The 2014-15 Wisconsin Basketball campaign is off to a hot start. The Badgers are 4-0, easily dispatching the likes of Northern Kentucky (62-31), Chattanooga (89-45), Green Bay (84-60), and Boise St (78-54). The latest AP Poll that was released on Monday has elevated Wisconsin to No. 2 in the nation, the team’s highest ranking since the 2006-2007 season when Wisconsin climbed all the way to No. 1 for a single week before losing consecutive games at Michigan St and at No. 2 Ohio St.
The team is currently stationed at Paradise Island in the Bahama’s for the Battle 4 Atlantis non-conference basketball tournament which will undoubtedly offer the Badgers some great competition. The tournament features No. 2 Wisconsin, No. 18 Florida, Georgetown, No. 5 North Carolina, No. 22 UCLA, Oklahoma, Butler, and UAB.
Wisconsin’s first opponent on Wednesday evening (6pm central time) will be a 2-2 Alabama Birmingham squad. The Blazers have already suffered losses at the hands of Louisiana Monroe and South Florida early in the season. Expect the Badgers to make quick work of the Blazers.
After the Badgers handle the Blazers, they will face the winner of the Florida vs Georgetown nightcap the following day. Florida is struggling to find consistent scoring outside of Michael Frazier II, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Eli Carter. Billy Donovan coached teams always get after it on the defensive end of the floor with the great recruits that he consistently reels in. Former Michigan big man Jon Horford is now the starting Center for the Gators, who is averaging 12 points and 5 rebounds per game 3 games into the season.
Georgetown is led by UCLA transfer Joshua Smith, who has finally started to focus on basketball and get himself in playing shape. After 3 games Smith averages 17.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per contest.
In addition to Joshua Smith the Hoyas are getting contributions from D’vauntes Smith Rivera, Jabril Trawick, L.J. Peak, and Michael Hopkins. The Hoyas are 3-0 but untested early this season. We will find out a lot more about this team when they face Florida (8:30PM central time) on Wednesday night.
If Wisconsin survives UAB and the Florida vs G-Town winner, they will most likely be facing North Carolina or UCLA in the Battle 4 Atlantis championship game which will take place on Friday the 28th.
Wisconsin’s biggest competitor at this point is North Carolina, who has a very talented roster, per usual. Roy Williams can comfortably go 8 deep with talented players such as Marcus Paige, J.P. Tokoto, Kennedy Meeks, Justin Jackson, Brice Johnson, Isiah Hicks, and Nate Britt.
I am predicting a Wisconsin vs North Carolina championship game to decide the Battle 4 Atlantis.
The difference in the game will be Wisconsin’s ability to own the paint on both ends of the floor and limit turnovers. Expect Bo Ryan to play Dukan, Dekker, Hayes, and Kaminsky (all 6’8 and above) at the same time in order to force mismatches which will help the Badgers dominate the boards and go at North Carolina where they are most vulnerable, which is in the paint. Kennedy Meeks is a good offensive player but his post defense will be tested severely by Frank Kaminsky, a match-up which I expect Kaminsky to dominate (As a national player of the year candidate should).
We will quickly learn where this Wisconsin team is at after the conclusion of the Battle 4 Atlantis, which beings on Wednesday, November 26th and ends on Friday, the 28th. This tournament presents a great opportunity for Wisconsin to record some quality out-of-conference wins which will pay dividends come selection Sunday.