This season the Badgers were able to win games against a variety of different teams, which was a contributing factor to their run to the national semifinals. With four of five starters averaging in double figures, the Badgers were able to go with whoever had the hot hand on any given night. With the talent this season, Bo Ryan let the team play a little more up-tempo style when there were opportunities. That lead to UW scoring 73.5 points per game, almost an eight point increase from 2012 (66) and up almost 12 points from 2011 (64).
Even though Wisconsin scored more quickly than it did in past seasons, the Badgers were just as efficient, if not more so than 2011 (42.5 percent) and 2012 (42.1 percent) by shooting 45.9 percent from the field.
Wisconsin shot 37.6 percent from beyond the arc this season, which ranked third in the Big Ten. At times the Badgers lived and died by the long ball, with seven of eight players in the rotation hitting at least one 3-pointer. Although losing Brust takes away 17.5 percent of its offense, the Badgers will be able to survive with the return of four other starters, Frank Kaminsky, Josh Gasser, Sam Dekker and Traevon Jackson.
Another factor that was crucial in the Badgers' run to the Final Four and its 26-7 record in the regular season was their improved success at the line. UW's free throw shooting was much improved a year where the Badgers were uncharacteristically mediocre, shooting 63.6 percent. Wisconsin took advantage of their free throws this season, hitting 74.6 percent at the line in 861 total attempts.
Kentucky exposed a defense that was not the typical stingy Wisconsin defense of old.
Overall Wisconsin did not have to overpower teams on defense because of its offensive effectiveness this season. UW won a lot of games with its offense scoring 70 or more points. UW was 8-6 when its opponent scored at least 70 points.
When the offense stalled, however, UW could still slow teams down. Except for a few lapses against Arizona and Kentucky where they were undersized, the Badgers were decent on the defensive glass. With only one starter taller than 6-10, the Badgers averaged 33.3 rebounds per game and were able to consistently come down with rebounds on the offensive and defensive boards.
Turnover ratio under Ryan is what Wisconsin does to keep games in their favor. The Badgers averaged just 8.1 per game, forced opponents into 9.7 per game and finished with a plus-63 overall this season.
The Badgers struggled to stop dribble penetration at times this season because of mental lapses and slow rotations. A factor could have come from the new hand-checking rules, but that dribble penetration slowed as Kaminsky improved his post defense.
Bench production: B
Wisconsin has had more production off the bench in past seasons but with a shorter rotation this season, freshmen Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig and junior Duje Dukan made up for the difference. Hayes averaged 7.7 points off the bench and was basically instant offense when his quick post moves and mid-range jump shots were falling.
Koenig averaged just 2.8 points in 15.5 minutes per game off the bench, but showed why he will be a starter for the Badgers in the next few years, if not next year. Koenig came off the bench and ran the offense effectively by providing another shooter and passer to the mix.
Wisconsin also had some production from freshman Vitto Brown in a few games that gave him experience, which will help in his development for next season. Obviously UW's bench wasn't very deep, but Ryan always has an established rotation of usually three to four players off the bench. Next season with Hayes possibly transitioning into the starting lineup, the bench could go four deep with Zak Showalter eligible after a redshirt season and Jordan Hill could see some time.
The Badgers started the season winning their first 16 games, setting a new modern-era record. Following five losses in six games, Wisconsin won 13 of its final 16 games, falling one game short of its first national finals berth since 1941.
Starting the season with a 16-game win streak helped boost the players' confidence, especially with wins against the likes of then No. 11 Florida at home and East Regional No. 1 seed Virginia on the road. Losing five of six games after that streak probably enforced Ryan's mantra "never too high, never too low". The Badgers bounced back from that adversity, using it as a teaching tool that in all probability laid the groundwork for their Final Four run.
Making a deep run into their First Final Four since 2000 enforces their high grade here. Despite coming up short of a title definitely stings, but the way the game played out showed how much effort the team put into this season.
Wisconsin loses senior Ben Brust, who was a strong rebounder with a 3.5 career average, but the Badgers will still have the size and strength of Frank Kaminsky, Hayes, Dekker, Dukan and Brown.
"We had a team and a dream and we wanted to get here together," Dekker said. "Like I said, it sucks to not be able to go all the way (to the national championship). But I think we can add this to our list. Always remember Kentucky, always remember what happened."
One factor that could push the Badgers over the top next season is their defense. A second consecutive Final Four run is realistic because Wisconsin maintains the same lineup, but a national title would be more possible with a consistently stout defense.
You could make a case for a lot of different players to get this award. Josh Gasser's intangibles made him an option, as well as Traevon Jackson with his consistent ball-handling and passing, or Nigel Hayes' offensive production off the bench as a freshman. If it weren't for some lulls at various points in the season, Frank Kaminsky would have been the easy choice for MVP. Scoring a career-high 43 points against North Dakota and averaging 16.4 points and 5.8 rebounds in the tournament, Kaminsky dramatically improved from his sophomore season and will be even more polished with another offseason to get stronger.
But in this case, I give Ben Brust the nod. Brust was a more consistent contributor throughout the season in many different facets of the game. Brust's 3-point shooting, passing, defense and rebounding is why he is the MVP. He also led the Badgers in minutes per game with 34.7 for a second straight year. Brust also set Wisconsin's 3-point shooting record against Oregon. He finished making 244 3-pointers in his career, including 15-for-30 in the NCAA tournament.