1. Don't get Frank Kaminsky in a foul mood.
Kaminsky said he was "pissed" about his second foul in the first half against the Sooners that sent him to the bench. He played only six minutes and took only two shots. Kaminsky had struggled in the previous game against Georgetown, going 1-of-8 from the field, and was not effective against the Hoyas’ Joshua Smith. Kaminsky had essentially sat nearly an hour of real time before he started the second half against Oklahoma. He could have been stale by the time he played.
"I was frustrated, to be honest," Kaminsky said. "But I realized it was a close game and I needed to be the best player that I could be for our team and win the game. I tried to come out in the second half and bring some energy. I had a lot of rest time, so I had fresh legs and I just tried to make some plays happen."
Kaminsky was sensational in the second half and finished with 17 points, making three 3-pointers and maximizing the time he spent on the floor. While he failed to look even like an All-American against the Hoyas, he played the part of a possible player of the year in every sense in the final 20 minutes Friday against Oklahoma.
Kaminsky is also relishing the role as a power player for the Badgers. The confidence oozes with each answer. When asked about what kind of statement the Badgers gave to Duke in preparation for Wednesday's ACC-Big Ten Challenge showdown in Madison, Wisconsin, Kaminsky said, "We're coming." Duke is actually the team traveling, but Kaminsky could have easily said they've arrived.
2. Traevon Jackson is still a viable option.
Jackson has a legitimate challenger for his minutes in sophomore Bronson Koenig. Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan played them together some this week, but he also won't hesitate to bring in Koenig for Jackson. However, Jackson shrugged off a subpar, foul-plagued game against Georgetown and was a difference-maker again. He scored 13 points, made six shots, including a 3-pointer, and had a solid assist-to-turnover ratio of 8-3 in the victory over the Sooners.
The Badgers have tremendous senior leadership with Jackson and Josh Gasser as lead guards. Koenig plays like a senior, too. Having multiple options at various positions will make the Badgers only tougher to beat.
3. The Badgers are deep and working together.
Duje Dukan could have made a strong case for MVP of the Battle 4 Atlantis with his play off the bench. His spot-up shooting was extremely difficult for the Sooners to defend. Dukan scored 13 points in 33 minutes. He's essentially a sixth starter. His two 3s against Georgetown came in timely fashion and helped the Badgers avoid a possible loss. Dukan plays with such poise and can spot up and bury shots from anywhere around the perimeter.
Dukan just wants to do anything that can help the team win. He can score, he can rebound and he can pass. He also has deceptively active hands and came up with two steals.
Dukan isn't the only one whose value continues to rise. Nigel Hayes is proving to be an integral piece of this puzzle. Hayes had a clutch finish to beat Georgetown. He grabbed seven boards and did a little bit of everything in the win over the Sooners. His attitude is perfect for this team. He adds levity, maybe as much as Kaminsky does.
This is a team that gets how to play, travel and practice together. Kaminsky said earlier in the week the fact that the whole team went to the beach upon its arrival Monday and spent the time all together wouldn't have happened a year ago. And last season's team went to the Final Four.
"I think we have great leadership on this team," Kaminsky said.
"I've been pretty fortunate over my career to have players who understand, and I think our guys stay in the moment, which then rolls into the game," Ryan said.
4. How the Badgers manage Sam Dekker's minutes will be interesting to watch.
Dekker has had a nagging ankle injury. He doesn't do everything in practice, and there are times he appears to be laboring a tad. But he still dove on the floor for loose balls and doesn't mind sacrificing his body. He wants to be on the floor as much as possible. The Badgers don't have many breaks upcoming, with Duke Wednesday and consecutive road games at Marquette and Milwaukee. They do have only one game over a 12-day stretch in mid-December. If there is ever a time for Dekker to get healthy, it could be then. He hasn't shown his productivity is off that much, as he scored 11 points against the Sooners and 17 against Georgetown.
5. Oklahoma needs to solve a few offensive issues.
The Sooners showed they had a few more options in the victory over Butler on Thursday. But they had problems finding the hot hand, or at least anyone they could count on for stretches, in the loss to the Badgers. A lot of that credit goes to Wisconsin's defense. But Buddy Hield's 2-of-11 game, combined with Isaiah Cousins going 3-of-11 and the team shooting 5-of-20 on 3s meant a lack of offensive flow for Oklahoma.
The Sooners will be in the Big 12 mix with Kansas, Texas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Baylor and suddenly-surging West Virginia in the most wide-open race of any conference. But there is certainly room for tweaks. Getting Houston transfer TaShawn Thomas more acclimated into the offense inside, to offset the grit and garbage work of Ryan Spangler, will help.
"We need to re-evaluate things offensively, primarily," Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. "We like where we're headed defensively and will continue improving on the defensive end of the floor."
Ryan said after the game Oklahoma will win a lot of games. He's right. The victories over UCLA and Butler should indicate this program is on the rise.