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ESPN Wisconsin Blogs - Zach Heilprin

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Badgers basketball: UW opens at No. 4 in the coaches' poll

Oct 16, 2014 -- 8:20pm
CHICAGO - The University of Wisconsin returns almost their entire rotation from last year’s run to the Final Four, and that returning nucleus is the reason behind the Badgers appearance in the top 5 of the USA Today preseason Coaches Poll released on Tuesday.
Wisconsin came in at No. 4 and received three first-place votes. It’s the same spot they occupied in the final poll of the 2013-2014 season.
Kentucky, who beat the Badgers 74-73 in the Final Four, claimed the top spot and 24 first-place votes.
When asked what he thought about the Wildcats being the No. 1 team, Wisconsin senior Frank Kaminsky paused before answering.
“I hope we can play them. That’s all I can say about that,” Kaminsky said before going into more detail after a follow up question.
“I want that rematch from last year. They’re the last team to beat us. And it’s on such a big stage that obviously any competitor would want to play them again.”
Kaminsky, who the Big Ten writers tabbed as the preseason favorite for conference player of the year, had eight points and five rebounds in the game – a contest he couldn’t bring himself to watch over the summer.
“I haven’t watched the game and I don’t think I will,” the center said. “From what I remember, they got the best of us. We were so close to winning it. I would love to play them again.”
At No. 2 is Arizona, the team UW beat in overtime to get to the Final Four. Duke, who will come to the Kohl Center on Dec. 3 for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, follows them. Kansas rounds out the Top 5.
In total, there are eight teams in the Top 25 that Wisconsin is either scheduled to play or that they could play as a result of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in late November.  
The Big Ten put six teams in the poll, the most of any conference in the country.
The full poll can be found here:

Badgers basketball: Writers say UW will win B1G

Oct 15, 2014 -- 9:11pm
Photo/Getty Images
MADISON - Writers that cover the Big Ten really like Bo Ryan’s team this year.
The Big Ten Network polled a beat writer for each of the 14 teams and each one chose the University of Wisconsin to win the conference. Ohio State received the second most votes, with Michigan State coming in third.
The writers also expect a very big season from Frank Kaminsky. The UW center was listed on each of the ballots – the only unanimous first-team selection. Junior Sam Dekker received 11 first-team votes. The two Badgers were joined by Nebraska’s Terran Petteway, Michigan’s Caris LeVert and Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell.
Wisconsin returns four of the five starters, and seven of their top eight players, that led them to the Final Four last season.

Badgers football: Andersen updates Herring, Watt injuries

Oct 15, 2014 -- 8:45pm
Photo/Getty Images
MADISON - Gary Andersen is an optimist.
The University of Wisconsin coach admitted as much on Wednesday as he discussed the possible return of two significant pieces that have been missing since the season opener against LSU.
“I’m saying yes,” Andersen said of getting back defensive end Warren Herring. “I don’t think I’m being overly optimistic, but I’m being optimistic. And I would say the same thing about (fullback) Derek (Watt). I would think we have a very good opportunity to get him back.”
The first name Andersen mentioned is not a surprise. Against the Tigers, Herring suffered an injury to the medial collateral ligament in his right knee on the last play of the third quarter. He had surgery the following week and talked of wanting to be back by the Big Ten opener against Northwestern. That didn’t happen, obviously, but a new target date was set: Oct. 25 against Maryland.
This week, Herring has been doing rehab work off to the side of practice but has another nine days to prove to UW’s coaches that he’s ready.
Andersen’s optimism on Watt, though, is a little bit of a shock. The junior broke his foot against the Tigers and had surgery the following week as well. The initial prognosis was for him to be out until the middle of November.
“He’s moving forward,” Andersen said of Watt. “Has he been out in practice yet? No, but like I said I’m optimistic. I’m an optimist. What can I say?”
At this point, it appears much more likely that UW will have Herring against Maryland, and they’ll have to wait a little bit longer for Watt to return.
Meanwhile, Andersen solved a bit of mystery on Wednesday. During warm-ups against Illinois on Saturday one of UW’s six quarterbacks was missing – true freshman D.J. Gillins. It turns out the dual-threat signal caller had a minor knee scope last week to clean up from a 2012 surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, which he tore during his junior season of high school.
“He’s fine,” Andersen said of Gillins, who was wearing a brace on his left knee on Wednesday. “I expect him to be back at practice, probably, next week. He’ll be fine. He’s ready to go.”
Quarterbacks still splitting reps
Don’t expect Wisconsin to announce who their starting quarterback is going to be against Maryland. Though they are on a bye this week, juniors Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy are each seeing time with the first-team offense.
“From what I’ve seen this week, I would guess that’s pretty much what it is,” Andersen said when asked if they were splitting reps down the middle. “It is a little bit by package right now early in the game planning also. So (7-on-7) was kind of split about every other rep, but we want some young kids to get some throws, too.
“Right now, in practice I would say, Tuesday, Wednesday this week have pretty much been 50-50.”

Badgers basketball: Thomas commits

Oct 14, 2014 -- 9:20pm
Photo/Jen Rynda/Baltimore Sun
MADISON - The University of Wisconsin has added a third commit for the class of 2015.
River Hill (Clarksville, Maryland) High School power forward Charlie Thomas gave his verbal commitment to Bo Ryan and the Badgers on Tuesday. It was first reported by
The 6-foot-8, 245-pound, Thomas is a 3-star prospect according to ESPN. They describe Thomas as a “strong and physical power forward that is a terrific rebounder.”
He chose the Badgers over Rutgers and DePaul and reportedly had 11 total scholarship offers.
Thomas joins DePere guard Brevin Pritzl and New Hampshire power forward Alex Illikainen.
Some highlights of Thomas:

Badgers basketball: Day 2 practice observations

Oct 14, 2014 -- 4:01pm
MADISON - The University of Wisconsin held another practice inside the Nicohals-Johnson Pavilion on Tuesday with the local media allowed to watch for the last hour and a half.

Some observations:
Wisconsin scrimmaged during the session, though it wasn’t scored like a game normally is. The teams could get or lose points for scoring, turnovers, post feeds that led to points and a myriad of other things.
The teams were broken down like this:
Red – Sam Dekker, Riley Dearring, Josh Gasser, Bronson Koenig, Vitto Brown and Nigel Hayes. T.J. Schlundt
White – Frank Kaminsky, Traevon Jackson, Zak Showalter, Jordan Hill, Duje Dukan, Aaron Moesch, Jordan Smith, Matt Ferris and Ethan Happ
The White team won the first game, the Red team the second and the third one ended with a Red victory but also some controversy, if you can have such a thing during a practice.
Hill and Showalter hit back-to-back 3’s to put the White team on top. But on the other end the Red team managed to pull in two offensive rebounds, ending the game. The controversy came due to Showalter apparently getting pulled down, which allowed the second rebound. Despite the protests, no foul was called and the game was over.
Red team scoring:
Koenig – 3 points
Daring – 2 points
Dekker 3 points
Gasser – 4 points
Hayes – 2 points
White team scoring:
Hill – 7 points
Dukan – 5 points
Jackson – 5 points
Happ -1 point
Other notes:
-- The Badgers got a little bit of a scare during the scrimmage. Guard Bronson Koenig drove through the lane and as he went up his head hit the chin of center Frank Kaminsky. The senior went down and stayed down for about a minute before getting up and walking to the sideline. After getting checked out by the trainers, he returned to the scrimmage.
-- In 5-on-5 action before the scrimmage, there were a couple plays that stood out.
Sam Dekker, working against Kaminsky, got about two steps inside the 3-point line before jumping back outside and draining one from beyond the arc.
Later, Kaminsky worked the pick and roll with Showalter. The guard threw up an alley-oop but it appeared as if the pass would sail out of bounds. Instead, Kaminsky went up, grabbed it from almost behind the basket and dunked it home.
-- Traevon Jackson still looks smooth shooting a pull-up jumper. In 5-on-5 work, the senior shook his defender and pulled up from nearly the same spot as he missed from against Kentucky in the Final Four. This time it was nothing but net.

Badgers basketball: Day 1 practice observations

Oct 13, 2014 -- 5:11pm
Sophomore Nigel Hayes appears ready to take his game beyond the arc.
MADISON - The University of Wisconsin opened up practice to the local media for the first time on Monday.
Some observations:
- Sophomore Nigel Hayes has added the 3-point shot to his game. The forward hit plenty of 3’s during individual drills in practice last year but rarely took them in 5-on-5 work and never even attempted one in a game. On Monday, the 6-foot-8, 235-pound, Hayes looked comfortable shooting from deep, including drilling a 3-pointer with a hand in his face.
- It’s well-known that Frank Kaminsky will talk to himself on the court at times, though the chatter decreased significantly last season. However, on Monday it was back a little bit. After missing an easy inside shot the Badgers center yelled, “(Expletive) you, Frank!”
Later, though, he finished off a drive by spinning around a defender and going up for a big two-handed dunk.
- Sam Dekker had a huge summer, taking part in camps put on by Kevin Durant and LeBron James. The feedback at both was that the Badgers’ junior was among the best players at either camp. He flashed some of that on Monday. In 5-on-5 work, Dekker drove baseline and spun past a defender to get to the hole for an easy lay-in.
The 6-foot-9, 230-pound, Dekker looked bigger than last season, and though he displayed some of the things that drive UW coach Bo Ryan crazy at times – specifically shot selection and not always being where he should be – he seems primed physically for a big year.
-- Senior guard Josh Gasser looks to be moving better and is no longer wearing the knee brace that was a staple last year as he made his return to the court after missing the entire 2012-2013 season.
-- Senior guard Traevon Jackson and sophomore guard Bronson Koenig were mainly facilitators on Monday, but both players showed an ability to get to the basket on dribble penetration.
-- Duje Dukan was active on both ends of the floor. The senior forward has grown to 6-foot-10, and though he's known for his outside shot, he and Dekker battled down low several times, and Dukan seems more than willing to mix it up, which hasn’t always been the case.
-- True freshman Ethan Happ looks like he might redshirt, though that will be up to him. How much playing time can the 6-foot-9, 230-pound, Happ get with a loaded frontcourt of Kaminsky, Hayes, Dekker, Dukan and sophomore Vitto Brown?
-- It’ll be interesting to see how Ryan uses Zak Showalter, Jordan Hill and Riley Dearing. UW needs a fourth guard to step up behind Jackson, Gasser and Koenig. Each of the possibilities offer a little something different.
-- Former Badgers guard Kammron Taylor practiced with the team on Monday. He has been in town for much of the summer while recovering from knee surgery.
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