Red-White Scrimmage: Koenig impresses, sophomores look more comfortable, Van Vliet from 3 & more

MADISON — The Wisconsin basketball held its Red-White Scrimmage on Sunday at the Kohl Center with the Red team coming out on top 48-46.

Some observations:

1) Koenig impresses

There’s been a lot of talk about Bronson Koenig and the work he put in during the offseason to remake his body, and in turn, become a more complete player. It was just a glorified practice, but the senior showed his time was well spent.

He had the play of the game, crossing over his defender to get into the lane and then delivering a no-look pass to Alex Illikainen for a layup. Koenig also drilled a pair of 3-pointers, finishing with a team-high 16 points, including 14 in the first half.

“Yeah, a little bit,” Koenig said when asked if that effort was what he was hoping to show fans. “I had glimpses here and there, but I didn’t show everything yet.”

Koenig added that this was the first extended time the team has played 5-on-5 this fall, and it showed at times with what appeared to be some miscommunications that led to him turning the ball over seven times. Still, the first glimpse of Koenig’s makeover lived up to expectations.

2) Second-year players look more comfortable

As you’d expect, the guys that saw time last year as true freshmen look much more comfortable this year.

Khalil Iverson showed increased confidence in getting into the lane and drawing contact, and with his improved stroke from the free throw line, was able to make the other team pay for it. The sophomore also handled the ball well, dishing out four assists and did not have a turnover. His work with the ball was an offseason focus and he might be able to get some time running the point like he did in high school.

Charlie Thomas, or as he’s apparently going by this year, Charles Thomas IV, drilled the one 3-pointer he took, while Illikainen was a perfect 4 of 4 from the field, and grabbed seven rebounds. The battle for playing time between these two will be among the more interesting stories to watch here in the preseason.

3) Van Vliet shows his range

After being forced to sit out last season, sophomore Andy Van Vliet made his presence felt early, drilling a pair of 3-pointers — both of them bank shots — and he ended up with a total of 7 points and pulled in 8 rebounds.

“I don’t think we can count on banking in 3’s all the time,” coach Greg Gard quipped afterwards.

Van Vliet’s length is something last year’s team was missing. The 7-footer can affect shots in the lane, and as he puts more weight on (he’s up 25 pounds to 225), could become a force inside and out.

4) Freshmen show glimpses

Wisconsin’s two true freshmen scholarship players each showed why Gard and company wanted them.

At 6-foot-7, Aleem Ford is long and athletic, blocking a pair of shots and forcing several more tough ones, while D’Mitrick Trice was solid, and his one make came off a crossover pull-up jumper that looked similar to what we’ve seen Koenig do in past years.

With as deep a team as this one, it’s unclear how much time either guy will see, but they both would seem to give Wisconsin’s coaching staff a lot of talent to work with moving forward.

5) Don’t overreact

Wisconsin will start the season inside the top 10 of the USA Today Coaches poll, and there were some, including ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, who said that was too high, with his reasoning being that he couldn’t get the image of Nigel Hayes’ issues shooting the ball last season out of his mind. Hayes did little to change that on Sunday, going just 2 of 8 from the floor and 1 of 5 from beyond the arc.

But just like we can’t take all the positive things as being the truth, the same goes for the other side of it. So while, yes, Hayes didn’t shoot it well, let’s wait more than one scrimmage before passing judgment on whether this effort will be the norm this season.

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