While replacing forwards Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky won't be the easiest task in the world, Wisconsin has some big bodies that are ready to make immediate contributions to the frontcourt next season. While we'll definitely see Nigel Hayes as a huge factor in the paint, look for some new faces to make an impact as well.
Wisconsin's forward Nigel Hayes returns not only as one of the Badgers best players but also as one of their oldest and most experienced. A young Badger team with just one senior will look to capitalize on Hayes' experience playing serious minutes on two Final Four teams. Hayes will likely play the power forward position for the Badgers and possibly move out and play the perimeter depending on how big Wisconsin decides to play. While Hayes was allowed the freedom to take perimeter jump shots last season, he could be needed more often in the post as the Badgers no longer have Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker down low.
Nigel Hayes showed incredible improvement from his freshman to sophomore season. Hayes averaged 12.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game after seeing nearly double the minutes from the previous year. Hayes also added the ability to knock down three pointers. After attempting zero three pointers his freshman year, Hayes made 40 three pointers on 39.6% of his attempts his sophomore year. He also saw an increase in his shooting ability from the charity stripe. The sophomore Hayes shot 74.4% from the line after going 58.5% the year before.
The bottom line is that Nigel Hayes has turned himself into a complete player. He is arguably Bo Ryan's best player heading into the 2015-16 season, and he will be relied upon heavily for scoring and rebounding. Whether he's backing down his defenders in the post or shooting jumpshots, expect Nigel Hayes to have an incredible junior season with the Wisconsin Badgers.
If there's one of Wisconsin's many incoming freshman that looks ready to make an immediate impact, it may as well be Charlie Thomas. The newcomer is 6'8" and weighs in at a formidable 245 lbs; he's the heaviest player on Wisconsin's roster. Out of River Hill high school in Maryland, Thomas chose the Badgers over Rutgers and Depaul.
While Thomas may not be the most highly touted recruit that Wisconsin's picked up over the last couple seasons, sources have cited that he's made great strides in the early going and looks ready to compete on a collegiate level. A player of Thomas' size has the ability to provide depth at the forward position and rebuild a frontcourt that lost some of the nation's best big men in Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker.
Andy Van Vilet
So who's going to play center? Maybe 6'11" center Andy Van Vilet could take on that role. The Belgium product Van Vilet creates a unique scenario for Wisconsin whose need to recruit a big man took it a little bit further than it thought it would. The center played for the Port of Antwerp Giants club team before deciding he'd rather play collegiate basketball in the United States.
Wisconsin's new center has big shoes to fill in light of graduated senior and Wooden Award winner Frank Kaminsky, but he has plenty of time to get there. For now, Bo Ryan should look to shuffle in new faces until he finds a lineup that really works for him. Solely based on his size and athletic ability, we could see Van Vilet in that starting rotation.
Wisconsin should utilize Nigel Hayes as often as possible, as he'll look to be one of the best players in the nation heading into the 2015-16 season. As far as the rest of the Badgers' frontcourt goes, it comes down to experimenting with different lineups. Bo Ryan has a lot of guys that are ready to go, and it wouldn't be surprising to see a lot of players get a lot of playing time in the first few games until Wisconsin finds a rotation that works.