Kelsey Fenton / The Badger HeraldThe hangover has faded, all but disappeared. Spring football and an intriguing quarterback battle has replaced the dark memories of a certain game in Kansas City that’s buried in the furthest reaches of every Wisconsin fan’s mind after less than three weeks.Like every college socialite who pledges to never again let alcohol come within temptation’s reach the morning after a particularly rowdy night on State Street only to renege on that promise the following night, it’s amazing how quickly fans can forget such sour memories. With the mourning period of Wisconsin’s ugly loss to Ole Miss in its opening game of the NCAA tournament finished, it’s time to look forward with unbridled optimism, to let imaginations run wild with what could be.Such is the cycle of sports and even my own cynical mind is not averse to dreaming about what the near future holds for Wisconsin men’s basketball. Though this may be the natural mental cycle for any overcommitted sports fan, the combination of experience and raw talent returning has set the stakes enticingly high for next season.Much of that bubbling optimism can be credited to one player: Sam Dekker. As a true freshman, he was the Badgers’ most efficient scorer and managed to fulfill the promise he came in with as one of the country’s top 20 recruits. Despite ranking sixth on the team in minutes (22.3 per game), his 9.6 points per game were just 1.5 below that of UW’s leading scorer, junior guard Ben Brust.The even more telling number was 47.8 percent, Dekker’s team-leading field goal percentage. Pair that with a 40.7 percent conversion rate from three-point territory in the regular season, fifth-best in the Big Ten and a full percentage point better than Brust, who still earned a reputation as Wisconsin’s most dangerous sharpshooter.More importantly, anyone who watches Dekker for any significant period sees the potential for him to become an offensive anchor in 2013-14, the kind of pure scorer this year’s team lacked. It’s no coincidence that he led the team in shooting percentage. His refreshing aggression and ability to create his own shot opened up lanes to the hoop and gave him higher percentage looks closer to the basket.But Dekker must first be given a leash long enough to allow him to showcase his rare offensive talent. It was no secret Dekker’s flaky defense kept him from starting as a freshman, and though head coach Bo Ryan should have no reason to hold him back next year, it’s about the only thing that could keep him from a breakout sophomore campaign. If Dekker doesn’t lead the team in scoring (and even shot attempts) next year, it would be a surprise.Next most important on the list of returnees is junior guard Josh Gasser. After missing his entire junior campaign, Gasser is not critical to this team so much for his scoring ability, but for the stabilizing presence he brings to the floor. He is the grandfather-like figure, the calming voice in the huddle when the Badgers are down 10 on the road in a decisive conference game late in the season. As a sophomore two years ago, Gasser was on the floor more than 80 percent of the time.His 7.6 points and 1.9 assists per game should both improve in his third year as a starter. While his point totals are not overwhelming, he can drive to the basket with regularity – a skill that was in short supply on this year’s team. Now sharing the hardwood with an electric scorer like Dekker, Gasser should become an even distributor as he becomes more comfortable manning the point.By now you may be wondering why I haven’t made more than a brief mention of Brust. He will be a key accessory in next year’s backcourt, but if the offense operates as planned, he should be Wisconsin’s third scoring option. He can be an absolute lights-out shooter, especially when he gets his feet set – like the Badgers’ version of Nik Stauskas.Yet Brust was often reluctant to penetrate the lane instead of settling for an outside look (61.5 percent of his shot attempts were three-pointers this season) and is best suited for a “pure shooter” role with Gasser back in the lineup. He is the type of player who will erupt on a few nights for 20-plus points and keep opposing defenses honest by forcing them to defend beyond the three-point arc.Next comes a player who best fits the “wild card” designation: junior forward Frank Kaminsky. Still a slender 230 pounds, the 6-foot-11 forward is the closest thing Wisconsin will have to a true scoring threat in the post next year.He is by no stretch a traditional big man, but if Kaminsky trades in his trigger-happy three-pointers for better looks in the paint, he could become a dynamic offensive player who creates serious matchup issues. He is by far the least experienced of the five probable starters, averaging just more than 10 minutes per game in 2012-13, and needs to make bigger strides than any other projected starter for this unit to shift into its highest gear.Leading the race for that fifth spot on the floor is Traevon Jackson. Jackson, a shooting guard by trade, did an admirable job taking on the starting point guard spot after Gasser went down. The sophomore also never shied away from the big moment, hitting game-winning shots against Penn State and Minnesota.The guard-heavy rotation seems like the best option unless incoming freshman Nigel Hayes or Vitto Brown show they are well ahead of the steep freshman curve – unlikely considering even Dekker did not pass that test. Aside from the relatively inexperienced Kaminsky, each of these players has averaged at least 6.9 points per game. Together, this could bring a sizable jump in offensive production (dare I say, more than 70 points a game?) for a team that unraveled due to a complete lack of consistent scoring.Let the visions of Dekker’s high-flying slams off a nifty no-look pass from Gasser and followed by a punch-in-the-gut deep three-pointer by Brust take hold. Because this is the season of speculation, and with the NCAA tournament finished, what else are we supposed to do?The cycle turns on.Ian is a senior majoring in journalism. What are your predictions for next year’s basketball team? Let him know by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @imccue.
The University of Wisconsin volleyball team (9-2) continued their road stand as they traveled to West Lafayette, Indiana, where they defeated the No. 16 Purdue Boilermakers (13-1) 3–0 Saturday night.The Wisconsin offense and hitting staff got off to an early start in the first set with the Badgers jumping out to a 13–5 run. It wasn’t just one hitter taking charge, as a cumulative effort came from Dana Rettke, Tionna Williams and Madison Duello all recording kills in the opening run.The Boilermakers attempted to creep back into the set, responding with a 5–1 run and capitalizing on Badger errors. However, the Badgers cleaned up those uncommon errors quickly, as they would respond with a 6–0 run led by Sydney Hilley getting all her hitters involved and even recording a sneaky kill of her own.Volleyball: Badgers falter in tough matchup versus No. 6 Gophers, Purdue up nextThe University of Wisconsin women’s volleyball team had a tough start to their brutal road trip on Wednesday night. No. Read…In a set of runs, the Badgers led 23–14 before they let Purdue come back into set one. A Boilermaker 10–1 run made the score 24–23. Wisconsin, knowing the first set is crucial in gaining the initial momentum edged out the Boilermakers first set 25–23.The second set continued a competitive matchup between two of the top Big Ten teams. With Hilley recording, the first two kills of the set for the Badgers, Rettke and company took over. Taking advantage of nine Purdue errors throughout the set, the Badgers battled to a six-point win in the second set finishing 25–19.With Wisconsin up two sets to none, Purdue was facing their first home court sweep barring a comeback. Even though the Boilermakers led most of the third set, it was never by more than four points. A late 6–2 run by the Badgers tied the third set at 23 and made a shutout sweep seem increasingly likely.Men’s soccer: Badgers grind out road win over Marquette, look toward Michigan StateThe University of Wisconsin men’s soccer (4–4–1, 1–1 Big Ten) claimed their second consecutive road win with a 1–0 victory Read…After dropping the swing point to Purdue making it 24–23 Boilermakers, the Badgers rallied back with three straight kills from Duello. Wisconsin went on to win the third set 26–24 and sweep the Boilermakers 3–0.Stat leaders for the Badgers include Rettke with 15 kills and two aces, Danielle Hart with four blocks and Hilley with a total 33 assists through three sets. Molly Haggerty also showed her versatility on both sides of the ball as the leading passer with 10 digs from the back row.After facing their fifth ranked opponent of the season, the schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Badgers. 3–2 against ranked opponents this season and 1–1 against Big Ten ranked opponents, Wisconsin’s next matchup will be pivotal in increasing both of those records.Football: Wisconsin’s path to playoff anything but unprecedentedAfter the gut-wrenching loss to Brigham Young University, it’s easy to see how one could assume that the Badger’s season Read…The Badgers will face their third ranked opponent in a row in their third consecutive road game as they travel to No. 7 Illinois Wednesday. The Fighting Illini have faced a total of six ranked opponents this season, dropping just one of those matches. The most recent loss was to No. 3 Nebraska as they will look to regain momentum against Wisconsin Wednesday night.Wisconsin will have to shut down Fighting Illini big hitter Jacqueline Quade. The 6’2” junior outside hitter sits third in the Big Ten with 4.16 kills per set and has 229 kills on the season so far.The match will take place Wednesday at 8 p.m. from Urbana-Champaign, Illinois.
Last but not least, 100 Thieves will be hoping to steal a trophy or two as they officially enter the franchise system. Led by the esports experience of Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag, and the sporting expertise of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the organisation has already secured the services of pr0lly, one of the most respected coaches in the LCS.Unfortunately, the acceptance of so many new brands comes at the cost of old ones, the most contentious of which was undoubtedly Immortals’ exit from the NA LCS. The team has since made a statement on its dismissal, in which Noah Whinston addressed the fans and urged them to continue to support the organisation in other endeavours.Esports Insider says: It’s been a real rollercoaster for the NA LCS since the franchise system was announced; finally, that ride comes to an end, just in time for all the juicy drama of off-season player transfers to kick in. Good luck to all ten organisations who made the cut, and even more to those who didn’t. We look forward to seeing the NA LCS reach even greater heights under the new system. It’s been a long time coming, but amidst the dramatic hubbub of a crazy start to the transfer window, North American LCS teams have been making official statements on their bids into the new franchise system.Copyright – ESL | Helena KristianssonIn case you haven’t heard, the NA League of Legends Championship Series will be reformatting from 2018 onwards, with the league franchising and existing teams forced to compete with fresh applicants for spots in the new system.The news was followed by a steady stream of reports last month that leaked the supposed successful entrants, which reached a finale on the 20th of October as the Houston Rockets were the tenth and last application rumoured to have been granted a spot.Those reports have finally been granted credence as Riot Games made an official team announcement down on the corner of the LoL Esports site. The page includes a brief introduction to each organisation, some social links, and groovy wallpapers which also give us a glimpse into the new team logos.The teamsThe Golden Guardians come from arguably the NBA’s biggest team, and they’ll be hoping to replicate the success of the Golden State Warriors in League of Legends. The team has just announced Hunter Leigh as the head of its esports division to lend them his know-how in their pursuit of success.Echo Fox have confirmed their re-entry. The team was recently included as part of an investment partnership between Vision Esports and the New York Yankees. A dramatic announcement video features some spicy words from famous owner Rick Fox, who has one simple goal: to win.Clutch Gaming (previously rumoured to be called Clutch City Gaming) are the squad bankrolled by the Houston Rockets, and they’re already “looking forward to kicking ass”. They will also rock one of the tastiest logos in the NA LCS.It’s definitely no surprise to see Team SoloMid back in the league. The team is one of the most established and well known esports organisations in the world, and have dominated the NA LCS since its inception. Their announcement was accompanied by a video from Reginald promising an increase in budget, which is sure to please TSM fans.Fan favourites Cloud9 are another squad looking to build on past success in North America. They have attended every Worlds since storming into the NA LCS in 2013, a history that doesn’t look too shabby when recounted in their video announcement.FlyQuest are a team who some were surprised to see make the cut, but news of their successful application to franchising was accompanied by a heart-on-sleeve open letter, in which they promised “We WILL do better”. A video heavily featuring AD carry Wildturtle might suggest they are looking to build a new team (or brand) around him, and accompanies a fresh new logo. Team Liquid are back “with something to prove”, and it certainly seems that way after the team has seemingly been involved with every rumoured player purchase in the offseason so far. Their announcement was embellished by a pair of videos with quotes and memes aplenty, including a terrific shot of co-CEO and co-owner Steve Arhancet shooting dollar bills whilst a dirty dubstep beat drops in the background. 10/10.Famed FPS powerhouse OpTic Gaming make their entry into League of Legends official. The organisation is reputed for having one of the fiercest followings in esports, and now the Green Wall is coming to the NA LCS.It wouldn’t be the LCS without Counter Logic Gaming, and CLG is back for another run at success. The oldest competitive League of Legends team will again take to the Rift on the North American stage, and they have a lot of history to live up to.