(AP) - Seven-footer Frank Kaminsky owns the school single-game scoring record. Forward Sam Dekker creates matchup problems with his inside-out game.
But someone needs to get the big guys the ball for No. 8 Wisconsin, and coach Bo Ryan's team has three players who are filling that role and then some heading into Wednesday night's Big Ten/ACC Challenge game at Virginia.
At 8-0, the Badgers are a virtual offensive juggernaut scoring 76.8 points per game. They're off to their best start in 20 seasons, with a huge assist from their three starting guards.
Senior Ben Brust is the shooter and junior Traevon Jackson is the confident point guard. Fourth-year junior Josh Gasser is the steady, all-around defensive expert.
"In the past, we'd usually wait until the shot clock (winded down) and make a play," Jackson said. "We've got enough skills to make plays throughout the game and take our chances."
And each guard can easily slide into a teammate's role when necessary.
"If we have a screen ... we can definitely switch it. We can cover 1 through 3, no problem at all, all of us," Gasser said. "Offensively, too, we can all go down to the post and score."
Some better than others.
"Oh, bad. I don't finish enough," the 6-foot-1 Brust said about how he fares around the bucket. "I've got to do something better when I get down there."
It's OK - Brust leads the team in 3-pointers (20) and rebounding (5.8 per game). It might be the perfect example of Ryan's emphasis of having all five players on the floor being able to play every position - guards work on post plays, while forwards work on ball-handling.
Kaminsky, a big man who can shoot the 3, leads the Badgers at 15.8 points per game, while Dekker is next at 14.6 points. Each starting guard averages at least 10.4.
Wisconsin is shooting 43.6 percent from 3-point range and 48 percent overall, though this doesn't mean the Badgers have suddenly turned into a run-and-gun team. Efficiency remains the key word in Madison.
The Badgers are averaging 66.3 possessions, an increase of four from last season, and the fastest pace since their 67 possessions per game in 2005-06. But the Badgers are also scoring 1.2 points per possession - the most efficient team in Ryan's 13 seasons as coach.
Coincidence or not, it's happening with three guards in the starting lineup. Ball screens are important. All three guards can be trusted to make play calls.
Gasser is back after missing the 2012-13 season with a knee injury. Brust and Jackson are in their second seasons as starters.
"Offensively, we stay pretty consistent in what we do," assistant coach Lamont Paris said. "Last year we were fairly inexperienced at the guard spot ... I think they're better at it because they're a little more experienced."
The veteran presence has come in handy during a tricky non-conference schedule. Wisconsin opened the season with wins over power conference teams St. John's and Florida before beating Horizon League contender Green Bay on the road.
The next game, Kaminsky scored 43 points against North Dakota to secure the school record. Last week, the Badgers won the Cancun Challenge in Mexico with victories over Saint Louis and West Virginia.
Ryan said he likes how his team has stepped up to beat opponents with different systems. Sounds like the perfect preparation for playing in March.
Defense might be the early concern, with Wisconsin allowing 66.2 points per game. The renewed emphasis from officials this year to improve scoring by increasing freedom of movement and reducing physical play hasn't really had much of an impact.
"We haven't been a handsy team in the past, so we just need to keep working on our positioning and our footwork," Ryan said.
Ryan will try to become the ninth coach to reach 300 wins with a Big Ten program as the Badgers try to avenge last season's 60-54 home loss to Virginia. Brust had a team-high 15 points but was 6 of 16 from the field as Wisconsin shot 38.2 percent.
Joe Harris led the Cavaliers with 22 points that day and enters the rematch on a roll, going 11 of 12 from 3-point range over the last three games while averaging 16.7 points.
The senior has helped Virginia run its winning streak to six, including an 83-63 victory over Missouri State on Saturday.
Led by coach Tony Bennett, a former assistant under Ryan, the Cavaliers are allowing 53.5 points per game to rank among the national leaders. They were ranked 24th in the preseason and nearly returned to the Top 25 this week, getting the second-most votes among teams that didn't make it.
The Associated Press News Service
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