The Oklahoma Sooners host the Wisconsin Badgers on Sunday night inside the Lloyd Noble Center at 1:30PM. Bringing a team without the likes of Frank Kaminsky, the Wisconsin Badgers hope upset a nationally ranked team. Taking a few moments to chat with us, SBNation's own Bucky's 5th Quarter answered a few of our questions ahead of the game.
Crimson & Cream Machine - Last season, the Wisconsin Badgers upended an unbeaten Kentucky Wildcats team many expected to take home the National Championship. What are the expectations for this season?
Bucky's 5th Quarter - Prior to the season, the majority of Wisconsin fans set their sights on returning to the NCAA tournament and finishing in the top four of the Big Ten, two givens under Bo Ryan during his previous 14 years in Madison. After a shocking opening night loss to Western Illinois and some subsequent bumps in the road, I think expectations have shifted slightly lower. The Badgers should still make the tournament if their inexperienced players get more seasoning along the way, but with the challenging non-conference schedule and a tough Big Ten to slog though, dancing in March isn't the lock that it seemed. Being above .500 in conference and winning a game in the NCAAs would be a very successful season for this bunch.
CCM - Losing one of the most versatile players to ever play the game of basketball in Frank Kaminsky to eligibility along with Sam Dekker declaring for the draft, who should fans expect to see filling the void left behind?
B5Q - Forward Nigel Hayes has moved from his power forward spot to the wing, a transition that hasn't been pretty all of the time. But Hayes is making up for his shooting woes with some great passing, leading the team in assists. He's got to be more assertive now that he's a team leader, but balance that against forcing shots. In the front court specifically, 6-9 redshirt freshman Ethan Happ and junior Vitto Brown are the two new starters. Brown has shown a very nice touch from midrange. Happ is crafty around the basket and is a very solid rebounder. However, both Brown and Happ have been in a lot of foul trouble.
Ryan also has been playing a few true freshman in the frontcourt to test his depth. Depth at guard is the bigger concern though. Bronson Koenig should be another familiar name for those who watched UW's run last season, and he'll play nearly all 40 minutes because the Wisconsin offense is lost without him.
CCM - Over the past couple of years, Wisconsin has seemingly always had a clutch type player coming up big at the end of tight games. Ben Brust as well as Traevon Jackson possessed the ability to knock down big time shots under pressure. If the game against Oklahoma comes down to a last second shot, who should have the ball in their hands?
B5Q - Koenig will have the ball in his hands. Wisconsin doesn't have many playmakers left, as discussed above, but Koenig is one of the best Ryan has had in years. The Badgers have had to rely on 1-4 sets much more often this season to give Koenig room to operate and create a shot for himself out of nothing. He's pretty good at it thankfully -- he already hit a game-winner against VCU.
CCM - Earlier this year, head coach Bo Ryan announced that he would be retiring after the season. However, the well respected coach then stated, "I wouldn't be the first guy in the country that ever thought about retirement and then changed their mind." Do you think Ryan is done after this season?
B5Q - I've gotten the feeling that Ryan will coach the rest of this season and one more additional season, hoping to finish his career with those of Koenig and Hayes. He wouldn't be hanging on too much longer past his previously-stated plan, but also gives him one more go-round with a more experienced group since he apparently still has his energy and zeal for teaching the game. It will be a pain for his assistants out recruiting, but heck, that's already true now.
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CCM - Give us your score prediction.
B5Q - Oklahoma is too tough for the young Badgers right now. Sooners win, 80-70.