MADISON - The University of Wisconsin is 10-0 for just the second time in school history after beating in-state rival Marquette 70-64 on Saturday.
The position they are in – unbeaten and ranked No. 8 in the country – would qualify as a surprise to some seeing as they had to replace three veterans in the front court and have just one senior that plays a significant role. But one person not surprised? Sam Dekker.
“I think we expected this. Not in an ignorant way at all but we have a very confident bunch,” Dekker said after he went for 20 points and 10 rebounds against the Golden Eagles. “Traevon (Jackson) and I have kind of tried to preach it early this offseason, why can’t we win every game we go out and play. We’ve got the talent to do it. We’ve got the best coach in the business leading us. We’ve got the confident guys and the trust in each other.”
Dekker based his comments on this premise: The return of guard Josh Gasser from a knee injury that cost him all of last season. The expected improvements out of point guard Traevon Jackson with a year under his belt. His own growth after a freshman season that saw him come off the bench. And the gelling of less experienced players, like Frank Kaminsky and Duje Dukan, with freshmen Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes, along with senior Ben Brust.
“We expect ourselves to be perfect,” Dekker added. “We’ve got a lot of work to do but we’re happy where we’re at right now.”
UW coach Bo Ryan has some experience with teams that don’t lose a game – two of his squads at UW-Platteville (1994-95, 1997-98) went undefeated on their way to a NCAA Division III National Championship. So having this year’s Badgers off to their best start in his 13-year tenure isn’t something he’s even thinking about – or talking about.
“Well, I really have never talked about streaks of any kind. Even when we were getting our butts handed to use a few years ago with X number of conference games where we came up short,” Ryan said, remembering the six-game Big Ten losing streak they had in 2008-09. “I never mention a number to the team. I am very thankful that I had a chance to coach a couple undefeated teams, only because it gave me experience working with the players. So it is early yet. Streaks, it taught me how to deal with streaks.”
The reason those outside of the program may be a bit surprised at their early success is because of the schedule they’ve played. Opening at a neutral site with an athletic St. Johns team, going on the road to face a scrappy group in Green Bay, winning the Cancun Challenge by beating a tall West Virginia bunch, going to Charlottesville to face Tony Bennett’s Virginia team that had beaten Wisconsin at the Kohl Center last year, and finally, hosting a Marquette squad that had won two straight in the series.
“You try not to look at that stuff, though,” Gasser said of the high ranking and the second best start in UW history. “At the same time you have to be proud of your accomplishments. You’ve got to be happy you can come out with wins like this. We played a pretty tough schedule so to come out and win in a variety of ways is huge for us. But we’re not satisfied. We’re going to keep working. We’ve got a long ways to go to achieve our goals but right now we’re happy about it.”