Wisconsin Badgers Season Recap: Hanging in the Tough Big Ten

Tom CzajaContributor IMarch 12, 2013

Feb 9, 2013; Madison, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers head coach Bo Ryan and his team celebrate a Wisconsin three-point basket as their team plays the Michigan Wolverines at the Kohl Center. Wisconsin defeated Michigan 65-62 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to coach Bo Ryan and his Badgers, you know that you can expect just about anything on any given night.

His 2012-2013 group is capable of going into Bloomington and knocking off the Indiana Hoosiers and also jacking up and missing 20 straight threes.

Entertaining seasons are a norm for the Badgers, and while this season has exceeded expectations record-wise in what was thought to be a rebuilding year, it has been wildly inconsistent. It is hard to say exactly how well the Badgers may do in the conference or NCAA tournaments.

Now that Bo Ryan has been voted Coach of the Year in the Big Ten and another campaign is in the books, fans wait for the real madness of March to heat up. We look back on the season that was for the cardinal and white:

Best Game of the Year: 2/9/13 Wisconsin 65  Michigan 62 (OT)

Badgers fans have gotten used to seeing victories at the Kohl Center, which usually include a few wins over highly ranked teams every year. Surprisingly, the Badgers finished with three losses at home this season (which could be considered a down year for them), but still had several marquee wins at home, none bigger than against Michigan.

Michigan came in ranked third, and this was a closely contested game. After Tim Hardaway Jr. hit a three to put Michigan up 60-57 with about three seconds left, it would take a miracle for the Badgers to get it to overtime.

Mike Bruesewitz got ready to throw the ball in from out of bounds as he always does, and hit a streaking Ben Brust in motion. Brust turned and fired a wild three just past half court that sank as the buzzer sounded. The crowd erupted and the game went to extras, where the Badgers raised their defense to another level.

Michigan was held to two points in the overtime in which Brust hit another big three. The Badgers won 65-62, and the fans charged the court. Another signature win was complete.

Worst Game of the Year: 3/7/13 Michigan St. 58  Wisconsin 43

The Badgers were already kicking themselves going into this game for blowing a 13-point lead at home against Purdue only to lose by 13. Up until then, they stood in golden position to capture at least a share of the Big Ten title if not win it outright.

The Purdue loss hurt because the team knew going to East Lansing and winning in the Breslin Center would be a tall task.

Their cold shooting would continue on this night, as the Badgers shot a woeful 29.4 percent for the game, including an abysmal 17.3 percent from three. The Spartans would go on a 16-0 run at one point and never look back as the Badgers never led.

Gone were the title hopes, and the Badgers would ultimately have to settle for a fourth seed in the conference tournament and a likely lower seed than that in the NCAA tournament unless they can make some noise in Chicago.

Biggest Disappointment: Gasser Goes Down

Worthy recipients for biggest disappoint would be the aforementioned Purdue game, losing out on the Big Ten title and Ryan Evans' mind-boggling free-throw percentage. But the biggest disappointment of all may have happened before the Badgers played a single game.

Losing Josh Gasser, who had seen time at the point as well as at shooting guard, put a damper on the season when he tore his left ACL in late October. The prognosis was grim: Having the same notorious injury as Derrick Rose, Gasser would have to miss the entire season.

Just like that, the heir apparent to Jordan Taylor, who had been a Big Ten All-Defensive team honoree and shot 45.2 percent from three in the 2011-2012 season, was gone. Suddenly, the team had no clear-cut point guard and lost a legitimate scorer.

Biggest Pleasant Surprise: Traevon Jackson solidifying the PG position

Only sometimes out of our biggest disappointments come a chance at redemption, or a chance to be surprised. Athletes often get their break in their sport because the person that would've started ahead of them got hurt and they get their chance to showcase their ability.

Such was the case for Traevon Jackson, son of Ohio State legend Jim Jackson. The younger Jackson has the basketball blood and pedigree from his father, and he didn't disappoint this season.

His stats aren't eye-popping at first glance, averaging 6.5 points a game, yet any Badgers fan who has frequently watched the team knows the young man hits some big shots. Obviously, the contested three-point dagger against Penn State in the last game of the year stands out, as well as a pull-up jumper to knock off Minnesota at the Kohl Center.

He can distribute the ball, plays with an energy that is a must to make it on the court for Bo Ryan and runs the slow-tempo offense as well as anyone. When Gasser makes his way back next fall, Badgers basketball will be lucky to have a pair of worthy point guards.

Team MVPs: Jared Berggren and Ben Brust

What makes the Badgers so intriguing is that they don't have a star or clear-cut scorer. In the NBA, all the top teams typically have one or several stars to lead them, those players who you know are getting the ball with the game on the line.

Rather than that, the Badgers have to have different guys step up and act as a committee. Berggren and Brust are probably the two biggest contributors of the bunch. Berggren made the All-Big Ten second team as well as All-Defensive team and is a presence under the net.

The Badgers are known for producing big men, and Berggren is one of the better ones they've had. He set the school record for blocks earlier this year and does a number of things well. He's a guy that can fire up the team with a dunk, grab some offensive rebounds and give the team second chances and usually shoots a solid field-goal percentage.

Opposing teams have to adjust how they attack the hoop when he is in the game, and it is noticeable that they play things a bit more conservatively when he is in the middle.

Brust would likewise be a worthy pick for team MVP. Berggren led the team in scoring at 11.5 points a game and Brust finished a close second at 11.3 points per contest.

We mentioned Brust's big shots against Michigan, and he is a guy that when feeling it can knock down the three and create his own offense off the dribble. A team needs a player that isn't afraid to step up and take a shot in a pressure moment, and Brust would do that for his team every time.

He has bought into Bo Ryan's defense and made notable improvements on that end of the ball as well. He'll be a key piece returning to Madison next season.

Most Promising Sign for the Future: Sam Dekker

OK, this one isn't that much of a stretch. Dekker had all the fanfare coming in, leading his Sheboygan Lutheran high school team to a state championship by hitting a big shot on the hardwood he now currently plays on.

It is one thing to come in with all the expectations in the world, and it is another thing to slowly live up to them. Dekker made the Big Ten All-Freshman team and some felt he was the sixth man of the year in the conference.

He has size as well as a smooth shot and has proven he can knock down his free throws and hit a three. If you are a true freshman getting playing time under coach Ryan, that says something about you.

Dekker will be a starter next year and can be the face of the team for the next couple of seasons.


Now that we've looked back on the season that was, it is time to look to what lies ahead. The Badgers will play the winner of the No. 5 seed versus No. 12 seed matchup in the second round of the Big Ten tournament. If you project the favorite of that contest, the Badgers will have a rematch with Michigan.

If that happens, expect Michigan to be fired up and ready to go after their crippling loss to the Badgers earlier in the year. It will be tough for the Badgers to beat them a second time, then have to potentially beat Indiana in the semifinals and finally Ohio State or Michigan State in the championship.

Wisconsin just doesn't seem to have the consistency to beat the cream of the crop like that for three games three days in a row. At the same time, we know by now the Badgers will keep things entertaining and that you can never quite count them out.

Finally, the NCAA tournament looms. Wisconsin looks to be a No. 6 or 7 seed there unless they can improve their stock with some success in the Big Ten tournament.

It is all question marks at this point that could end up exclamation points of victory or defeat. Tournament wins or losses not withstanding, the Badgers can look back and be proud of another productive year filled with special moments.


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