As each game passes for No.3 Wisconsin, the games start to get a little more challenging. After Wisconsin (3-0) beat Green Bay on Wednesday by 24 points, the Badgers will welcome a talented Boise State team Saturday. Projected to finish second in the Mountain West Conference, the Broncos are led by Anthony Drmic, who is averaging 20.7 points and 5.3 rebounds, both team highs.
The Broncos are also undefeated (3-0) after winning their season opener against San Diego on a neutral site and beat Loyola Marymount on the road. The Broncos should not be intimidated by playing in the Kohl Center after their early season tests and after played a road game against Kentucky last year.
In this Badger Nation feature, we will look at the three keys or questions for Wisconsin as they play Boise State for the first time in program history.
Lay up: Can Wisconsin cause disruption?
Bo Ryan will tell you his team isn’t where it needs to be on defense. While he is right, the Badgers have played well as they continue to develop as a defensive team. Over the first three games Wisconsin has forced its opponents into coughing the basketball up an average of nine times a game.
That trend should continue with the Broncos are averaging 11 turnovers a game. Wisconsin, which is averaging 11 points off turnovers, having the ability to cause disruption should help limit the Broncos’ offensive consistency and make them work for their shots on offense.
Guard Mikey Thompson - second on the team in scoring (12 ppg) - is averaging a team high 2.7 turnovers off the bench. In fact, Thompson averages more turnovers a game then he does assists. Josh Gasser, Traevon Jackson and Bronson Koenig will all have their chance to defend Thompson and need to try and force mistakes. Success in that area should allow Wisconsin to get into transition and prevent Drmic from getting the basketball in his hands during a possession, as he has used his 6-6 frame to generate plenty of offense this season.
Mid-range jumper: Can Wisconsin receive better production from its bench?
It seems that Wisconsin has its rotation set now with Duje Dukan returning from his NCAA suspension, as Ryan will turn to either Koenig, Dukan and Vitto Brown as his top three off the bench with Zak Showalter close behind. Even though Wisconsin received nine points off the bench against Green Bay, with Dukan scoring a team-high five points in the second half, the scoring production does need to be better.
Dukan was the only player off the bench for Wisconsin to make a field goal. While Wisconsin receives balance scoring amongst its starters and the bench has proven that they are capable of doing other things that matter, going forward Wisconsin may someone to step in and provide offense if one of the starters struggles when it enters the more difficult parts of its schedule.
It is surprising that Koenig hasn’t been more of a factor scoring the basketball, as he has chosen to set up his teammates instead of driving to the basket. He is third on the team with 2.3 assists a game. As he showed toward the end of last year, Koenig has added a more aggressive style to his game where he was able to attack and get to the basket.
It should only be a matter of time before that changes. If Koenig can start attacking the glass, he can help set up Frank Kaminsky or Nigel Hayes around the hoop and help draw fouls. Kaminsky and Hayes have both shown they have the ability to draw fouls around the basketball. That could mean a long night for 6-11 Kevin Allen or 6-10 David Wacker.
3-pointer: Sam Dekker and Hayes against Drmic?
Drmic is a projected first-team All Mountain West player, and he has shown why through three games with his stats and the ability to play either the guard position or possibly small forward depending on the lineup.
The 6-6 Drmic’s versatility will make it interesting to see how Wisconsin’s matchups change throughout the game, as Sam Dekker could possibly defend him at times or Hayes. Both will need to do a good job of making sure Drmic stays in front and limit his separation, as Drmic is shooting 50 percent from the field, 39.1 percent from 3-point range and averages six free throws a game.
Dekker will likely get most of the work on Drmic, and the junior can use his length to cut off passing and driving lanes. Remain disciplined and consistent defensively have been two things Dekker has struggled with during his Wisconsin tenure, so this will be a good test to see how he has improved since last season.
Even if Drmic gets to the rim, the Badgers have the interior size to make things difficult for any opponent. Hayes has four blocks on the year and the ability to play help defense will be important with the Broncos being able to match Wisconsin’s size and average 33.6 rebounds a game.
The Broncos rely heavily on Drmic, averaging 39.3 minutes a game, so Wisconsin having versatile, athletic bigs is an advantage for the Badgers as they try to wear Drmic down as the game goes on.