Wednesday, October 27, 2010

No. 14 Wisconsin Badgers

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Last Season: 24-9, 13-5 (4th Big Ten), lost to Cornell in the second round of the NCAA Tournament

Head Coach: Bo Ryan

Key Losses: Trevon Hughes, Jason Bohannon,

Newcomers: Duje Dukan, Ben Brust, Josh Gasser, Evan Anderson

Projected Lineup:

  • G: Jordan Taylor, Jr.
  • G: Ryan Evans, So.
  • F: Tim Jarmusz, Sr.
  • F: Jon Leuer, Sr.
  • F: Keaton Nankivil, Sr.
  • Bench: Mike Bruesewitz, So.; Ben Brust, Fr.; Josh Gasser, Fr.; Rob Wilson, Jr.

Outlook: Wisconsin is one of those teams where it never really matters who they lose and who they bring in. The Badgers always seem to win. They may not blow you out, and they may not be the prettiest team in the country, but in a conference that preaches defense and execution, Wisconsin has been the standard bearer for the duration of Bo Ryan's tenure.

This season, the Badgers are going to be a team centered around a pair of quality big men. Jon Leuer is on a short list of players capable of winning the Big Ten player of the year award. Offensively, he's about as complete of a package as you are going to come across at the college level. He scores in the post with a variety of hook shots and turn around jumpers, he has range out to the three point line, and, being a kid that hit his growth spurt late, he has an impressive handle for someone 6'10". He's a smart, efficient player that can score in a variety of ways. If it sounds like he is a perfect fit for Wisconsin's offense, its because he is.

Joining Leuer up front will be senior Keaton Nankivil. Nankivil really showed how good he was when Leuer went out with a wrist injury last season, averaging 11.9 ppg and 6.0 rpg in the games Leuer missed. Like Leuer, Nankivil is an inside-outside threat as well, although he is more of a strictly jump shooter on the perimeter. He rebounds the ball well, especially on the offensive end, and while he has shown the ability to be a scorer when needed (remember, he also went for 25 points against Purdue last season), he's also the kind of player willing to defer. Again, an excellent fit for Ryan's system.

After those two, the front line will be a bit more of a question mark. Senior Tim Jarmusz is your prototypical Wisconsin role player. He can knock down a three, defend in the post and on the perimeter, and may end up leading the country in floor burns. Mike Bruesewitz is a sophomore that proved to be a scrappy defender and aggressive rebounder in limited minutes. Jared Berggren is a 6'10" redshirt sophomore that has now been in the system for three years. Evan Anderson is a 6'11" center, although Ryan normally a year or two to acclimate his big men.

The back court has some shoes to fill as Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon both left Madison with their diplomas. While those two will be tough to replace, one guy I expect to have a big season in their stead is Jordan Taylor. Taylor was essentially the starting point guard for the Badgers last season, but a lot of the time the ball found its way into the hands of Hughes. Taylor, a junior, was impressive nonetheless. He can score and he can create, and while his low turnover numbers (118 assists, just 39 turnovers in 33 games) can be attributed to the lack of having the ball in his hands, he is a pretty good decision maker as well.

It will be interesting to see who emerges as the back court partner for Taylor in crunch times. Ryan Evans seems like a good candidate. Evans, a sophomore, impressed last year as a defender, but his offensive game still needs to develop, especially his perimeter shot. Rob Wilson is a similar player to Evans, a big, athletic perimeter player that is, at this point in his career, better defensively. Three freshmen are in the mix as well. Ben Brust and Josh Gasser are both combo guard that can run the point if needed and also have range on their jumper, something that will be needed with Bohannon gone. Hell, even 6'8" freshman Duje Dukan could see some time.

Whoever ends up playing the majority of the minutes in that position, the bottom line is that the Badgers will once again be atop the Big Ten. They have their star in Leuer. They have secondary scoring options in Taylor and Nankivil. They have their typical cast of tough, scrappy role players. Once again, don't be surprised when Wisconsin is underrated in the preseason only to finish at or near the top of the league.

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