The 2015-16 Wisconsin men’s basketball team saw much adversity throughout the season. Namely, a coaching change, several home losses to inferior opponents and a season-long stint on the NCAA tournament bubble.
Eventually the team found its footing behind Greg Gard en route to a third-place finish in the Big Ten, followed by a trip to the Sweet 16.
The 2016-17 Badgers should pick up where they left off after graduating only one player and returning a staggering 99.74 percent of their scoring output.
Of the players returning, four are seniors, including the 2016-17 Big Ten Preseason Player of The Year, Nigel Hayes.
However, once the season is over, Bronson Koenig may be the player touted as the best in the conference.
Koenig has improved his scoring average each season in cardinal and white. He averaged 3.5 points per game as a freshman and 8.7 as a sophomore, when he was pulled into a more prominent role for the Badgers after Traevon Jackson went down with an injury with two months left in the season.
Koenig averaged 11.5 points per game the remainder of season, through the Badgers’ NCAA championship game loss to Duke. Even once Jackson returned, Koenig still saw major minutes, playing no fewer than 31 in a game from the Elite Eight to the title game.
As a junior, Koenig averaged 13.1 points and 2.4 assists per game and finished the season shooting 39 percent overall and 39 percent from behind the three-point arc on his way to earning third-team All-Big Ten honors.
Koenig’s year-by-year improvement has garnered him some attention going into his senior season, landing him on the Wooden Award preseason top-50 watch list and the Bob Cousy Award watch list.
The Wooden Award is given to the player of the year in college basketball and the Bob Cousy Award is given to the nation's top point guard. This is the second straight season that Koenig is on the Cousy watch list, and why wouldn’t he be? Koenig is fourth all-time in school history as the proud owner of a career assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.2 (223 assists, 103 turnovers) and is by far one of the best players in the clutch, which has garnered him the nickname of “Klutch Koenig.” Last season, he shot 54.8 percent from three-point range in the final five minutes (and overtime) of games.
No clutch shot was bigger than the three-pointer Koenig fired up from the corner against Xavier to push the Badgers past the Musketeers. It not only sent the Badgers onto the Sweet 16, but also left Bill Murray looking as though he needed to fight the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man all over again...
Following a five-point loss to Notre Dame, Koenig spent the offseason getting himself into the best shape of his basketball playing career and promised to be an entirely new player in his senior season.
Fans received a glimpse of the new and improved Koenig when he and the rest of the Badgers played in the Red-White Scrimmage on Sunday. Koenig led all scorers with 16 points, 14 of which came in the first half. He also led all players with five assists.
In the first half, Koenig scored eight straight points, hitting two free throws and his only two scores from deep. Overall, he finished 6-of-12 from the field in 37 minutes. The only troubling statistic was his seven turnovers, but it was a scrimmage after all, and Gard’s staff has time to get Koenig and the rest of the Badgers on the same page.
Koenig seemed to be pushing the tempo throughout the game, except late when his White team was attempting to protect the lead.
Wisconsin hosts UW-Platteville in an exhibition game on Sunday and hosts its regular-season opener Nov. 11 against Central Arkansas.