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Will Nigel Hayes or Bronson Koenig fill in as the fifth starter?
Coach Bo Ryan likes to stick with his starting lineup, using the same five to open all 38 games last season. In his book consistency breeds success, so when the five names are called on opening day, look for those five to stick throughout the course of the season.
With Traevon Jackson, Josh Gasser, Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky returning, look for all four to keep their spots in the starting lineup. The fifth spot gets a little more interesting as Ryan can go two routes.
Typically preferring a three guard, two forward look, Ryan could replace graduating senior Ben Brust with Bronson Koenig. The freshman shot 32.8 percent from three but looked more confident as the season wore on, and could be a nice fit at the 2.
Koenig could also play the point, his natural position, moving Jackson to his natural position at shooting guard while keeping last year's configuration of Gasser at the 3, Dekker at the 4 and Kaminsky at the 5.
The other route Ryan could go is to have Nigel Hayes start, giving him a more traditional two guard, three forward look. With Jackson running the 1, Gasser would slide down to the 2 where he played alongside Jordan Taylor his first two seasons.
In the frontcourt, Dekker moves down to the 3 where instead of being a liability defensively, he then will have the upper hand in most cases. Hayes would play the 4 in this scenario while Kaminsky would play the 5.
The first scenario presents a problem if Jackson or Koenig get into foul trouble, though it can be easily alleviated. If Jackson, running the 1, picks up his second foul in the first half, Koenig could slide down to the 1, anyone from Showalter, Hill or Gasser could play the 2, while Ryan could mix-and-match in the frontcourt.
The second scenario presents a greater a challenge. If Kaminsky were to get in foul trouble, there is no real backup as the team lacks a second center. While that remains a problem if Hayes is the sixth man, it would limit his exposure early on, allowing him to take on the bigger assignment without the additional burden of early fouls.
Furthermore, Ryan like to limit the time Hayes and Kaminsky play together, as Hayes' presence forces Kaminsky out around the perimeter, or vice versa. While Hayes has good range from inside the arc and Kaminsky from outside, both are significantly more lethal around the basket.
Only time will tell which route Ryan chooses to go, but by the time the Badgers get into the teeth of their non-conference schedule, barring injury, expect that lineup to stick.