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Bronson Koenig's return helped spark Wisconsin to a win over Maryland

Bronson Koenig feeling good, bracketology round-up and a spring question about K Rafael Gaglianone

We hope you’ll start your day with us here at the as we work to prepare you for everything that you need to know – Monday through Friday – around the world of Wisconsin sports. Whether it’s football, basketball, hockey or just a wild story we hope you’ll find interesting, we’re here to share it all with you.

Today is Wednesday, Feb. 22, and this is your Wisconsin Wake-Up Call.

Rest does a body good

Bronson Koenig didn’t want to put a percentage on how healthy he is, but judging by the smile and laughter emanating from the senior guard during practice on Tuesday, it’s clear he’s feeling much better than in recent weeks.

“I’m fine,” Koenig said when asked for a percentage on his health. “I’m good.”

Wisconsin’s biggest outside weapon was not fine or good since injuring his left calf against Penn State on Jan. 24. His shot went in the tank, as he hit just 7 of his next 31 3-pointers over a five-game stretch. Lacking the explosion and lift in his game because of the injury, Koenig wasn’t the same player he had been for the first 20 games of the season. So the Badgers sat him in their loss at Michigan last Thursday, the first time in his college career an injury kept him from playing in a game.

“I never want to miss a game,” Koenig said Tuesday. “It was definitely weird watching from the sideline.”

Bronson Koenig’s outside shooting is badly needed for Wisconsin to make a deep run in the postseason. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

But it also gave him a rare respite near the end of a grueling Big Ten season, one that the Badgers are hoping they can finish off with their second conference title in the last three years.

“Rest is key at any point in the season, but especially at this point,” Koenig said. “I don’t think anybody is 100 percent. I think taking a couple days off definitely helped me, and hopefully it’ll help in the long run.”

It certainly appeared that way on Sunday against Maryland. Coming off the bench for the first time since early 2014, Koenig got off to a slow start — he missed his first three shots — but the guard got it going with a 3-pointer and a jumper on back-to-back possessions to help the Badgers take a second-half lead, and he finished the game with nine points. Surprisingly, he ended up playing a 31 minutes, and even more shocking was that he was no worse for wear.

“I actually felt great. It wasn’t sore like I normally am after those games, so I think the rest definitely helped,” Koenig said. “I was kind of surprised at how good I felt. But that’s just a testament to rest and taking care of your body.”

Koenig said he expects to be back in the starting lineup when Wisconsin takes on Ohio State on Thursday, and that’s a good thing for a Badgers squad that has huge goals both in the rest of the regular season and also when the postseason gets underway.

Because, while sophomore Ethan Happ may be their best and most consistent player this year, and senior Nigel Hayes is clearly the leader of the team, it’s a healthy Koenig that can make them special in March.

Return of Rafael

We’ve been looking at the biggest questions facing the Wisconsin football team as it gets ready for spring football, and that continues with a peek at the special teams.

Where is the health of Rafael Gaglianone?

The kick wasn’t much — just a 30-yarder — but it was the best sign yet that junior kicker Rafael Gaglianone is on the path to full recovery after a back injury ended his year just three games into the season.

The impossible-to-dislike Gaglianone was poised for a huge bounce-back season in 2016 after an up-and-down sophomore campaign. And it started out perfect, with the Brazilian drilling three field goals, including the game-winner from 47 yards out, to help Wisconsin upset No. 5 LSU at Lambeau Field to open the season.

Wisconsin kicker Rafael Gaglianone was all smiles after making the game-winning kick against LSU in the season opener last fall. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

He’d end up hitting the first six kicks of the year before a mysterious 30-yard miss against Georgia State. Clearly, something was off. Later in the game, he’d knock through his seventh make of the year, but it would also be his last. Twelve days after that game he underwent back surgery, similar to the one he had following the 2014 season that led to him missing spring practice.

It’s unclear what the plan is this time around. But it seems likely that, even with Gaglianone starting to kick in late January, it would make sense to take it easy when the team opens spring ball on March 15. Though clearly still on track to be ready for fall camp, there is no reason to rush things.

With Gaglianone’s backup — Andrew Endicott — graduating, the spring will be vital for the young guys, mainly Zach Hintze. A Kohl’s All-American as a senior in high school, Hintze has the leg to be a big-time college kicker — he hit a Wisconsin state-record 61-yard field goal in a 2014 playoff game — and will get plenty of much-needed work with Gaglianone on the mend.

Bracketology round-up

We’re closing in on Selection Sunday, and that means the projected brackets from the various outlets are becoming at least somewhat more realistic. Here’s a look at how several of “bracketologists” see the Badgers faring with their seed, opponent and location.

Joe Lunardi (ESPN):
No. 5 seed, playing Syracuse in Buffalo (N.Y.)

Jerry Palm (CBS Sports)
No. 5 seed, playing Nevada in Sacramento (Calif.)

Stewart Mandel (Fox Sports)
No. 5 seed, playing Vermont in Milwaukee (Wis.)

Shelby Mast (USA Today Sports)
No. 5 seed, playing Monmouth in Sacramento (Calif.)

Chris Dobbertean (SB Nation)
No. 5 seed, playing Nevada in Milwaukee (Wis.)

Michael Beller (Sports Illustrated)
No. 5 seed, playing Vermont (no location)

As you can see, everyone currently has Wisconsin as a No. 5 seed, which coincides with what the selection committee thought when they released their top 16 teams back on Feb. 12. Since then, Wisconsin has lost twice — neither being a bad loss — and earned a top-50 RPI win against Maryland.

It seems at this point, the best the Badgers can hope for with four games to play and then the Big Ten tournament, is a No. 3 or No. 4 seed, with the latter being more likely. Still, if that can get them to Milwaukee for the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, that will significantly help the Badgers chances of making it to the second weekend for a fourth straight year.

Catching up

  • Former Wisconsin running back Dare Ogunbowale is just fine in trying to be ‘the next James White,’ writes Sean Keeler
  • The Big Ten basketball regular-season title will come down to the wire, so here are the must-watch games left in the final two weeks of play
  • Wisconsin freshman Trent Frederic was among the best hockey players in the Big Ten in February, writes Todd Milewski of