The Wisconsin Badgers knew how to keep their fans on edge during last seasons's stupendous sprint through the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Never afraid to leave any dramatics behind them, Bo Ryan's Badger club toiled through UW-Milwaukee, Oregon, Baylor and Arizona before being derailed by the National Runner Up Kentucky Wildcats in the Final Four. It was the first time Bucky had found themselves in the final quartet since the year 2000.
The folks in Madison saw their Badgers' season come to a bitter end at the hands of Aaron Harrison's last-second heave in Arlington. But those same folks have every right to be excited for this coming year. The Kohl Center should be playing host to one of the top teams in the country with a lineup that is poised to make yet another deep run come March.
With that said, let's take a look at what Wisconsin is bringing to the table this year. For the most part, this will be looking very familiar.
Experience is the name of the game this year in Madison as four starters from the Final Four team will be returning. That starts with point guard Traevon Jackson who has made a habit out of clutch shotmaking during his career. You would like to see him be more consistent though, as sometimes that habit he has can give him a tendency to play like a hero more than to play smart. That said, he's a valuable asset and should command the respect of the rest of the lineup. We have Bronson Koenig projected to be the second guard in this lineup, but don't discount Nigel Hayes getting here either. Hayes, of course, showed out in a big way as a freshman last season and with more minutes could build off of his fantastic start in Madison.
The veterans reign supreme once again. This time in the front court as Josh Gasser and Sam Dekker, barring something catastrophic, will be leading the charge on the wings and down low. For Wisconsin's sake, you have to hope that Gasser's knee finally fully heals as it showed sometimes to be a bit of a weakness for the Port Washington native. Sam Dekker meanwhile has been a very good player during his time with the Badgers but did see a dip in his efficiency last year. If that can improve, the Badger front court should compete with just about anybody.
Center: Frank Kaminsky
Whoever saw Frank "The Tank" Kaminsky's surge in the latter portion of the season, please stand up. The big man went from nothing short of a role player to being the player that the Badgers ran their offense through. With the scintillating shooter Ben Brust gone now, it wouldn't surprise many if that offensive strategy continued this coming year. Kaminsky adds a huge dimension for the offense, as he is a threat from just about everywhere on the court. Feed 'im till he burps, as they say.
As it was mentioned before, Nigel Hayes could very well place himself in the starting lineup after a terrific 2013 campaign. But for the sake of this projection, we'll keep him on this relatively thin bench that Wisconsin will carry into next season. Joining him on the sidelines is Duje Dukan, who played pretty well as a role player. Accounting for 17.0 percent of all possessions last year, the Deerfield, Ill. native averaged 2.8 points in 8.1 minutes per game.
Joining them on this bench is Jordan Hill, a 2013 recruit who played only 25 minutes last year. The versatility he brings to the table however could give him this final spot on the roster, as he can play as an extra guard which might be very necessary for this team as they plunge further into the season. Additionally, joining these three should be Jordan Smith, who redshirted last year as a junior.
In all, things are very subjected to change. But even as you merely take a look at this depth chart, you realize that Wisconsin walks into the 2014 season as the preeminent Big Ten favorites, and a viable threat for the National Title.