I tend to shy away from wild preseason predictions because I don't like to have things that people can throw in my face later when I'm inevitably wrong. I've been right about very few predictions in my life, they include, but are not limited to: the Phillies winning the 2008 World Series (I was 100% certain that was going to happen at the start of the playoffs), Wisconsin beating Ohio State in football in 2003, and that Fran McCaffrey would get ejected from every Iowa game last year (that happened, right?).
But, let us throw caution to the wind and make five bold predictions for the upcoming season of Wisconsin Badgers men's basketball. Join me, won't you?
Prediction 1: Nigel Hayes will lead the team in rebounding
I am not shy about my love for everything Nigel Hayes related. See here and here if you don't believe me. Anyways, last year Hayes played the role of Sixth Man Extraordinaire for the Badgers, earning B1G Sixth Man of the Year in the process. Despite all of these accolades and being a tall, burly man, Hayes sometimes found himself lost under the basket. He averaged 2.8 boards per game, which is sixth on the team. Now here you might be saying, "well he was the sixth man, shouldn't his stats be in line with that?" To which I would say, "maybe, but he is tall so he should have grabbed more boards than Ben Brust." When you look at the rebounding averages per 40 minutes, Hayes...stays right at sixth, with 6.4 rebounds per game. Guys like Vitto Brown and Zach Bohannon were ahead of him and Hayes is far more talented than the two of them. I'm predicting that Hayes made a concerted effort in the offseason to improve his rebounding (and his three point shooting, woo!) and he will lead the team in rebounds per game.
Nigel Hayes is down at least 20 pounds since the end of last season. Looks quicker and more agile. Also showing a refined face up game.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) October 6, 2014
Quicker and more agile to grab some more rebounds! Take this to the bank.
Prediction 2: The Badgers will lose their first game of the B1G Tournament
Wisconsin made the final of the conference tournament in 2013, other than that they are just 18-15 overall in the conference tourney. Their performance in the last five years is as follows
|Record in Tournament
|MSU in semifinals
|OSU in finals
|MSU in semifinals
|PSU in worst game in basketball history
|Illinois in quarterfinals
Wisconsin has received a bye in the B1G Tournament just about every year they've participated in it, but that hasn't meant deep runs for whatever reason. The Badgers just don't usually fare well in the conference tourney and despite sky-high preseason predictions, I don't see that trend reversing itself this year.
Prediction 3: Traevon Jackson will be first team All-Big Ten
I wrote an entire post about how I've come around on Trae Jackson last year during the NCAA Tournament. He can still be a maddeningly inconsistent player, but he is a senior this year and senior point guards are a rare commodity in college basketball. He has been through just about everything a player could go through in his career: he's missed game-winning shots and he's made game-winning shots; he's had a short leash and a long leash (sometimes in the same game!); he's had brilliant passes that not many others could make and he's turned the ball over because he wasn't paying attention to where the defense was set up. Jackson's win shares have gone up every year from his freshman total of 0.2 to 2.2 to 3.7 in his junior year last season. His assist percentage has gone up all three years and his turnover percentage has gone down in the same time period. PER and True Shooting Percentage have both gone up all three years as well. Traevon Jackson is definitely trending in the right direction and that will only continue through his senior year. His continual improvement will be rewarded with a spot on the Big Ten's first team. Something of a lifetime achievement award if you will.
Prediction 4: Sam Dekker will be first team All-America
There have been so many tweets this offseason about Sam Dekker and how he looks completely different and acts completely different and is going to have a monster season.
Sam Dekker looks like a completely different person. Has added layers of muscle since the Final Four. Huge season on the horizon.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) October 6, 2014
Sam Dekker dominated this summer, especially at LeBron's camp. What does this mean for next season? http://t.co/QfmhhmSDrI— Kevin (@_dlugos) July 28, 2014
Never thought you'd see so many Sam Dekker tweets in July, eh? Here he is at LeBron's camp: http://t.co/M92u04I5zf— Bucky's 5th Quarter (@B5Q) July 10, 2014
Anyways, Dekker is one of the highest rated recruit to ever come through Wisconsin and if I'm being honest, he's been a bit underwhelming in his first two seasons. Sure last year he was second team All-B1G and averaged over 12 points per game, but it always seemed like there should be something more. Dekker's win shares jumped from 4.1 his freshman year to 4.8 last year, but there were stretches of games that he disappeared. He never seemed to demand the ball and often seemed to shrink from "the moment." As the season wore on he became better at picking his spots. He recognized that the offense may be better served running through Frank Kaminsky and he took on more of a defensive/rebounding/role player type, uh, role. However, this summer something seems to have clicked with Dekker. He guarded LeBron James at the camp named after the best basketball player in the world and also scored on him a few times. I won't link to the picture of Dekker's arms again, but suffice to say they are nor allowed to be concealed or carried in many states. Dekker will average 17 ppg, 7 rpg, 4 apg, shoot 48/40/85, and throw in a couple of steals/blocks for good measure and he will be named one of the five best players in the country.
Prediction 5: Wisconsin will win the National Championship
Now, that's a bold statement. Please make sure to remind me of how wrong I am at the end of the year. See y'all in April!