On Wednesday night, the Badgers will finish the home portion of their schedule. Once again, the team and the fans will have a chance to salute the senior class. In this case, the senior class is not very big, but the contributions of Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon have been quite big.
Call me a sucker for senior night festivities, but I really appreciate how the UW handles the final home game. Before the opening tip, the two seniors will be introduced, and they will greet family members who can be in attendance. After the game, there will be a video tribute for Hughes and Bohannon, and let's face it, there are a lot of highlights to choose from.
Just looking at the stats, you will see that "JBo" and "Pop" are in Wisconsin's 1000-point club, with both reaching the milestone this season. When they play Iowa tomorrow evening, they will be going for victory number 103 as Badgers. If they are successful against the Hawkeyes, they would be two wins away from tying the school record for career victories, trailing only the Class of 2008 (Brian Butch, Michael Flowers, Greg Stiemsma and Tanner Bronson).
These two young men have been involved in a number of pressure games, including as true freshmen when they teamed up for a big hoop at the end of the first half at Ohio State in a battle of the #1 and #2 teams in the nation. They have been part of a Big Ten regular season and tournament championship squad. They are leading a team on pace to make the NCAA tournament for the 12th straight year.
Bohannon has gone from being the Big Ten's Sixth Man of the Year to a being critical member of the starting lineup. How critical? He has played at least 40 minutes in seven games this season. Early in his career, many considered Bohannon strictly a three-point shooter. Now he is that and so much more. After a recent game, Bo Ryan joked that when JBo was a freshman, he could not guard the baseline. Even the head coach now believes Bohannon has turned into a good defensive player. Bohannon also has a proven ability to put the ball on the floor. How many times have we seen him drive to the hoop? Quite a few, which is further proof of his overall development.
Everyone loves a buzzer-beating shot, and fans will forever remember Hughes for providing two of them (so far). Last season at Virginia Tech, and of course in the NCAA tournament against Florida State. His twisting, acrobatic shot while drawing contact in the closing seconds of overtime capped a thrilling comeback victory over the Seminoles. By his own admission, "Pop" has matured a great deal in his time in Wisconsin, both at St. John's Academy and at the University of Wisconsin.
Perhaps neither Hughes nor Bohannon would qualify as the most vocal leaders, but their teammates have been quick to praise both for how they have led by example this season. Without being asked, the younger Badgers have pointed to Hughes and Bohannon for helping the team get through the nine game stretch with Jon Leuer sidelined. While the two guards might not talk all the time, when they do have something to say, it is obvious the rest of the team has listened.
When the team doesn't perform well, these two seniors accept the blame, maybe even to a fault. When the team wins, which is most of the time, they deflect the praise to the rest of the team. Before last week's game at Indiana, I asked Bohannon if he was ready to be wearing a bullseye on his jersey. That can happen after you torch a team for 30 points, which is what happened in the first meeting. Bohannon said that could be the case, but if so, it just opens up opportunities for others. That is exactly what happened. For the first time since Game 9 of his sophomore season, Bohannon had no three-point attempts. His team won by 32 points, with five players, including Jason, scoring in double figures.
Hughes and Bohannon are two more examples of one of Bo Ryan's favorite sayings, "Just watch them grow." They certainly have, and with plenty of college basketball still ahead of them this season, no doubt the head coach will keep pushing them to grow some more.
That said, if you are lucky enough to have a ticket for Wednesday's game, be sure to get there a little early, and stay a little late. That way you can truly appreciate what these two young men have meant to Wisconsin basketball.