UW Health Sports Medicine 

The Voice: Even at 12-0, Badgers looking to be better


OK, I thought the Wisconsin men's basketball team had a chance to be good, but I will admit that the team's 12-0 start has me a bit surprised.

The victory last Saturday against Eastern Kentucky established the school's modern-era record, previously held by Stu Jackson's Badgers of the 1993-94 season. That group, led by players such as Michael Finley, Tracy Webster and Rashard Griffith, rolled through its first 11 games, breaking the 100-point mark four times.

Actually, the Badgers opened with consecutive games in triple digits. They started with a 106-84 thumping of Milwaukee. That was some payback for the Panthers beating Wisconsin the year before at the UW Field House. 

Game two was in Los Angeles, where the Badgers rolled Loyola Marymount 103-67. That was the same evening as the Wisconsin-Michigan State football game in Tokyo. Maybe you remember -- there was a Rose Bowl bid at stake for Barry Alvarez's squad. 

As the second half of the hoops tilt was progressing, even Stu wanted updates from Japan, so we helped him as best we could. It turned out to be a very good night for Badgers fans.

As impressive as the streak was 20 years ago -- and remember that team ended a 47-year NCAA tournament drought -- to me this season's start is even better.

Bo Ryan's bunch has navigated a very challenging schedule. Right away the Badgers faced St. John's, Florida and Green Bay. The Cancun Challenge was just that, as St. Louis and West Virginia provided stiff competition.

To say the least, the Virginia game was a grinder, and the annual battle with Marquette is never easy.

But, so far, the Badgers are unbeaten, and they have accomplished their record in a variety of ways.

While they are averaging just two more possessions per game than last season, it sure seems as though the Badgers are playing faster. Perhaps that is because the ball is going through the basket at a much better clip. Last year's team shot just 42 percent from the floor. The present squad is hitting 47 percent of its shots.

A major difference is at the free throw line. A staple of many of Bo Ryan's best teams -- at Wisconsin, Platteville or anywhere else -- is the ability to make more free throws than their opponents attempt.

At the 12-game mark, the Badgers have knocked down 196 throws, while opponents have ATTEMPTED just 166.

Last year's team shot just 63 percent from the foul line. It's at nearly 74 percent so far this season.

As Bo often says, it is amazing how good an offense looks when the shots are going down.

To this point in the season, the Badgers have been terrific at sharing the ball. The scoring balance is impressive. True freshmen Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig have proven they belong on the floor.

Frank Kaminsky has to be one of the nation's most improved players, and the return of Josh Gasser has helped in areas that will not show up in a box score.

The fact is every player has had a significant role, including those who are redshirting. To say the least, they have made for some very competitive practices.

I have been throwing out a lot of compliments so far, but I think the best part of this team is that it knows it can continue to get better.  

Talent, work ethic and the willingness to keep learning. That is a good combination, and it is making the Badgers a very enjoyable team to watch.

It makes fans very eager for the games to resume on Dec. 28.