The Wisconsin Badgers have reached that pivotal point in the basketball season; half of their work is done, but half still remains.
The second half of the Badgers' season will be a little bit tougher than the first half because of conference play.
Forget Duke vs. North Carolina—Big Ten games are the thing to watch. The hustle, the banging, the all-out effort to win a game; the eventual conference champion will truly deserve it.
One of the teams that has the chance to win the Big Ten is Bo Ryan's Wisconsin Badgers—after all, they have been there before.
Wisconsin is 12-4 (3-1), with Marcus Landry and the rest of the seniors determining how far the Badgers can go.
Landry leads the team in scoring at 12.8 points-per-game, with junior Trevon Hughes not too far behind at 12.1 points-per-game. The three-point threat, Jason Bohannon, is third with 11.2 points-per-game, and sophomore Jon Leuer averages 9.8 points-per-game.
Bohannon is proving to the opposition that his game is more than the long-range jumper, as he has added the mid-range and slashing ability to his repertoire.
As point guard, Hughes needs to be more of a leader than he is showing on the court. He needs to make smarter decisions when it comes to shot selection and needs to set up his teammates more than he has, as he leads the Badgers with just 45 assists.
Leuer has really stepped up in just his second year in the Big Ten, and he must continue to improve over the next two years. He is 6'10", but handles the ball like a guard, and is difficult to guard because of it; a one-year, eight-inch growth spurt will do that to you.
Landry is the scoring leader, but fellow senior Joe Krabbenhoft is the true leader of this team, in my mind. He does everything that never shows up in the box score—hustle, play tough defense, and he hits the floor more times any other player out there.
Krabbenhoft, who leads the team in rebounding, is fearless, and will do whatever it takes to win, including taking the bumps and bruises than come with it.
As a whole, the Badgers are the epitome of team, and they are never a one-man show on the court.
But they are far from the perfect team.
With the departure of Brian Butch and Greg Stiemsma, the Badgers are lacking experienced height, and as a result, play without a true center.
The only guy getting significant playing who is 6'10" or bigger is Leuer, but he is weak in the post—both playing it and defending it. Twenty more pounds and added skill down low will help him for his upperclassmen years.
Wisconsin has a 7'0" Texan on the bench, but Ian Markolf is just a freshman, and the Badgers would like to ease him into the "man in the middle" position.
Another downside to the Badgers is their lower-than-average three-point shooting this year. Wisconsin is shooting just 38 percent from behind the arc. The Badgers may not be a three-point shooting team, but they certainly know how to hit them when they take them.
As much as Wisconsin likes to pass the ball (swing offense), they aren't getting the assists in the box score. On 372 made field goals this season, the Badgers have just 192 team assists.
To be successful, you need a higher assist percentage than 52. Also, it would help if their free throw percentage was around 80, rather than the 69.5 percent it's at now.
One of the things Wisconsin has been known during Bo Ryan's tenure is the fact that they make more free throws than their opponents attempt.
The Badgers have made 214 free throws, but their opponents have attempted 229 this year. Wisconsin needs to get back to the free throw line to have a shot to make a run when March comes rolling around.
The Badgers have four losses this year, which already matches their pre-NCAA Tournament total from a year ago.
So far, Wisconsin has gotten crushed by UConn, lost the in-state battle at Marquette, lost to Texas at home in the exciting rematch of the thriller in Austin last year, and looked un-Badger-esque at Purdue.
The Badgers can only repeat as conference champions if they continue to play "Wisconsin" basketball; a slow paced, "lull you to sleep" offense and a non-stop "in your face" defense.
I think it's safe for me assume that the Badgers will be knocking on the door as repeating as Big Ten Champions and will be back in the tournament come March.
Let's just hope that another Cinderella isn't in the same bracket.