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Wisconsin basketball: Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig named to preseason watch lists

Not surprisingly, two of Wisconsin's leaders are making preseason award watch lists.

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes was elected to the preseason watch list for the Julius Erving Award, and Bronson Koenig was named to the watch list for the Bob Cousy Award.

The Erving award recognizes the NCAA's best small forward, while the Cousy award honors the top point guard.

Both Badgers will face incredibly stiff competition for their respective awards. Hayes goes up against 19 other elite small forwards, including Jaylen Brown, Alex Poythress, Brandon Taylor and Ben Simmons. Koenig will have to out-ompete future NBA draft picks like Melo Trimble, Tyrone Wallace and Kris Dunn.

Each watch list will be narrowed from 20 players to 10 in mid-February. Then in March, five finalists will be selected, culminating at the ESPN College Basketball Award Show on April 8, when the winners of both awards will be announced.

Wisconsin has previously had finalists for both awards. Last year, Sam Dekker was a finalist for the Erving award in its inaugural season. In 2004, Devin Harris was a finalist for the Cousy award, as was Jordan Taylor in 2011.

Realistically, both Hayes and Koenig at least have the potential to finish as finalists. Unfortunately, based on the very deep point-guard field this season, Koenig may have the tougher time earning the finalist nod. Both Providence's Dunn, and Notre Dame's Demetrius Jackson are projected lottery picks in 2016.

That said, everything is speculative, and should only push Hayes and Koenig to work that much harder this season.