Fresh off his Sixth Man of the Year campaign as a freshman, most assume the gregarious Nigel Hayes will slide into Wisconsin's starting lineup at forward for Wednesday night's exhibition against UW-Parkside. The slot vacated by Ben Brust is offering 34.7 minutes per game, a reserved parking spot and competitive benefits.
But wa-wa-wai-wait, not so fast, says Duje Dukan. He's all like, 'You know, I'm a senior now. Have you forgotten what I did in the second half of the Final Four game?' For the record, Dukan almost single-handedly led a 13-4 run versus Kentucky to revive the Badgers with his rebounding, shooting and passing.
Finally there is Bo Ryan's next great point guard, Bronson Koenig. Coming off the bench behind Traevon Jackson a year ago, Koenig's potential was undeniable. Like Jackson, he possesses fiery competitiveness and a knack for the big play, but with more of a pure jump shot that could possibly help fill the void left by Brust. Bo Ryan has shown an equal willingness to start three guards or three forwards, so position is no hindrance to Koenig's viability as a starter.
While Hayes has to be considered the favorite, each player can make a solid case for being the fifth starter. This topic has inspired debate throughout the summer. Look long enough online and you will find plenty of Badger fans openly hoping for Ryan to go with the hot hand and mix things up throughout the season. The answer will be revealed soon enough, so let's take a long close look at the three players.
The tale of the tape
Nigel Hayes, aka "Mr. Burgundy"
6-8, 235-pound sophomore
The case for Hayes: Easily the most effective returning player at drawing fouls in the entire league, Hayes boasts a mature post game. Strength is a plus. Hayes has added a widely-publicized three-point shot that makes him a matchup nightmare; can play either forward spot as a result. Very patient, great hands. Fits UW's offense well. A proven Big Ten commodity.
The case against: Poor free throw shooter. Hayes uses a lot of possessions (ie: takes a lot of shots), which is often a better trait coming off the bench unless the player is a No. 1 or 2 option -- which I'm not sure Hayes is this season. Defense and rebounding need work yet.
Key 2013-14 stats:
|43.5||102.4||26.7||21.9||54.1||6.5||12.9||11.8||16.0||2.9||3.0||6.0||7.3||85.4||96-164 (.585)||98-192 (.510)||0-0 (.000)|
Bronson Koenig, aka "Heir apparent"
6-4, 190-pound sophomore
The case for Koenig: Plays with flair, which is exciting to watch. Koenig's vision and passing are unmatched on the team. Confident and competitive spirit; he wants to start and lead. Devastatingly effective on pull-up jumpers, but can also spot up on the wing as Brust did. Koenig is a very good facilitator who looks to get his teammates involved first, which compliments the older players around him.
The case against: Must become a better defender and rebounder. Koenig and Jackson may not be able to co-exist for long stretches of time because each are best with the ball in their hands. He would be a great piece to bring off the bench to spell either Gasser or Jackson. Only 9.6 percent of Koenig's baskets came at the rim last year.
Key 2013-14 stats:
|37.5||114.0||13.6||15.2||54.7||4.0||5.8||13.8||14.7||0.5||1.2||3.5||1.5||7.0||6-8 (.750)||29-48 (.604)||22-67 (.328)|
Duje Dukan, aka "The darkhorse"
6-10, 218-pound redshirt senior
The case for Dukan: Bo Ryan tends to reward those who've put a lot of the work into the program and Dukan is a fifth-year player. Of the three candidates, he is the tallest, the best rebounder and the most efficient player offensively; Dukan's growth spurt makes him a legit stretch four. He's a highly-skilled spot-up jump shooter who has worked hard to improve his defense. Could blend in well with bigger stars in the lineup as a more complimentary piece. Has shown improved toughness and defensive awareness.
The case against: May duplicate some of the talents Sam Dekker will already bring to the lineup; still not a great defender. Dukan is not a consistent playmaker on offense (low assist rate) or defense (rarely blocks or steals the ball). Remains relatively inexperienced in game situations for his age.
Key 2013-14 stats:
|20.3||123.7||17.0||20.0||60.4||7.8||14.7||7.5||9.6||0.3||0.6||4.1||2.4||17.1||10-14 (.714)||26-41 (.634)||15-41 (.366)|
Traditionally, the fifth starter under Ryan can expect anywhere from 4-10 extra minutes per game compared to the first sub off the bench. This year, however, no one anticipates the gap being that wide. There is a clear drop off after Hayes, Koenig and Dukan in a pretty solid seven-man rotation right now.
We won't learn much from the exhibition game, so the player who starts Wednesday won't have the job sewn up for the entire year by any means.
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