From 2014-15 into 2015-16 the Wisconsin Badgers dealt with extreme roster turnover. Frank Kaminsky (National POY, First Round Pick), Sam Dekker (First Round Pick), Josh Gasser, Duje Dukan and Traevon Jackson all exited after two straight Final Fours. With the exception of Sam Dekker, all were due to graduation.
Fast forward to 2016-17 and Wisconsin loses only Jordan Smith, who was the lone senior on last year’s team. Smith played in just eight games, averaging a minute in each appearance. While Smith perhaps contributed to the locker room and culture of the program, his on court production wasn’t significant. So, on court production-wise, Wisconsin hasn’t really lost anyone from last year’s team.
So, rather than cover key losses, let’s take a slightly different approach.
Technically, Wisconsin lost Bo Ryan from last year to this year. Granted, his departure occurred midway through the season. Post-Ryan, Greg Gard turned around the season, which resulted in a Sweet Sixteen appearance.
However, it’s the first off season with Bo Ryan away from the program. (And, Gard only had the interim tag removed last March.) Needless to say, Wisconsin fans are excited about Greg Gard and how the program’s direction is trending upward once again. Expectations are incredibly high as Wisconsin will return essentially everybody from last year’s team. And it’s not like the Badgers lack experience and star power with guys like Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig and Ethan Happ.
Gard also made an impression in recruiting. Nate Reuvers, a Lakeville, Minnesota resident, chose Wisconsin over Minnesota, and Kobe King, from La Crosse, Wisconsin, seemingly has a solid relationship with the new coach. (Both are 4-star recruits according to ESPN.)
Hayes didn’t leave the program, but he definitely thought about it. He even went so far as to make a unique proposal to the Boston Celtics, which included him promising to take 5,000 shots a day if taken with the third pick in the draft. Hayes wanted to leave, or at least that was what his proposal suggested. Last year was bumpy for him, with the forward being thrust into a new role, and he struggled to take offensively perform like he did previously.
Hayes didn’t shoot particularly well last year (36 percent overall, 29 percent from three) and at times he forced action. Part of it certainly was the lack of experience around him, Bronson Koenig aside. However, his performance last season didn’t set him up to be a highly-coveted draft prospect.
So taking that into consideration, he returned to school with feedback on how to improve (more consistent jumper, lateral quickness among the feedback probably). Even though the Celtics turned down his 5,000 a day jumper offer, many Wisconsin fans would probably take him up on it.
Hayes ought to have a much better season. He knows what to expect as the guy and he’ll have a more experienced team around him, plus there’s stability at head coach. At the very least he’s surrounded by enough weapons that defenses won’t be able to lock in on him as much, giving him more scoring opportunities like he had in his first two seasons in Madison.
Wisconsin enters the season with its Sweet Sixteen roster intact. The preseason rankings have reflected such. With that, we haven’t much to discuss in terms of key losses. But, it’ll be the first full year without Bo Ryan, which isn’t as terrifying as one would’ve thought a couple years ago, and Nigel Hayes is back.
All is aligned for Wisconsin basketball to have a good year.