This has not been what one might call a “normal” season for the Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball team. There has been actual, real world tragedy, player departure, staff departure and an up-and-down season on the court that has left everyone’s head spinning. Throughout all of that you would need a strong leader and I don’t know if the Badgers had one on the court.
You may not remember this, because it seems like it happened 1,000 years ago, but Kobe King used to play for the Badgers. He is a good player that decided he wanted to play somewhere else next year. His last game was a blowout loss against Purdue and Wisconsin has played four games since then.
Almost exactly one month ago we took a look at how the guard play of Wisconsin’s starting backcourt, Brad Davison and D’Mitrik Trice, stacked up against the rest of the B1G conference. It wasn’t a pretty look as the stats showed two players that were really only good at playing a lot of minutes and not turning the ball over.
Two excellent skills to be sure, but more is to be expected from your starting guards at a Power 5 school. With King leaving the team, one of the few players on the team that could create his own shot with any sort of regularity was also gone. The Badgers were going to have to find a way to score differently than that.
One way to score differently is if someone gives you such a good pass that you then have an easy shot at the basket. The primary passer, dare I say leader, on any basketball team is the point guard. Wisconsin’s point guard is D’Mitrik Trice and over these past four games he has been passing the ball better than anyone in the conference.
#Badgers D'Mitrik Trice has 2 or fewer turnovers in 17 of 24 games this season. Has 4 or more assists in 13 games.— Jeff Potrykus (@jaypo1961) February 10, 2020
So far this season in conference games the junior point guard from Ohio has an assist rate of 28.1, which is good for sixth in the B1G. For the whole year Trice is sitting at 26.3, which would be ninth best in the B1G and ranks No. 160 in the whole country. These numbers are marked improvements over last season and show an increased understanding of the Wisconsin offense.
Over the past four games, Trice has been dishing the ball at an astonishing rate. He has 25 assists (6.25 per game), compared to only seven turnovers, and has helped the Badgers beat Michigan State and Ohio State. While Wisconsin has also lost to Iowa and Minnesota during this four game stretch, Trice has not been the reason why. He is moving the ball and getting his teammates in position to score.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention Trice’s improved defensive rebounding, which you love to see from a 6-foot-0 guard, and his defense which has been crucial in helping to try and slow down the stellar guards that play in the B1G. Players like Cassius Winston and Marcus Carr have still produced against Trice but they’ve had to work harder than they would’ve liked. Trice is a pest in the best possible way.
Trice also appears to have taken on a more vocal leadership role with the team. The point guard isn’t always the most outspoken member of a basketball team, but it often helps when he is. You would like the guy leading the offense to also be leading the locker room. It is just good synergy.
D’Mitrik Trice said today the camaraderie between players, as well as players & coaches, is at an all-time high. Said they played together as a team & for one another.— Zach Heilprin (@ZachHeilprin) February 4, 2020
“That was the biggest thing we’ve taken away from last week, not so much what we lost but what we gained.”
We (read: mostly me) here at Bucky’s 5th Quarter have often been critical of Trice’s play, and there are still areas of improvement for him, but over the past two weeks Trice has been playing like the point guard every team wants, and you truly do love to see it. If the Badgers are to make any sort of postseason run, having great guard play is a must. Trice is starting to look like a guy who can provide that.