MADISON (WITI) — It was a record-setting season for the Wisconsin Badgers’ men’s basketball team — a team that nearly won a national title. The Badgers fell to the Duke Blue Devils in the NCAA Tournament’s championship game. But despite the loss, this season was one that won’t be forgotten for the Badgers basketball program.
As with any season, there are always more questions than answers. Such is the case for the Badgers who left Indianapolis without the national championship they coveted and plenty of holes to fill next season. Gone are four seniors as well as junior Sam Dekker who has opted to turn pro.
“You can’t replace guys like that, but we have plenty of guys ready to step up and try and fill their shoes. It’s going to be a completely different team next year, but we’re going to look for the same result. It’s something that help build motivation as we want to make it three Final Fours in a row and then build on it from there,” freshman forward Ethan Happ said.
“I think Ethan Happ is going to be a really good player for this program. He’s one of those guys who gets better every day. He has a will to come in and compete every day in practice and get better,” senior center Frank Kaminsky said.
“I’m happy to hear that from guys that I respect so much and obviously a coach that I respect. I look forward to playing a big role in years to come,” Happ said.
“I’m spoiled, man. Two years in a row. First two years in college. Never could have expected that but I definitely want more,” sophomore forward Vitto Brown said.
To get more, Brown will likely need to be part of the answer at forward, but he won’t have to shoulder that load alone.
Nigel Hayes says he’s not ready to go pro, but will he be ready to be the center of attention now on the court as much as he’s been off it?
This season’s biggest revelation is that point guard Bronson Koenig appears to be a star ready to shine and now he will enter the season with the keys to the Badgers bus. Maybe working most in their favor is, as history has taught us, more often than not Bo Ryan has a plan for the team to pick up where they left off.
“There are driving factors that motivate all of us. There are just some people who are going to be good because they aren’t going to stop working hard at what they do. Taking satisfaction but not being satisfied,” Coach Ryan said.
“Wisconsin basketball, every year it seems like guys graduate and guys step up. It’s going to be the case this year. Trust me, there are some good players who haven’t been on the court yet who will be coming back as well. Wisconsin basketball has a really bright future,” senior guard Josh Gasser said.
Badgers fans can take comfort in the fact that the team has never missed the NCAA Tournament in Ryan’s 14 seasons on the Badgers bench, and the team has never finished worst than fourth in the Big Ten.