So after No.14 Wisconsin flattened its second straight nonconference opponent, the second being a 68-41 thrashing over Colgate Wednesday at the Kohl Center, the Badgers have outscored the competition 153-72 and have trailed a grand total of 13 seconds.
But while fans may not have learned much other than Wisconsin can beat up on the undermanned, less talented programs that are willing to take a paycheck to get a Kohl Center beating (the Badgers have now won 21 straight at home and are 154-11 (.933) at home under coach Bo Ryan), the Badgers are learning plenty about the makeup of what they hope is a championship caliber team.
"We know that we have got some different pieces than last year, especially with Ben Brust shooting the ball from outside," senior Jordan Taylor said. "I don't know if we really had that last year and Jared Berggren playing with his back to the basket the way he can down there. "Defensively, it's a work in progress, trying to improve on things and trying to stay locked in on defense." The learning lessons were on display in full force thanks to Brust leading the Badgers (2-0) in scoring for the second straight game and igniting things from the opening tip. After opening the last game on a 41-8 run, the Badgers opened by hitting 9 of their first 15 shots, four from three, to take all the suspense out early with a 24-6 run.
Four of Brust's six first-half attempts were made three-pointers and two of his steals lead him to two more scoring opportunities, facilitating both ends of production himself. In all, Wisconsin made 10 of 23 3-pointers (43.5 percent) and has made 25 in the first two games of the season.
"I don't think there was one three in there that was a bad three," Ryan said. "If that's what the defense is giving us, we'll take it."
Colgate (1-1) never got closer than 12 after the opening run based on the fact that the Badgers' defense has been stingy, having allowed only 28 combined first-half points. Leading the Big Ten in scoring defense in three of the last four years and ranked in the nation's top 10 in seven of the past 10 years, Raiders coach Matt Langel called it ‘a perfect game for us to play' to set the tone for their season.
"Wisconsin's program, what Coach Ryan stands for, what his players year-in and year-out do on and off the floor is really a model for college basketball in my mind," he said. "Certainly if we could ever get our basketball program to be the Wisconsin of the Patriot League, I'll feel really good about where we're at.
"Fundamentally over the course of time, they are always going to make you make difficult shots."
One thing that has been realized is that Wisconsin might have the deepest backcourt in the country. Not only do the Badgers have the benefit of an All-American in Taylor and more experience in sophomore Josh Gasser, but the feverish production from Brust has been brought on by his confidence.
Previously admitting in hindsight that he probably could have redshirted after appearing in just 15 games as a true freshman, Brust is making up for lost time, setting career highs in points in back-to-back games.
"I definitely got it going in the first half of both games so far," said Brust, who has gone 4-for-8 from three-point range in each of the first two games this year and is averaging 15.5 points per game. "I might need to change up what I am doing in the second half. It's been nice to get out there and get comfortable with the guys."
While Brust appeared to just need some time on the floor, it appeared all Bruesewitz needed was a buzz cut. Shaving his fan-favorite red afro to look more rugged for the season, the junior forward has stepped into the role of departed senior Tim Jarmusz in doing the team's dirty work, adding a little scoring pop in the process.
He rotated over to take a charge on 6-11 forward John Brandenburg, converted offense rebounds into easy points and scored eight points in 28 minutes. Combine with the play of Jared Berggren, who crushed his previous career highs of seven shot attempts and four rebounds with 9 points (4-for-13) and seven rebounds, a post area that was maligned before the season has shown high potential.
"Guys knocking shots down outside opens things up for me inside to hopefully face some one-on-one coverage," said Berggren.
Even senior Rob Wilson gave timely production. When Wisconsin started the first half shooting 1 of 14 and scoring just two points in an 8 minute, 20 second span, Wilson converted offensive rebounds on back-to-back possessions for four points, jump starting a 15-4 run that put a few more nails in the Raiders coffin.
"He got some hustle opportunities," Ryan of Wilson, who finished with six points. "Whenever a guy comes in off the bench, his goal is to stay solid (on the defensive end) and make some things happen. He hunted a few of them down."
With two days to prepare for a home game against Wofford for the first round of the Chicago Invitational Challenge, expect the focus to resume at the free throw line.
A year after being ranked No.1 in the country by shooting 81.8 percent from the free-throw line, coming up just three made free throws short of breaking the all-time record, Wisconsin went 4-for-14 (28.6) from the line, as six different players missed at least one free throw.
"Free throw percentages have a lot to do with who is shooting and when," Ryan said. "You need to have more of a sample size to look at a percentage from the free throw line. We didn't shoot them very well … It's always something for you guys to talk about. We have to be better, and they know it.
"We were in position to cover mistakes. You don't always get to do that."