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Friday, April 12, 2024
Bronson Koenig

Basketball Preview: Finding the fifth starter

Ben Brust’s departure has left a hole in the Badgers’ starting lineup. To whom will Bo Ryan turn to fill it—physical forward Nigel Hayes or floor general Bronson Koenig?

Hayes for Days

Both players earned similar minutes and provided sparks off the bench last season, but Hayes’ play demonstrated he should fill the starting position.

Coming off the bench all season long last year, Hayes still managed to lead the team in steals while also ranking third in blocked shots. He did this while averaging nearly half the minutes as the five starters.

The team’s defense benefits tremendously from his presence, as he was successful at defending some of the conference’s toughest scorers last season. Koenig is certainly no slouch defensively, but he just doesn’t have the physicality that Hayes brings night in and night out.

Besides his defense, another factor that separates Hayes from Koenig is his rebounding ability, as Hayes more than doubled Koenig’s rebounding averages last season. Because Brust was one of the team’s best rebounders, this even further increases the demand for Hayes’ rebounding abilities.

Lastly, Hayes proved that he is a tremendous scorer. From his creative inside play, to his pretty midrange jump shot, he established himself as one of the team’s biggest scoring threats. As a freshman, he averaged 7.7 points per game, to Koenig’s 3.5.

Koenig has shown that he can be a dynamic scorer too, but it came only in flashes last season. Hayes proved to be a consistent scorer and I expect the same from him this season.

Blake Duffin

Koenig Is the Key

Last season, head coach Bo Ryan opted to start three guards: Traevon Jackson, Ben Brust and Josh Gasser. With Brust gone and with as much success as the Badgers had last season, plugging Bronson Koenig in as the two-guard would make a lot of sense.

Averaging 15.5 minutes per game as a true freshman, Koenig was the first guard off the bench last season. His ball handling ability is excellent and he is comfortable running the point.

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Koenig is careful with the ball, logging 41 assists against just 18 turnovers, good for a 2.3 assist-to-turnover ratio, putting him in line with other Wisconsin guards, as Jackson had a 1.8 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Koenig’s strength is his ability to make something happen with the ball in his hands in the mold of Jordan Taylor and Traevon Jackson. With Jackson on the bench for much of the first half against Kentucky in the Final Four, Koenig stepped up in a big way, scoring 11 points.

While Koenig is not Brust when it comes to shooting the ball from three, by the end of the season when he was more comfortable in the offense, Koenig hit a three in every game in the NCAA Tournament while also going 4-4 from deep in the Big Ten tournament against Minnesota.

Whether playing as the sixth man or starting, Koenig will be a key contributor this season and if he can continue his improvement, then the Badgers will be in great shape to make another deep tournament run.

Brian Weidy

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