Four years ago, when I started my college career at Madison, I was super excited that Sam Dekker was going to be our star basketball player. When Frank Kaminsky outscored him a handful of times at the beginning of the year, I thought it was a fluke. I had seen Dekker play in high school and AAU, he was also in the lottery of several mock drafts. He had massive expectations around campus, but Frank Kaminsky turned out to be the truth and a dominant college player.
These two would anchor the team, but in the background, working tirelessly, were Hayes and Koenig. Neither of the Final Fours happen without these two, especially the second Final Four. Showalter and Brown would play parts in the second one and have been integral parts of the team the last two years. None were top 100 recruits, Koenig at 111th the highest, Vitto and Showalter were both in the mid-200s. None of these numbers were indicative of what this foursome would do at Madison, frankly they exceeded most peoples expectations for them.
Koenig became the all time program leader in 3PM, surpassing Ben Brust, and he has been a quality starter for Wisconsin the entirety of his career. Hayes is now a top-5 scorer in program history and was the Big Ten freshmen of the year. These two have had extremely decorated careers, each have won games for Wisconsin in their time. Both have made all Big-Ten teams at different points in their career. Bottom line: they are great basketball players and Wisconsin has been lucky to have them for all four years.
These guys have overseen one of the most successful stretches in program history and eased the transition between coaches. There was barely a blip in program success as the Badgers went from a HOF coach in Ryan to a guy with no D1 coaching experience in Gard. The Badgers did not miss a beat making the Sweet Sixteen and having a real shot at the Elite Eight.
In this one and done era, many believe you need 5* recruits to succeed, this senior class is proof that veteran leadership can get a lot done for a program. Next year will bring lots of questions, as the team loses 4 of their top 5 in minutes played. This senior class is not done yet, and this fan would not be surprised if they added some hardware to the trophy case in Madison.