trophy finalist out of a solid running back who's previous career-high in yardage was 584 and improved his yards per attempt by almost 2. That is something you want.

Of course, there are still other candidates in play who would help keep the Badgers at the level they're accustomed to. I like Purdue's Jafar Williams, despite the fact he has that first season of Boilermaker stank on him, and Utah's Ilaisa Tuiaki does have previous Gary Andersen coaching experience, as well as inroads into the fast-paced world of Texas football. But we shall see.