Wisconsin’s undefeated season has finally come to an end. The 16-0 Badgers traveled into Assembly Hall Tuesday night and suffered a 75-72 loss to the Indiana Hoosiers.
Wisconsin, now 3-1 in the Big Ten, didn’t play their best game of the season but certainly did not play badly. The Hoosiers, 12-5, were able to upset the Badgers and get a huge conference win over the No. 3 team in the country.
With the Badgers suffering their first loss of the season, here is a look at some of the biggest takeaways from Tuesday night’s showdown.
Wisconsin Needs More out of their Bench
Bo Ryan’s Badgers play with an eight-man rotation having Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig and Duje Dukan coming off the bench. Ryan always plays a tight rotation, so it is no surprise; however, if he is going to play with these eight guys, the bench players need to step up.
Hayes has been the teams’ best scorer and rebounder off the bench, averaging 6.8 points and 2.4 rebounds in just more than 15 minutes per game. Hayes, a 6’7” freshman forward, has had his share of big games this year, with 19 points against Northwestern and 17 against Eastern Kentucky.
He has shown his potential and has easily been Wisconsin's best player outside of the starting five. Though Hayes has been their best bench player, he really struggled Tuesday night. Hayes could not seem to guard Indiana's Will Sheehey and really looked lost all game.
Hayes now has two fouls. Sheehey has 8 points on 4-of-5 shooting. RT @pgabriel15: Sheehey will take Nigel Hayes to the bucket all night.— Bucky's 5th Quarter (@B5Q) January 15, 2014
Another freshman off the bench is Koenig, who still has plenty to prove. Koenig has reached 10 points just once this season and only saw nine minutes in Tuesday’s battle with the Hoosiers.
Wisconsin’s other man off the bench is junior forward Dukan. Since Dukan’s 15-point performance in the opener against St. John’s, he has failed to crack the double-digit mark. Outside of Dukan’s one rebound, he put up all zeros during the 11 minutes he played Tuesday.
Hayes, Dukan and Koenig combined for 34 minutes, 3-of-10 shooting and just six points.
The bench needs to show Coach Ryan that he can trust them to get minutes in big games. There will be times in big games this season where the starters are either struggling or in foul trouble, and the bench needs to be able to step up. It is always going to be tough to compete, though, when your team only has six bench points compared to 66 from the starters.
Indiana saw a huge performance from Stanford Robinson coming off their bench. Robinson went 6-of-10 from the field for 13 points while collecting five rebounds.
The bench really struggled for the Badgers on Tuesday. The starters clearly can perform at the highest level without much bench help, but if Hayes, Dukan and Koenig can step up, this team will just become that much scarier.
The Big Ten Is as Deep as Ever
The Big Ten is the top conference in the country seemingly every single year. With Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State and Iowa all ranked inside the top 14, the Big Ten is as good as it’s been throughout the past few years.
The four ranked teams are not the only dangerous teams, however. With Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois and Indiana all still very dangerous, the Big Ten is going to hand these teams some losses.
Wisconsin has already beaten Iowa and Illinois in conference play this year. Wisconsin was eventually going to lose no matter what. The Big Ten doesn't allow a way to come out undefeated, so Wisconsin cannot let this loss get to them.
The Badgers will play at home against Michigan before traveling to play Minnesota and Purdue. They will have to bring their A-game if they want to come out with three wins.
This conference is the best in the country without a doubt. Wisconsin has a great shot to not only win the Big Ten but to also be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. The team will need to prove they deserve it by bouncing back from this tough loss on Saturday.
Called upset city. Wisconsin is still a great team but Indiana played at a higher level at home tonight.— Jay Williams (@RealJayWilliams) January 15, 2014
Wisconsin is still a Top Five Team
Don't think I'm bashing Wisconsin after this loss. No team should ever be disappointed in losing by three to Indiana at Assembly Hall. It is known that Assembly Hall is one of the toughest places to play in the entire country, and there is a reason no game is ever easy there.
Wisconsin was the favorite in the game. Had it not been for the ridiculous second half by Yogi Ferrell, Wisconsin would have come out on top.
The Badgers didn’t play their best at all.
Senior guard Ben Brust, who shoots 42 percent from deep, went 1-of-7 from long range on Tuesday, which really hurt the team. The senior still did play well, but the team’s top performance came from two of their juniors.
Center Frank Kaminsky and guard Traevon Jackson carried the team on Tuesday.
Kaminsky had 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting to go along with nine rebounds and two blocks. He had some huge plays late in the game to keep the Badgers in it, but it wasn’t enough, as no one else could seem to make a basket.
How far will Wisconsin go this year?
Jackson had a huge performance and his best game of the year, which is a great sign for the Badgers going forward. The 21-point effort on 9-of-11 shooting kept the Badgers in the game and gave them a shot to win in the end.
Without huge performances from Brust or Sam Dekker, who are probably Wisconsin's best players, the Badgers still would have looked impressive.
The Badgers will be absolutely fine this season.
Ryan knows how to get the best out of his teams and has shown that each and every year. Ryan is the reason Wisconsin has gotten to the NCAA tournament in each of the coach’s first 12 seasons and advanced past the first round in 11 of those 12.
With this possibly being Ryan’s best team, the Badgers will look to advance to the Final Four for the first time since 2000 under Dick Bennett.
Wisconsin also has a legitimate shot to win their first National Championship since 1941, and outside of Arizona, the Badgers are right there with Syracuse as the best team in the country.
Ryan’s team does not have the athletes that Arizona, Syracuse and Michigan State have. They don’t receive the hype that teams such as Kansas, Kentucky and Duke do. The thing is, none of that matters in the end.
Ryan has his team playing extremely hard and playing great basketball. The loss to Indiana is not a big deal, but Wisconsin has to make sure to bounce back.
Ryan will definitely have his Badgers ready to go Saturday, as they play host to the streaking Michigan Wolverines.
All stats obtained via Sports-Reference.com.
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