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Wisconsin's Bronson Koenig caught fire in the second half on Sunday.

The Badgers might be back, seniors go out right, and winners/losers from the NFL combine

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Today is Monday, March 6, and this is what’s for breakfast.


Back or a fluke?

Wisconsin came out in the second half of its regular-season finale against Minnesota on Sunday and put together perhaps its best effort in the last seven weeks, outscoring the Gophers 39-20 on the way to a badly needed 66-49 win.

The Badgers defense was on point, holding the hottest team in the Big Ten to 33 points below what it had averaged in an eight-game winning streak. Guard Bronson Koenig came alive to hit five 3-pointers — all of them after halftime — to lead Wisconsin with 17 points in his final game at the Kohl Center.

It was a victory the Badgers had to have after falling in five of their last six games. But what does it mean for their postseason chances? Not much. Still, it’s a start.

Many of the same issues that have plagued them recently were still evident. Wisconsin was just 10 of 24 on layups — an indication of an inability to finish at the rim, which coach Greg Gard has harped on in recent weeks.

The baffling free throw epidemic is still very much a concern, with the Badgers making just 6 of 16 from the line, including Ethan Happ and Nigel Hayes going a combined 2 of 9. And though they ended up with only 10 turnovers, several of them could have been pivotal if Minnesota had been able to take advantage like Iowa did on Thursday.

But it didn’t matter because of an 8-of-10 effort from beyond the arc in the second half and the Gophers’ 23.3 percent shooting — neither of which is sustainable for the entire month of March.

And to be fair, it’s not like we haven’t seen this movie before. Two weeks ago, it appeared that the Badgers had stabilized themselves, snapping a two-game losing streak with an impressive second half against Maryland only to follow up with a three-game losing streak.

So we’re left to ponder: Do we take solace in the fact Wisconsin won despite continued struggles in important phases of the game, or fret because we all know shooting 56 percent from beyond the arc isn’t something you can count on happening every night?

We’ll get answers soon enough with postseason play starting this week, but if we can take away anything from the outcome on Sunday it’s that the Badgers haven’t given in despite this brutal stretch. The vast experience and success the members of this team possess likely have them thinking this is the start of a run. Time will tell.

Going out right

It didn’t come with the Big Ten title that seemed so likely three weeks ago, but Wisconsin’s senior class went out on a high note at the Kohl Center with the win over Minnesota.

The group — Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig, Vitto Brown and Zak Showalter — was a part of a special era in Madison that included two Final Fours, three Sweet 16s and a Big Ten championship. That the four combined to score 46 of Wisconsin’s 69 points on Sunday was a fitting way to their home careers.

All will be remembered differently, with Hayes and Koenig playing starting roles in the run to the national title game in 2015, with Showalter and Brown being key players the last three seasons.

Obviously, they’ve had success off the court with Hayes and Koenig taking up causes they believe in. Brown sang the national anthem at the 2015 Final Four and is a two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree, while Showalter and Hayes earned that honor in 2016.

Now with 111 wins, the class sits just four victories shy of the 2016 class for the most wins in school history. Though their legacy will certainly be strong no matter what happens in March, if they are able to tie or break that record it will only add to what has been as special of a four-year period in Wisconsin basketball as there ever has been.

Combine roundup

The NFL combine will conclude on Monday, but five of the six former Wisconsin players who were invited have completed the biggest job interviews of their lives.

Let’s take a look at how they did.

* numbers in parentheses are their rank in their position groups

OLB Vince Biegel
40-yard dash: 4.67 seconds (8)
Bench press (225 lbs): 21 (8)
Vertical: 33.5” (10)
Broad jump: 118” (13)

What they’re saying:

RB Corey Clement
40-yard dash: 4.68 seconds (24)
Bench press (225 lbs): 19 (11)
Vertical: 28.5” (27)
Broad jump: 115” (23)

What they’re saying:

“Corey Clement, Wisconsin, RB: The Badgers have cranked out plenty of good backs, but Clement was slower than Gallman, barely cracking 4.70, and looked stiff in position drills.”

RB Dare Ogunbowale
40-yard dash: 4.65 seconds (21)
Bench press (225 lbs): 14 (25)
Vertical: 35” (10)
Broad jump: 120” (15)
3-cone drill: 6.99 seconds (5)
20-yard shuttle: 4.34 seconds (8)

What they’re saying:

OL Ryan Ramczyk
Bench press: 25 (14)

What they’re saying:

OLB T.J. Watt
40-yard dash: 4.69 seconds (12)
Bench press (225 lbs): 21 (8)
Vertical: 37” (2)
Broad jump: 128” (1)

What they’re saying:

Our take

It’s clear that the biggest winner was Watt, who showed off his athleticism all weekend. Pair that with the tape he put together in his lone season as a starter and he may have put himself in position to be a first-round pick in April.

Ramczyk was also a winner solely by showing up and measuring out as 6-foot-6 with a long enough reach to be considered a tackle. There had been whispers that he was going to come in smaller. He also has great tape to rest on, which is important with him not being able to work out as he recovers from hip surgery.

Biegel helped himself with a nice 40-yard time, while Ogunbowale probably turned some heads in both a good (3-cone) and bad (40-yard dash) way.

The only one who probably hurt themselves was Clement, with a sub-standard 40 time, lack of explosiveness in the vertical and some stiffness when going through drills. Wisconsin’s Pro Day on March 15 will be huge for him.

Catching up

  • Here’s what coach Greg Gard had to say after Wisconsin’s win over Minnesota on Sunday.
  • The Wisconsin hockey team had to settle for a split of its weekend series with Penn State. Over at UWBadgers.com, Andy Baggot takes a look at where things stand with one week left in the regular season.
  • On the women’s side, the Badgers took home the WCHA tournament title and earned the top seed in the NCAA Tournament.
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