Every team in any sport, especially basketball, needs to have stars. Guys who can take and make the big shots with the clock winding down late in a game, somebody you can give the ball to when everything is breaking down and trust that that player is going to make the correct play for his team. With players in the fold for next year like guard Bronson Koenig, big man Ethan Happ and a presumptive return of point-forward Nigel Hayes, the 2016-17 Wisconsin Badgers will not be a team that lacks those types of players.
However, along with every star caliber player, there are also x-factor type players who come in with average or even low expectations for what they're going to contribute on the court, yet every team that wins big games and championships always has a big time x-factor player step up in a big game.
In recent memory players like O.G. Anunoby from the Indiana Hoosiers and, while it was in a losing effort and dating back a few years, Spike Albrecht going bonkers from beyond the three point line against Louisville in the National Championship game, scoring 17 points in the first 11 minutes of the first half after averaging 1.6 points per game during the year. Do the Badgers have a guy with that type of potential? Only time will truly tell, but let's take a look at two potential candidates.
Khalil Iverson is a guy that I find very, very difficult not to like. Here's a guy that knows his role and he excels at it. Is he going to be a guy that posts 20 point games? No, probably not. But one of the biggest things that an x-factor player can do is swing the momentum of a game, whether on the defensive end or offensive end for a few possessions.
There aren't many slashing type players in the country that are more explosive than Khalil Iverson. Anytime he gets the ball near the basket or going in that direction, he's looking to put everyone on a poster. The level of fearlessness that he plays with always seemed so symbolic to me of what Wisconsin basketball has been about, from Bo Ryan to now Greg Gard.
Are they the most talented team in the country? Of course they aren't, they don't get the Top 15 or top 20 recruits, but they're not going to back down to anybody. Khalil Iverson doesn't care if you're 6'2" or if you're 7'1", he's going to try and dunk on you either way, and that level of explosiveness can shift the momentum of a game in a single play.
Jordan Hill is a guy who saw a massive increase in his minutes from his freshman to sophomore year, and while he struggled to have consistent production, he showed flashes of how good he could be. In a win against Indiana in late January, Jordan Hill had a really nice game, going 5-5 and scoring 13 points and collecting 3 rebounds.
What could make Hill a X-factor more than his own personal production is what his presence on the floor allows other people to do. At 6'3", 175 pounds, he is a lanky guard that can handle the point guard spot, allowing Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes to work off the ball more and go shot searching for themselves.
Just those two guys not having to have the ball in their hands for an entire possession to get something going can make a world of difference for the Badgers, as it would allow them to also put more effort and energy onto the defensive end of the floor.