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Kaminsky's scoring outburst of a lifetime

11/20/2013

We're not even a full three weeks into the college basketball season and it's possible we've already seen the offensive performance of the season.

And no, I'm not talking about Marcus Smart.

On Tuesday night, a vastly different player on a vastly different team -- Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky -- introduced himself to America. You could forgive America for doing that thing where you pretend to remember meeting someone before, because you don't remember them, but they give you the "Yeah, we met at that thing. Good to see you!" and force you to verbally audible from "Nice to meet you" to "Nice to see you again!" just in the nick of time.

Put less personally, Kaminsky's surge into Wisconsin's offense shouldn't come as a total shock. He was good last season, efficient in limited minutes. But Tuesday night? Tuesday night was genuinely, non-hyperbolically, capital-S shocking.

Kaminsky's final tally: 43 points on 16-of-19 shooting, 6-of-6 from 3, 5-of-6 from the free throw line, with three rebounds and a steal thrown in, because hey, why not?

Simply put, you don't get more efficient than that. Well, that's not technically true; I guess you can get more efficient if you can make all 19 of your shots and don't miss that lone free throw. (Bill Walton at UCLA comes to mind.) But you get the point: On Tuesday night against North Dakota, Kaminsky set the Wisconsin single-game scoring record of 43 on just 19 shots, and that fact alone makes it immensely unlikely anyone will surpass him for sheer individual scoring brilliance all season long.

Just as unlikely: Wisconsin scored 103 points in a 40-minute game of basketball. You know the knock on the Badgers by now: slow, obsessively careful, methodical almost to a fault. That style has served Bo Ryan well in his years at Wisconsin -- and rightfully so -- but it has made 100-point games in the Kohl Center as rare as mild winter days outside it.

Tuesday night was a rare exception. Not only were the Badgers clinically efficient -- they averaged 1.45 points per trip -- they pushed the pace (for them) up beyond the 70-possession mark. Don't expect that too often this season. Wisconsin will always be Wisconsin; North Dakota is, with all due respect, not a very good opponent -- hardly about which you would responsibly make sweeping conclusions.

But the flexibility the Badgers showed in speeding things up Tuesday night does speak to a larger point. This spring, Wisconsin lost three reliable seniors to graduation. It returned a stellar sophomore breakout candidate (Sam Dekker), a senior guard returning from injury (Josh Gasser), a reliable backcourt option (Ben Brust) and, to the casual eye, not a whole lot else. But this is what Ryan does: He keeps players waiting in the wings. In 2012-13, Kaminsky was an interesting stretch forward type, perfect for Ryan's swing motion, but he was excess to the team's needs. He scored 133 points all of last season.

He will score far more than that in 2013-14, and Wisconsin will still be good -- probably very good. Probably better than it was a season ago. How Ryan manages to do that year in and year out is a longer story and one for another day.

For Tuesday night, the story was Kaminsky and his offensive performance of a lifetime or, at the very least, the 2013-14 season. If you're waiting for something better, you're going to be waiting for quite some time.