Wisconsin figures to rebound after Final Four run

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ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) - Stung by defeat, Frank Kaminsky made one last proclamation in the locker room before packing up for this memorable season.

“This is a sour taste,” the 7-footer said after Wisconsin’s 74-73 loss to Kentucky in a thriller in the Final Four. “We are going to be back next year. We are going to be better than ever. We will all be ready.”

The keyword is “all,” because it sounds like Kaminsky and forward Sam Dekker are coming back in the fall. If that’s the case, Wisconsin figures to lose just senior guard Ben Brust from its top-eight rotation - giving coach Bo Ryan a good shot to make another deep run into March.

First, though some well-earned rest for these energetic but weary Badgers (30-8).

Their year began before the college football season even kicked off with a five-game exhibition tour in August through Canada, a trip designed in part for Ryan figure out what he had on a squad that lost its starting frontcourt from the previous season. At the time, Kaminsky was an unknown quantity, while Dekker was making the leap from top bench player to starter.

Throw in the three-man starting backcourt of Brust, Traevon Jackson and Josh Gasser, and things worked out just fine.

The Badgers got off to a program-best 16-0 start and climbed to as high a No. 3 in the AP Top 25. They endured a 1-5 midseason slump before going on an eight-game tear headed into the final week of the regular season.

Finally, they had a thrilling four-game winning streak through to the NCAAs before falling short to Kentucky. It was the first trip to the Final Four in Ryan’s 13 years in Madison, and the program’s first Final Four appearance since 2000. Wisconsin was a victory short of tying the school’s season record in 2007-08.

They had blowouts, comebacks and nail-biters. Athletic teams repeatedly tried to exploit Wisconsin in the lane. For the most part, they withstood the pounding until the very end against the Wildcats.

“No matter what the situation, we’re always going to make a challenge or make a comeback … to get yourself in a position to win,” Brust said Saturday night.

Wisconsin will miss Brust’s veteran savvy and 3 point-prowess.

Still, the Badgers should be just as good - or even better next season.

Kaminsky (13.9 points) and Dekker (12.4) will benefit from another year of experience, while Jackson (10.7) is Ryan’s trusted floor general.

Josh Gasser (8.8) played well in returning from a knee injury that knocked him out in 2012-13. The team’s top defensive player, Gasser could be relied upon to knock down more 3s after hitting a team-high 43 percent from behind the arc.

Ryan went with the same starting five the entire 38-game season, appropriate for a program known for its discipline and consistency.

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