Saturday, September 20, 2008

No. 22 Wisconsin 2008-2009 Team Preview

2007-2008 Team Record: 31-5, 16-2 Big Ten (1st)

Key Losses: Brian Butch (12.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg), Michael Flowers (9.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg)

Key Returnees: Trevon Hughes (11.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg), Marcus Landry (10.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg)

Newcomers: Ryan Evans, Jordan Taylor, Rob Wilson, Jason Berggren, Ian Markolf

Is it just me, or is Wisconsin consistently the most underrated team in the preseason. I initially wasn't going to have Wisconsin in my preseason top 25, but it seems like every year, the Badgers are unranked or ranked very low in the preseason, then end up in the top 10 and win (or compete for) the Big Ten crown (they are the anti-Arizona). They are one of the few schools that actually seem to have a basketball program that recruits to fit their needs (and not just based on player rankings). It is a testament to how good of a coach Bo Ryan actually is, and shows you what can happen when you get kids that stay for four years and learn a system.

Wisconsin's best returning player is probably point guard Trevon Hughes. Hughes one of the more underrated point guards in the country. He is a hawk defensively (62 steals, 4th in the conference) and was the Badgers second leading scorer at 11.2 ppg. He is a little reckless with the ball at times (averaged more than 2 t/o's per) but over the last ten games he had a 2.2:1 a/to ratio. Joining Hughes in the back court will be last year's Big Ten sixth man award winner Jason Bohannon. Bohannon is probably the best shooter on the Badgers, but isn't much more than a spot up shooter. Two freshman, 6'1" point guard Jordan Taylor and 6'5" off-guard Robert Wilson, will also see time in the back court.

Wisconsin's strength, as always, will be their front court. Joe Krabbenhoft and Marcus Landry both return for their senior years. Both of them have very similar games - big, strong, 6'7" combo forwards that can bang underneath or step out and a three pointer. Both are also good defenders, as any Wisconsin Badger has to be. Say what you will about Brian Butch, the guy was an effective low-post player (especially in the Big Ten) and losing him will hurt, although Ryan does bring in two promising freshman centers. Jared Berggren is the better of the two. He is 6'10", 240 lb and should be able to provide some rebounding and interior defense while he improves his unpolished offensive repertoire. Ian Markolf is more of a work-in-progress, and although he is a 7-footer and mobile, he is still a bit slow and uncoordinated (think Brian Zoubek from Duke).

Outlook: As it always is with any Wisconsin team, their isn't all that much to say about them individually. But as a group, under the tutelage and the system of Bo Ryan, Wisconsin is a very good TEAM. Losing Butch and Flowers is a lot, so I left them at #22 mainly because I just don't know that much about the guys that are coming back (watching them play is pretty brutal). But I would expect them to be in the thick of things in the Big Ten.

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