April 07, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Junior Sam Dekker needs to cool off and return home before making a decision about the future. Sophomore Nigel Hayes sounds like he is coming back to Wisconsin.

The Badgers could be a force in the Big Ten again if the versatile forwards return in the fall.

First, they need time to ease the sting of the 68-63 loss to Duke in the NCAA Tournament title game on Monday night.

''I can't really worry about it. I'm going to get home, cool down with the guys, do what I need to do, talk to who I need to talk to make an educated decision,'' said Dekker, who used a balled-up warmup shirt to dab away tears from his eyes.

He boosted his NBA draft stock after averaging 19.2 points in the tournament.

Nigel Hayes did, too, after a jump in production following his freshman year. In his second year in coach Bo Ryan's system, Hayes developed a 3-point shot.

He was 40 of 101 (39 percent) from behind the arc in 2014-15 after not taking a single 3 the previous season. It was a perfect complement to his already dangerous baseline drives and spin moves in the post.

But Hayes spoke afterward as if he had already made a decision.

''I'm nowhere near good enough to do anything else besides come back,'' Hayes said.

It will be a dramatically different team regardless of whether Dekker decides to join him.

Senior Frank Kaminsky's remarkable career is over. Gritty guards Josh Gasser and Traevon Jackson are out of eligibility, too, as is key reserve forward Duje Dukan.

But Kaminsky was the ringleader. Gasser and Jackson provided steady leadership.

There is no next game to look forward to for this tight-knit group. They were so adept at shaking off losses because of their experience and fun-loving antics.

''Just how close we were,'' Hayes said when asked what he would remember most about this season. ''How much fun we had together, on and off the court.''

Kaminsky, a double-double machine, finished with 21 points and 12 boards against Duke. But a couple late-game mistakes by the usually savvy senior hurt the Badgers.

The AP player of the year threw up an errant shot as the shot clock wound down with 2:39 left.

Kaminsky got beat by Duke freshman phenom center Jahlil Okafor with 3:14 left for a layup in the middle of the Blue Devils' second-half surge, right after the big guy missed his own layup off a spin move.

''It's hard to say anything. These guys are my family,'' Kaminsky said. ''I mean that literally. It's going to be hard to say goodbye.''

The disappointment won't take away from what has been one of the most unique rags-to-riches stories in recent college basketball memory.

Kaminsky played just 10 minutes a game off the bench two years ago. He was an unknown quantity to the rest of the Big Ten when he entered the starting lineup in November 2013 as junior.

Ryan said he always knew what he had in Kaminsky, who turned into an inside-out force. It was just a matter of him getting confidence and playing time.

''He's going to get even better,'' Ryan said. ''But what he did in his years at Wisconsin will be remembered for a long time.''

The Badgers remembered their 2014 loss in the national semifinals to Kentucky as motivation for this season. They finished with a school-record 36 wins and went one step closer to the title game.

Maybe they'll use the loss to Duke to power them for another long run next year.

''With the records they've been telling us, we're definitely one of the best teams in Wisconsin basketball history,'' Hayes said. ''We haven't reached the level of the 1941 team with the title, but the guys we had, the awards we had, the accolades we received - I think we'll be remembered.''


AP Sports Writers Dave Skretta and Jay Cohen contributed to this story.


Follow Genaro Armas at http://twitter.com/GArmasAP

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