We’ve all heard the old sing and dance.
Yes, the Badgers win basketball games, but it isn’t pretty. They win using a slow tempo offense that rewards non-athletic players that don’t turn the ball over. This type of play works in the Big Ten conference, but once they have to play more athletic teams in the tournament, they bow out.
While that isn’t true at all, it’s the perception that matters. Coaches vying with Wisconsin for top recruits definitely use this mantra and I’m sure it’s cost them several recruits over the years.
Marquette is a good example. Up until recently, it seemed as though if you were a big guy high school recruit in Wisconsin you were destined to be a Badger. If you were the opposite, a Golden Eagle. Obviously this isn’t a hard and true fact, but face it, it’s the national perception of the Badgers.
The exciting part is, this could all be changing. It was tough for the media to credit Wisconsin with their tournament run and honestly, they weren’t praised until they got through Arizona. We heard how Oregon would outscore the Badgers, and Wisconsin ran right with them. We heard how Baylor would athletically out-muscle Wisconsin, and well, the game was a blowout. Finally, the Wildcats would be the ones to end the magical run, and the Badgers took them out in a great, evenly matched battle.
Now the pundits were changing their tune. The Badgers were able to play the type of game needed to win each and every night out. They still had their fundamentally sound game, but could run with teams if need be. People started to notice freshman such as Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes. They realized that guys like Ben Brust, Sam Dekker, and Josh Gasser were more than just role players that could shoot and take care of the ball. They noticed that Frank Kaminsky was legitimately a big guy that could shoot and ball handle.
High school recruits are noticing as well.
Never has the hype heading into a season been as big as it will be for the Badgers this coming year and that publicity is huge when it comes to impressionable high school basketball stars. Take Jimmy Whitt as an example. As reported late last week, Whitt, a top 100 guard out of Missouri, has received a scholarship offer from Wisconsin and has said its run to the Final Four has made it an interesting candidate. It’s said that Kansas is a front-runner, but Wisconsin has a shot.
Let’s take a minute to think about that. When has Wisconsin been able to go against Kansas in a recruiting battle and actually stand a chance? Times are changing, and it’s for the better.
That’s not to say Bo Ryan hasn’t been able to get solid recruits in the past, as he knows what he wants in a player and finds it. What it does mean is that the pool of players interested in Wisconsin is growing, and that means bad news for the rest of the Big Ten, and now, the country.