Maryland is in Madison Saturday to take on the Wisconsin Badgers. The No. 3 Terrapins have won their first three conference games, and have been firing on all cylinders since barely escaping with a victory against Penn State.
TT: Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker left some big shoes to fill. How has Wisconsin tried to replace the scoring and all-around games of its two biggest contributors last season?
B5Q: There really isn't any way to replace Kaminsky and Dekker unless you're pulling in a recruiting class like Kentucky does. Even then, that's a tough task. Scoring-wise, forward Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig have taken over as the go-to players for the Badgers, but neither has quite lived up to expectations. Koenig is shooting just over 40 percent from the field and Hayes is sitting at 37 percent. Ethan Happ has been a double-double machine as a redshirt freshman, and the Badgers will utilize the illustrious mid-range game of forward Vitto Brown. For Wisconsin to turn things around, they're going to need better performances out of Hayes in particular on the offensive end. Defensively, the Badgers have been a pleasant surprise, especially after holding Indiana under 60 points, so losing Dekker and Kaminsky hasn't hurt them too much in that area.
TT: Has it quite sunk in that you're watching a team that isn't coached by Bo Ryan? How did fans receive his resignation? What's your favorite memory of the coach?
B5Q: There are noticeable differences between Ryan and interim head coach Greg Gard this season. Gard has the Badgers back to running the swing (at times) and goes much deeper into his bench. He's playing three players that Ryan rarely gave minutes to: guard Jordan Hill, forward Alex Illikainen and forward Aaron Moesch. It's still sinking in, but fans have warmed up to Gard quickly, as he has been around a long time. Regarding Ryan's retirement, fans were surprised by the timing, but not by the announcement itself. In June, Ryan announced he would coach one more season, so it was expected that he would step down relatively soon.
I would say I have two personal favorite Bo memories. The first one is a personal one from when I was a young kid and I first met Ryan. I was with my uncle--who played for Ryan at UW-Platteville--and met him after a Badgers scrimmage. He talked with us for a while, signed an autograph and we took a picture together. The other favorite memory is of Ryan on top of the ladder, cutting the net down after earning his first Final Four appearance in 2014. It was one of dozens of special moments during Wisconsin's two-year run.
TT: What's your opinion of Interim Head Coach Greg Gard? Do you think he'll get the permanent gig? (Keeping in mind that he's only coached four games and there's really no way to fully evaluate him yet.)
B5Q: I like the way the Badgers have played under Gard. They were competitive with Purdue until the very end and lost by only six. Then, they dominated Rutgers (as they should have) before falling short at Indiana by one point. It's too early to tell if Gard will get the job permanently, but if the Badgers continue to show improvement this season, then he would be in good standing. One key will be for Gard to figure out how to get Wisconsin rolling offensively, which has eluded them thus far.
TT: Redshirt freshman Ethan Happ seems to be a pleasant surprise for the Badgers so far. What have you thought of his performance this season, and what role do you think he'll have on the team in the coming years?
B5Q: Happ, like I mentioned above, is becoming a double-double machine with 11.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. He's aggressive on the boards and seems to find ways to score down low. Anyone that watched him during practices open to the media before the season will tell you his play isn't too much of a surprise. He looked like Wisconsin's best player at times. The Badgers tend to develop big men well, so it's exciting to think of where Happ will be by the time his junior season comes around.
The teams tip off at 1 p.m. on ESPN, and KenPom predicts Maryland will win by 2 points.