Wisconsin Badgers: (2-1)
The Badgers got off to a skittish start with a rare home nonconference loss to the Western Illinois Leathernecks on opening night. Wisconsin had not lost their first game of the season since the 2001-02 season when they fell in Las Vegas to the UNLV Rebels on November 17, 2001. Since then, Wisky has promptly rebounded with wins over the Siena Saints and North Dakota.
There are only a handful of coaches in america better than Bo Ryan. Ryan in his time at Wisconsin has achieved incredible success on a yearly basis. The Badgers have never missed the NCAA Tournament with Ryan at the helm. They have gone to seven Sweet 16s, three Final Fours and appeared in the National Championship Game in 2015 and wound up as the National Runner Up. Under Ryan, the Badgers are 359-126 and 172-68 in Big Ten play.
The Names to Know
After stepping on campus in the 2013-14 season, Nigel Hayes quickly became a threat for the Badgers and their second unit. Hayes averaged 7.7 points and 2.8 rebounds on a 51.0 field goal percentage in 17.4 minutes per game in his first year in Madison.
The departure of sharpshooter Ben Brust gave way to Hayes weaving his way into the starting lineup. With the door opened for him, Hayes would bust through in his sophomore season. Though his field goal percentage slightly dipped down to 49.7 percent, Hayes averaged 12.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists and shot 39.6 percent from the 3-point line on 101 attempts.
What's more is that Hayes' efficiency numbers took a big jump. Via KenPom.com, the Toledo, Ohio native amassed an eFG% of 55.7 percent and a TS% of 60.0 percent. Those numbers jumped by 4.7 and 5.9 percent from those in his freshman season at UW.
Nigel proved to be pivotal in Wisconsin's Big Ten Tournament clinching game over the Michigan State Spartans. He scored 25, was a perfect 12-for-12 from the free throw line, grabbed five rebounds and dished out an assist with two steals to boot.
The talent that Hayes has gave way to much recognition this past offseason. Nigel is widely viewed as a probable All-Big Ten and All-American candidate and should find himself being the best player on the floor in many of Wisconsin's games this season.
Koenig and Hayes share the common bond of being part of Wisconsin's 2013 recruiting class. Koenig was the most heralded of the bunch. He stepped onto campus in Madison as a four-star recruit and as the No. 1 player in The Badger State via 247Sports' rankings.
Like Hayes, Koenig began his time in Wisconsin as part of the Badgers' second unit playing behind Traevon Jackson, Josh Gasser, and Ben Brust. Bo Ryan put Koenig on the floor with his assortment of guards and was a very stout role player, allotting 3.5 points, 1.2 rebounds, and 1.1 assists in 15.5 minutes per game. His usage rate in his freshman year was at just 13.6 percent.
For comparative sake, Nigel Hayes' was almost double that at 26.7 percent.
Koenig and Hayes' commonality rolled on in the 2014-15 season. Koenig saw his usage rate jump up to 17.4 percent as he asserted himself quickly as a great role player. From the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament all the way to the National Championship Game, Ryan's trust in Koenig was evident as he was the top point guard for the Badgers 72 percent of the time according to KenPom.com's tracker.
The La Crosse, Wisconsin native's field goal percentage dropped slightly to 41.4 percent but the guard saw his 3-point average jump up from 32.8 percent to 40.5 percent. His free throw percentage leapt up as well to 81.2 percent, and his points per game doubled and then some to an average of 8.7 points. Like Hayes, Koenig was very pivotal in the Badgers' 2015 Big Ten Tournament clinching game. He scored 18 points and was 4-for-8 from the 3-point line with nine assists and four rebounds.
Thus far, the junior guard has gotten off to a very hot start. He's so far tallied an average of 20.5 points with 4.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists complementing his scoring.
The Style of Play
Slow and steady wins the race: Wisconsin won't be running and gunning on you. They are an efficient bunch, but they play at a very pedestrian pace. Their adjusted tempo under Bo Ryan has never been ranked higher than 176th in the country andover the last three seasons has ranked 318th (2012-13), 292nd (2013-14), and 346th (2014-15). For context: there were 351 teams observed on KenPom.com last season.
Three games into the season, Wisconsin checks in at 349th in the nation in adjusted tempo. They are currently averaging roughly ~65 possessions per game. Comparatively, Duke, another team in the 2K Sports Classic, is averaging 72.7 and VCU is averaging 72.6.
Georgetown, meanwhile, is averaging 68.2, ranked 332nd in the nation. Given that, one should expect a slow-tempo game on Friday night at Madison Square Garden with neither team willing to shy away from breaking out and scoring in bunches.
Turnover percentage... or lack thereof: Since the 2008-09 season, here are the final rankings for Wisconsin in the Turnover% category: 5th, 3rd, 1st, 2nd, 5th, 2nd, and 1st. That of course plays into their slow-tempo style and an unwillingness to take many risks when the basketball is in their hands. They do what they do, and they do it damn well. In the young season, that hasn't changed much either. Wisconsin is committing turnovers at a rate of just 10.4 percent, the current 10th best mark in the nation.
One Weakness That's Worth Noting...
Perimeter problems?: Wisconsin has not fared well in the past few years at defending the 3-point shot, aside from two seasons - 2011-12 and 2012-13 - in which they finished 11th and 8th in 3-point defense. Other than that, since the 2008-09 season, they have finished: 72nd, 184th, 299th, 152nd, and 308th.
That hasn't changed in the way Wisconsin would like it to so far in the early goings. Teams are converting on their 3-point makes 44.7 percent of the time. That's 292nd in the nation right now and includes a startling 77.8 percent night for the Leathernecks on opening night at the Kohl Center in Madison. Georgetown has proven to be a good 3-point shooting team in the early part of this season, making 36.6 percent of their opportunities - 112th-best in the country.