As Christmas quickly approaches, there is still some time to get your wish list to Santa.
This year, I am asking for things that cannot be wrapped, things that every Badger backer can get behind...
For the men’s basketball team to start hitting their freebies
Currently the No. 14 Wisconsin Badgers (10-2) rank 241st in the NCAA, shooting 67 percent from the charity stripe. Last season, they shot 70 percent from the line, ranking 138th.
As Big Ten play quickly approaches, free throws could start to play a major part in the outcome of conference contests. For instance, take back-to-back Wisconsin losses during the 2015-16 season. First, Jan. 5: Indiana defeats Wisconsin 59-58 in Bloomington. In the loss, Wisconsin shot 16-of-23 from the free-throw line. Indiana was 10-10. In the following game on Jan. 9, Maryland defeated Wisconsin 63-60 on Melo Trimble’s last-second three-pointer. Prior to the game-winner, Wisconsin shot 5-of-11 from the line.
Nigel Hayes led the Big Ten in free throws attempted in 2015-16 when he attempted 258, while making 190 for a percentage of 74 percent. Hayes is currently shooting 61 percent from the line (45-of-74).
In order for Wisconsin to be successful the rest of the way this season, Hayes will need to continue to battle down low and get to the line.
He, along with the rest of the team, will then need to make said free throws.
A Cotton Bowl victory
A little over a week after Santa makes his annual sleigh ride, the No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers will face No. 13 Western Michigan in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic.
Wisconsin (10-3) enters the game on the heels of a 38-31 loss to No. 7 Penn State in the Big Ten Championship Game. Following two losses early in conference play, Wisconsin rallied back and finished the regular season on a six-game win streak to lock up the Big Ten West crown.
Western Michigan, on the other hand, enters the Cotton Bowl unscathed at 13-0. The Broncos won the MAC and are led by a high-scoring offense that ranks eighth in the NCAA, scoring 43.5 points per game.
During its undefeated season, Western Michigan did not face a ranked team. Wisconsin went 3-3 this season against top-10 opponents.
Wisconsin’s defense ranks fourth in the NCAA, allowing 15.5 points per game. Clearly something has got to give when these two teams meet at AT&T Stadium.
For our All-Americans to return for their senior seasons
Wisconsin featured two All-Americans in 2016: Ryan Ramczyk and TJ Watt. Both Ramczyk and Watt are juniors and have the potential to hear their names called in the 2017 NFL draft.
Ramczyk sat out in 2015 following a transfer from UW-Stevens Point, where he earned second-team All-WIAC honors as a freshman and then first-team All-WIAC honors as a sophomore.
Following the Cotton Bowl, Ramczyk is set to have arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip. The surgery will keep the tackle on the shelf for four months, likely causing him to miss the NFL Scouting Combine and the chance to work out for NFL teams ahead of the draft. Obviously, that could potentially hurt his draft stock—he’s currently widely projected as a first-rounder. Still not too shabby for a guy that contemplated going into a career in welding over playing football.
Wisconsin’s second All-American, Watt is currently projected as a late-first to second-round pick. Watt could follow in the footsteps of his older brother J.J, Watt, who went pro after his junior season at Wisconsin and was the 11th pick in the 2011 draft.
The youngest Watt finished 2016 with 59 total tackles, 14.5 for losses and 10.5 sacks. He even returned an interception for a touchdown against Purdue.
.@BadgerFootball's @_TJWatt did something that his big brother, @JJWatt was never able to do. pic.twitter.com/yxt6qc1a6G— 120 Sports (@120Sports) November 19, 2016
Granted, if either or both decide to forgo their senior seasons, Wisconsin will have a young crop of players chomping at the bit to take their places. But it would be great to see them both back in cardinal and white in 2017.