We hope you’ll start your day with us here at the Landof10.com 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 Friday, Nov. 11, and this is your Wisconsin Wake-Up Call.
Not a bad thing
At Clemson, it’s quarterback Deshaun Watson. Michigan has the do-everything Jabrill Peppers. Ohio State can point to quarterback J.T. Barrett, while Louisville has Heisman Trophy frontrunner Lamar Jackson. All are top-10 teams, and all have a clear MVP this year. But at Wisconsin, a team that has spent seven weeks in the top 10 of the AP Top 25 this year, there is no clear-cut MVP.
There are candidates, certainly. You could point to a number of guys on defense. Guys such as outside linebacker T.J. Watt, now-injured inside linebacker Jack Cichy and, even, safety D’Cota Dixon. But it seems like every week it’s someone different having a big game on that side of the ball. And over on offense, left tackle Ryan Ramczyk or wide receiver Jazz Peavy are candidates. But in reality, no one has stood head and shoulders above anyone else.
While he may not look like an elite pass blocker, Ryan Ramczyk does a great job keeping his quarterback clean pic.twitter.com/fAXqiHhkqz
— Rob DiRe (@robdire) November 10, 2016
The fact there is no single player that you can highlight is just another remarkable aspect to what has been a special year for the program, and one that could become even more so over the last month of the season. Paul Chryst’s mantra of “it’s going to take everyone” is boring and overused, but it’s also a defining characteristic of his second team in Madison. Four different players have run for at least 175 yards, 12 have caught at least one pass and five have led the team in tackles in at least one game this season.
“That’s what I’ve really enjoyed about the team, that it has taken so many guys,” Chryst said. “This is a biased opinion, but I think football is the greatest team sport. We’ve needed a bunch of guys.”
Wisconsin would love to have that guy that stood out, but it’s not necessary to its success. The program was built on a blue-collar mentality. And though the Badgers have had plenty of stars in the last 25 years, this year’s team fits Wisconsin’s personality so well.
Wisconsin will open the season Friday night against Central Arkansas. Much is expected of the No. 9 Badgers, with many predicting a Big Ten title and a trip to a third Final Four in the last four seasons.
So with the start of the season upon us, we offer some end of the season predictions:
Best overall player: Bronson Koenig
Senior Nigel Hayes is Wisconsin’s best player right now — no matter how many fans want to claim differently. But that may not be the case by the end of the season. Koenig dedicated himself in the offseason for the first time in his career and is playing his best basketball. Known for his 3-point shot, Koenig tried to diversify his game with a focus on attacking the basket. The early returns have been favorable. If his upward trajectory continues, he could take the mantle of best player from Hayes.
Biggest surprise: D’Mitrik Trice
A late add in the 2016 recruiting class, the true freshman is poised to gobble up a lot of the back-up point guard minutes. Trice, the brother of former Michigan State star Travis Trice, does not possess prototypical size. That was among the reasons why some schools didn’t chase him with the vigor Wisconsin did. Older than most first-year players, Trice has a special leadership quality about him, which coach Greg Gard credited to his football days as a quarterback. Wisconsin may have gotten a steal.
Big Ten champions: Wisconsin
For the second time in three years, many are picking the Badgers to win the Big Ten, which leaves a bull’s-eye on their backs. But the experience of that run to the national title game two years ago can not be understated in terms of importance. A lot of these guys have been through the proverbial pressure cooker before and won’t crumble under the added weight. Michigan State and Indiana will challenge them, though. Wisconsin wins its first two NCAA tournament games in Milwaukee, advances to the Elite 8 before the run comes to an end in the regional final.
Final Four: Duke, Kentucky, Michigan State, Arizona
On the move
T.J. Edwards was a quarterback in high school. Ryan Connelly, Alec Ingold, David Edwards, T.J. Watt and Zack Baun were, too. But upon arriving in Madison and joining the Badgers, that aspect of their athletic careers came to a close. All were forced to switch positions, and it’s worked out beautifully, with four becoming starters and the other being two key back-ups waiting their turn to step on the field.
And, as Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes, it’s not just former quarterbacks that have been on the move. Leo Musso was an all-state running back in high school, but the senior is now one of Wisconsin’s starting safeties.
“I think it is just recruiting guys that love the game of football,” Musso said when asked to pinpoint the reasons players make such transitions successfully. “You could go up and down our roster and find guys that have switched positions. That is a testament to the coaches for recruiting dudes that love playing football and playing for this school.”
And in the case of the quarterbacks, it gives you a leg up. Edwards and Connelly, Wisconsin’s starters at inside linebaker, have each talked in recent years about understanding what the opposing quarterback was looking at because they had been in the same situations. It increases a players’ awareness level, and in turn, allows them to play faster.
The most difficult thing is projecting where kids will fit when you’re recruiting them. Former defensive coordinator Dave Aranda got his first look at Ingold, now a fullback, and Baun, now an outside linebacker, at a summer camp. He thought early on they could play at the Division I level, just not at quarterback. And as long as coaches are open and honest about that, they can reap the rewards that the Badgers are this year.
Two former Badgers are off to good starts in the second year of their NBA careers.
After missing a majority of his rookie season because of back surgery, Sam Dekker is a key member of the Houston Rockets rotation. He had his best game against San Antonio on Wednesday night, finishing with a career-high 12 points and seven rebounds.
— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) November 10, 2016
Meanwhile, Frank Kaminsky and the Charlotte Hornets are tied for the best record in the Eastern Conference, and the center is averaging 11.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.
— Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) November 8, 2016
There were many skeptics about where both guys were drafted in the first round last year. And while they may not have silenced anyone, they are showing some why the Rockets and Hornets took them in the first round.
- Nigel Hayes, Tom Izzo among the most intriguing people in college basketball
- Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh won’t wrap Iowa’s pink locker room in a ‘Bo’
- What happened to Maryland and can they hang with Ohio State?
- Is Lovie Smith miserable at Illinois like ESPN says?
- Nebraska coach Mike Riley encouraged by quarterback Tommy Armstrong’s recovery