Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, April 10, 2015

It was no shock to see the report today that Wisconsin?s Sam Dekker is turning pro. He had to. His stock never will be higher after a breakout NCAA tourney in which he averaged 19.1 points and made 15-of-36 3-pointers in helping the Badgers reach the national championship game. Now what for Wisconsin?

Bo Ryan never has finished lower than fourth place in the Big Ten since becoming Wisconsin coach in 2001-02. But he?ll face a roster with some yawning holes next season, putting that remarkable ?top four? streak in jeopardy.

In addition to losing Dekker, who had a season of eligibility left after averaging 13.9 points and 5.5 rebounds in 2014-15, the Badgers also will bid adieu to national player of the year Frank Kaminsky, Josh Gasser, Traevon Jackson and Duje Dukan. That?s a lot of experience and production for a program coming off consecutive Final Four appearances.

Ryan will build around juniors Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes in 2015-16 coming off a national title game loss to Duke. Brevin Pritzl is a touted freshman who should help, too.

Where will this team finish next season? I recently took an early look at how I thought the Big Ten race would shape up next season. And I pegged the Badgers to finish fifth, which drew the ire of many. How dare I pick Wisconsin to finish any lower than fourth, was the general tenor and tone of most emails I received.

We shall see what happens to the Badgers coming off this magical season that saw Wisconsin finish 36-4 overall and win the Big Ten with a 16-2 mark. I wouldn?t be shocked if Ryan can coax another top-four Big Ten finish out of this program. But a Big Ten title? That seems like a lofty goal. Even a second-, third- or fourth-place finish seem difficult, with Maryland, Michigan State, Michigan and Indiana all looking loaded.

Let?s see what Ryan has got. If he finishes first or second in 2015-16, it may be his best coaching job yet in Madison-and that?s saying a lot.


About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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