After four years and 150 games, the careers of Wisconsin Basketball’s senior class of Bronson Koenig, Nigel Hayes, Zak Showalter, and Vitto Brown are over. It hurts to write. It’s almost surreal knowing that they will never wear a Badger jersey again. This senior class will go down as perhaps the most accomplished class in Wisconsin Basketball history. They made two Final Fours and four Sweet Sixteens. They helped make the transition from the Bo Ryan era to the Greg Gard era as seamless and painless as possible.
Despite the fact that all four seasons ended in heartbreak (Aaron Harrison, Duke, Notre Dame collapse, Chiozza), this senior class was an absolute joy to watch. They gave Wisconsin fans some great memories and moments that will be treasured forever. I decided to rank the top 10 moments from the Wisconsin Senior class, starting with 10-6.
- Zak Showalter put-back slam against Notre Dame
- 2015-16 upset over Diamond Stone and #2 Maryland on the road, cemented by Vitto Brown’s breakaway dunk.
- Bronson Koenig’s personal 10-0 run with six minutes to go to beat Michigan
Number 10: Bronson Koenig Game-Winner against VCU
— Mike Lee (@mikeleehoops) November 23, 2015
Bronson Koenig is the most clutch player in Wisconsin Basketball history, and it isn’t particularly close. Every time the Badgers needed a big bucket, Koenig came through. This spin and finish against VCU in the 2015 2K Classic was a perfect example of that. I could make a separate top-ten list of just Koenig clutch plays if I wanted to, but this one was definitely my favorite regular season one.
Number 9: Showy Game-Tying Three/Discount Double Check
This was such an amazing, epic play. It deserves to go down in Wisconsin history as more than just a footnote. This probably would have been featured on One Shining Moment if not for what came minutes later. Ugh. But that still doesn’t take away from how great this play was. It also capped off the furious comeback from 12 down with five minutes to go and seven down with two minutes to go. This team was all fight and all heart. There was just no quit. Ever. That, along with the play which tied it, deserves to be remembered and celebrated.
Number 8: Off the court stars
As good as this group was on the hardwood, they will be remembered just as much for what they did off of it. Again this could have been an entirely separate article, but I decided to combine it all into one category.
Nigel Hayes was the best personality in college hoops. It started with his funny, goofy “Nigel Burgundy” videos that made waves during their first Final Four run. Then came his stenographer incidents that made him a national media darling in the second final four run. Hayes was a joy to follow. But it wasn’t just his funny moments that made him special.
Whether you agreed or disagreed with his politics, his ability to stand up for what he believes in and defend his position eloquently was remarkable. The difference he made in the Shultz family’s life was also truly special.
Like Hayes, Koenig was also able to make a huge difference outside of basketball. His role in being a role model and leader for young Native Americans everywhere is far more important than anything he has done on the court. Vitto Brown was also no slouch off the court. His rendition of the National Anthem before the 2015 Final Four was beautiful.
This Wisconsin senior class represented the school with outstanding class, and made me proud to be a Badger.
Number 7: Seniors Carry Load against Virginia Tech
In a tight NCAA Tournament game, Wisconsin’s seniors did exactly what they were supposed to do: Lead. Bronson Koenig had a career-high 28 points, including a Wisconsin NCAA Tournament recored eight three-pointers. Nigel Hayes chipped in 16 points and 10 rebounds. With sophomore Ethan Happ in foul trouble, Wisconsin’s dynamic senior duo stepped up and carried the Badgers to the finish line.
Number 6: 2015 Big Ten Championship Game
For most of the 2015-16 season, Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig served as role players. They were good, but it was Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker that carried the load. With the Badgers facing their biggest deficit of the entire season, it was Koenig and Hayes that stepped up and took over the game. Bronson Koenig had 18-points and a career-high nine assists. He also hit the two clutch (surprise, surprise) to send the game into overtime. Meanwhile, Hayes had a game-high 25 points. That game, the highest rated non-NCAA tournament game of the season, gave the Badgers momentum and confidence heading into the Big Dance. It also showed Badger fans what was to come post-Frank, Sam, and Josh.