Rey Del Rio/Getty Images
Wisconsin coach Greg Gard went outside the program to find his new assistant coach.

Wisconsin finds right fit in Dean Oliver, most impressive players of spring, and more

We hope you’ll start your day with us here at 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, April 21, and this is what’s for breakfast.


The right fit

The word “fit” is thrown around often at Wisconsin. Athletic director Barry Alvarez mentions it when hiring head coaches. Football coach Paul Chryst talks about it when recruiting players and hiring assistants. And there it was again in a statement from Wisconsin announcing the hiring of Dean Oliver as an assistant basketball coach. Oliver replaces Lamont Paris, who left earlier in April for the head coaching job at Chattanooga.

“It’s rare to find a coach with his combination of professional playing experience and coaching ability,” coach Greg Gard said. “I have no doubt he is the right fit for our program.”

What exactly does it mean to be the right fit for Wisconsin? Well, it’s a guy who understands and accepts what makes the program tick and how it’s stayed successful despite the challenges of running a top-flight operation that values the academic side of the student-athlete equation.

Gard clearly thought the fit was right with Oliver, who has only been an assistant for six years. His playing career at Iowa, two years in the NBA and nearly a decade as a professional certainly helped his cause. But it was still a bit surprising to see Gard go with another inexperienced coach a year after hiring Joe Krabbenhoft. If you combine the 38-year-old Oliver’s coaching experience with that of the 30-year-old Krabbenhoft, it comes out to nine years on the sideline — or eight fewer than Paris had on his own.

The hire makes sense. Krabbenhoft and Wisconsin’s other assistant, Howard Moore, were forwards during their careers in Madison. Oliver was a big-time guard for the Hawkeyes and should provide a new perspective for Wisconsin’s backcourt players.

But the biggest void he needs to fill is that of a recruiter. Paris played a vital role in bringing in Nigel Hayes, Vitto Brown and D’Mitrik Trice out of Ohio, and Charlie Thomas out of Maryland. Paris was also involved in the recruitment of 2017 signee Nathan Reuvers and 2018 commit Tyler Herro.

In the end, it all comes back to the fit for the Badgers. When the fit isn’t right, you get the situation Wisconsin found itself in with former football coach Gary Andersen. When the fit is right, you get Barry Alvarez, Bo Ryan, Bret Bielema, Paul Chryst and Greg Gard. Alvarez changed the culture and the others maintained and lifted it.

Going outside of the Wisconsin “family” for this hire is a slight risk, but Gard, and to a lesser extent Alvarez, clearly feel Oliver understands how the Badgers need to operate and is up to the challenge.

Most impressive

Wisconsin will hold its spring game Friday night at Camp Randall Stadium, but it’s unclear how much it will look like an actual football game, especially after listening to coach Paul Chryst earlier this week.

“Two phases. One is a practice part. Go [into the locker room], come back out and play what [we] hope looks like a football game,” Chryst said.

Not overly inspiring stuff, and you can expect the game part to include mostly young players. If you’re interested in that, Sean Keeler broke down the five things to watch when the guys hit the field at 6:30 p.m.

Spring football is essentially done. So here’s a look at the five most impressive guys over the last month and change.

1) RB Chris James

The transfer from Pittsburgh has shown flashes of greatness through 14 practices, leaving guys whiffing at air and others simply crumbling to the ground after he jukes them. Definitely a three-down back, Wisconsin fans are going to enjoy watching the junior play this fall.

2) WR Quintez Cephus

Cephus made a ton of highlight catches in the early part of spring, and the sophomore might be set for a breakout season alongside senior Jazz Peavy. He’s a tenacious blocker, which is what got him on the field in 2016, but he’s improved as a route runner and his catch radius is off the charts.

3) DL Isaiahh Loudermilk

Loudermilk needed his redshirt year to get comfortable after playing 8-man football in high school, but he showed this spring he’s ready to go. The 6-foot-7, 302-pound Loudermilk created havoc for the offensive line with his length and will see time this fall even though everyone returns on the defensive line.

4) TE Troy Fumagalli

Just a ho-hum spring for the senior tight end, full of one-handed catches and red zone touchdowns. Fumagalli had 47 catches last season. He could see more passes thrown his way this season, and based on the spring it’s impossible to argue he shouldn’t.

5) CBs Nick Nelson/Derrick Tindal

Wisconsin’s starting cornerbacks got their hands on a ton of passes this spring and came down with several interceptions. As good as Sojourn Shelton and Tindal were in 2016, these guys — who wear hoodies under their pads and refer to each other as “Nick City Boogie with the Hoodie” and “DT Boogie with the Hoodie” — have a chance to eclipse last year’s success.

Getting their rings

Rings are no longer just for conference championships and national titles. These days almost any accomplishment will get you some jewelry in college football. But that doesn’t make it any less exciting for the players, and on Thursday it appears the Badgers got their rings for winning the Cotton Bowl. Several players took to social media to show them off.

Getting rings isn’t new for these guys. Only twice since 2010 have the players not been rewarded with jewelry. But this year’s ring is something new and different, considering it’s the first time Wisconsin has won the Cotton Bowl, and the use of the logo within the ring makes it unique.

Catching up

  • From Jason Galloway at the Wisconsin State Journal: Kare Lyles and Jack Coan are battling for important backup quarterback snaps.
  • Over at SI.com, a look at the three former Badgers who are helping the New York Rangers in their Stanley Cup playoff run.
Get Breaking News Fast!
Download the new Land of 10 app.