The 2017 East Region boasts an unorthodox final quartet. Mark already scoped out the region’s entirety, but none of that really matters. (Mark’s article is great – for sure. Good read. But, as far as “who is actually going to win the region,” none of that really matters).
You see, the East is Koenig’s. It’s time for the Badger senior PG.
He was part of the 2015 Wisconsin team that defeated the previously un-slayed Kentucky Wildcats in the Final Four, only to drop the Title Game to a group of Blue Devils. In 2016, he banged a bananas corner-3 as the round of 32 expired to clinch the Badgers’ spot in the Sweet 16, only to get edged by the Fighting Irish in the following round.
Sure, Badger mainstays Nigel Hayes and and Zak Showalter were on those teams, too, but Showalter rarely saw the floor, and despite Hayes’ late-game heroics against Villanova last weekend, his Badger career has been defined by underachievement. All of his three-point attempts are met with a collective groan from all of Madison, as the 6-8 tweener has had a tendency to float around the arc a bit too much.
I don’t live in Wisconsin, nor have I ever. My Wisconsin fandom has never existed beyond rooting for them within my Midwestern/Big Ten ties. But, I can’t help but feel that Koenig is the Badgers’ engine. He’s their leader, their star, their shot-maker, their winner… but most importantly, he’s theirs. I can only imagine he’s the most loved man in Madison, and Wisconsin as a whole.
His career stats aren’t gaudy. He’s been starting since the second half of his sophomore season, and he’s a career 44/39/81 shooter averaging 9.8 ppg. This year, he’s shooting 40% from beyond on 7.2 three-point attempts per night (that’s a lot of attempts) and tallying almost 15 ppg. He’s never been a true point guard, and his assist numbers reflect that, but Wisconsin’s offensive systems relies so much on feeding the post and relocating that it doesn’t require a point guard to really force facilitation.
Koenig’s definitely more of a scorer, and Wisconsin’s grinding pace results in too many long, long, contested threes at the end of the shot clock. He’s become accustom to hitting these early and often – go watch film from their win over Villanova on Saturday. In the first half, Koenig had defenders draped all over him… and he couldn’t miss. He’s an NBA-level shotmaker. I’m not saying he’s an NBA player, but his ability at 6-4 to seemingly get every shot up and in while pestered by double teams is uncanny.
As far as my “this college player has D’Angelo Russell ice water in his veins” rankings are concerned, I’m not sure anyone slots higher than Koenig. Frank Mason III? Luke Kennard? Joel Berry? Malik Monk? Maybe?
But, tie game, shot-clock off, the player I least want to see setting up for an isolation possession against my alma mater is Bronson Koenig. He’s an absolute killer. He’s got that mamba mentality.
The 2016-17 Badgers are coming of age at the perfect time. Nigel Hayes is working more on the block alongside sophomore sensation Ethan Happ, while Zac Showalter and Vitto Brown space the floor from the three. Per every Wisconsin team ever, they defend like there’s no tomorrow, and are NEVER outworked on the boards. But, what separates them from the Floridas, the Baylors, and the South Carolinas? #24 in red.
Koenig is a killer. He’s the most important player out East, and he’s carrying the Badgers straight to Phoenix.