What is Dispatches from Blogfrica? Pretty simple: I ask questions of an blogger for an opposing team; he (or she) answers. A truly revolutionary idea, no? Today: Drew from Bucky's 5th Quarter, SB Nation's fine blog for all things Wisconsin.
1) Iowa might be without Aaron White and Gabe Olaseni on Saturday, so... you're going to go easy on us, right? What's Wisconsin's health status at this point of the season?
DREW: The Badgers played the same starting lineup in every game last year, which is even more amazing than them making the Final Four. Obviously a team doesn't have that kind of injury luck two years in a row, and the Badgers are no different. Sam Dekker was hurt before the season started and remained nicked up for most of the non-conference season. He's back to 100%, but I guess there is a chance he could reaggravate something (knocks on every piece of wood in apartment). Starting point guard Traevon Jackson is still out with his foot injury, but he missed the teams' first matchup so that is nothing new. All in all, the Badgers are fairly healthy for a B1G team at this point in the season. Oh, and uhhhhh, we will take it easy on no one. Except for Rutgers apparently.
2) A depleted Michigan team took the Badgers to OT last weekend -- what lessons can Iowa take away from that game? Did the Wolverines expose any particular weaknesses in Wisconsin?
DREW: The Wolverines played like, well, a wolverine backed into a corner last weekend. The crowd was fired up, College GameDay was there, and I'd imagine some sort of magic Harbaugh juice (*vomits everywhere*) had been sprinkled over the athletic department as a whole. Michigan played zone a lot, which seemed to mildly frustrate the Badgers for stretches, but the Badgers are an excellent passing team (especially Frank Kaminsky and Nigel Hayes) so I wouldn't expect teams to want to use zone for long stretches. They still had assists on half of their baskets, but did shoot a little worse from beyond the arc. A fun fact: the Badgers lowest winning percentage was at the beginning of overtime and it was still at 72.8%. I guess the only weakness that may have been exposed is playing in front of a hostile crowd and taking a team's best shot every road game may eventually wear down Wisconsin.
3) Where does Frank Kaminsky rank among the best Badger players of the Bo Ryan era? He's a brilliant scorer, but he also has a strong all-around game, as evidenced by his 11 rebounds and 6 assists against Iowa last week. Is he the best player the Badgers have had under Bo?
DREW: The rise of Frank Kaminsky is one of the more unexpected things I've seen in my 20+ years of following Wisconsin basketball. His junior year was so completely out of the blue, that I still haven't fully recovered from it. He is now the favorite for B1G Player of the Year and a top-3 finalist for National Player of the Year. He is most certainly a top-5 player of the Bo Ryan era, a list that probably includes Devin Harris, Alando Tucker, Mike Wilkinson, and then Kaminsky. After this season is over, this will definitely be a question to revisit and I could easily see Kaminsky sitting atop this list. It is very similar to a conversation we've had ad nauseam at B5Q about where Melvin Gordon ranks amongst all-time Badgers for football.
4) We went into last week's game expecting another close, nervy game between Iowa and Wisconsin; after all, that's what the last half-dozen games in the series had trained us to expect. Oops. What do you expect this time around? I'm assuming (hoping?) that Wisconsin isn't going to score 1.52 points per possession again or shoot 49% from the floor again.
DREW: Now that I know where this game is being played (it's in Ames on Saturday, right? Ed. Note: Yes, I think Wisconsin should definitely go to Ames on Saturday. Iowa will accept your forfeit win, sir.) I think I have a pretty firm grasp on what is going to happen. The Badgers won't score 1.52 PPP (I'm assuming) and I doubt they'll shoot 49% from the field, but if White and Olaseni are out the Hawkeyes will have major issues in the post. I can see Kaminsky, Hayes, and even Sam Dekker finding a lot of room to operate around the basket. It will be closer than the last time the two teams played, but won't be as close as games from the last few seasons. I think Wisconsin wins 75-63, or something like that.
5) What are the goals for this particular Badger team? It's one of the best teams Bo Ryan has had at Wisconsin, without a doubt. After a Final Four appearance last year, would anything less than that be a disappointment? Is it national championship or bust?
DREW: The Badgers have their sights set on three separate trophies this year. They want to win the B1G regular season title, which they haven't done since 2008; they want to win the B1G Tournament, which they haven't done since, coincidentally, 2008 as well; and lastly they want to win the National Title, which they haven't done since 1941 (also they only time they have done that). I've enjoyed this season greatly so far and don't want to say what I will and won't be disappointed by yet. That being said, I'll be extremely disappointed and most likely inconsolable until Wisconsin's first football game if they don't make the Final Four again.
Thanks for being a good sport, Drew, but I still hope your team gets mollywhopped on Saturday. You can check out the the Bucky's 5th Quarter crew at Bucky's 5th Quarter. You can also follow Bucky's 5th Quarter on Twitter at @B5Q and Drew at @drewhamm5. The Iowa-Wisconsin game is in Iowa City, IA on Saturday, January 31, and is scheduled to start at 11:00 am CT, with TV coverage from ESPN.