No matter how boring and plain they may appear, it’s difficult to slot Wisconsin lower than fourth place at the beginning of a Big Ten season with Bo Ryan as coach. His teams in Madison finish fourth or better every year.
We wouldn’t be shocked to see them fall past the fourth place spot this year with the recent ACL tear in Josh Gasser’s knee, but there are enough veterans available to Coach Ryan to keep them at No. 4 in our preseason projections.
The Badgers have several players with a good amount of experience, but will need help from new faces. Although they are ranked in both the AP and Coaches Poll (#23 and #21, respectively), this is a team whose leading returning scorer is their least efficient offensive player and worst shooter. In addition, the point guard position is again a question mark after Gasser’s injury.
Glass Half Full
Senior Jared Berggren (27.8 mpg, 10.5 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 37.2% 3FG) is a legitimate inside/outside threat. At 6’10”, 235, he’s big enough to bang down low but has a sweet stroke from downtown. Berggren was an adequate rebounder, but has room to improve. Defensively he’s able to disrupt shots and is the Big Ten’s second best returning shot blocker.
Ben Brust may need to handle point at times, but if he has improved his ability to score off the dribble that might not be a bad thing. The junior came off the bench last year and averaged 7.3 points in 21.3 minutes per game, excelling from behind the arc where he went 58/149 for 38.9%. If he sits out on the wing, defenders will be there and his production will be somewhat limited. If he can be just a bit more aggressive and have some success opening up his offensive game, Brust becomes a bigger threat with the ball.
Mike Bruesewitz is a 6’6” effort guy who struggled with his shot last year as a junior. After an effective field goal percentage of 55.4% as a sophomore, he shot just 46.4% last year. He can absolutely be better this year. Brusewitz, a very good offensive rebounder for his size, is still healing from a nasty cut (which required surgery) suffered in practice, but should be back sometime in November and shouldn’t be slowed down.
Guard Ryan Evans stepped up for the Badgers a year ago to average 11 points and more than 30 minutes per game. The 6’6” wing uses his athleticism to pull in defensive boards and block shots, but does take far too many 2-point jump shots.
No returning player logged more minutes than Josh Gasser (34.1 mpg, 7.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 45.2% 3FG), but the junior guard, who was expected to slide over to point guard to replace Jordan Taylor this season, tore his ACL in late October and is expected to miss the entire season.
Bo Ryan isn’t afraid to redshirt players, even McDonald’s All-Americans, but Sam Dekker should get a chance to prove himself as a true freshman. At #19 in the RSCI, Dekker’s reputation grew substantially over the past two years. He’s a 6’7” wing with good athleticism who can score in a variety of ways. He’s going to be a great player – maybe even as a true freshman. At a minimum, he’s a unique weapon and good all-around player that can help Wisconsin this season.
Wisconsin has plugged different players into its system and had things work out well. It’s a very slow offense, but it works. Last year the Badgers were efficient with the ball, but left something to be desired with their relatively weak 2-point shooting. The achievable improvement they could see in their 2FG% could greatly offset the impact of star point guard Jordan Taylor’s graduation.
On defense they’ll be strong as usual, but should be concerned about their 3-point field goal defense, which likely will be worse than a year ago when they kept their opponents under 30% from deep.
Others ready to step up
Whether it’s sophomore big men Frank Kaminsky (6’11”, 230) and Evan Anderson (6’10”, 255), junior wings Duje Dukan (6’8”, 210) and Zach Bohannon (6’6”, 210) or even 6’2” freshman guard Zak Showalter, it’s reasonable to think the Wisconsin coaching staff will make at least one inexperienced guy who isn’t being talked about much a contributor to this year’s team.
Bo Ryan generally doesn’t use his bench much and this group of guys does not need to be on the floor to ensure a successful season. However, one or two stepping up seems likely.
Glass Half Empty
Jordan Taylor graduated. Josh Gasser is out with an ACL injury. It’s a valid concern, but at the same time we think there are enough options for Wisconsin to compete with the best in the Big Ten. Redshirt freshman George Marshall and sophomore Traevon Jackson (5.4 mpg in 17 games) provide options for the future, but junior Ben Brust could also handle some of the duties.
- 2013 Recruiting: La Crosse, Wis. product Bronson Koenig highlights a nice group of commits for the Badgers. The 6’2” point guard can score and pass and may very well turn out to be the next stud lead guard in Madison. Riley Dearring is a 6’5” wing from Hopkins HS (Minn.) who gives Wisconsin a long, athletic player type that isn’t generally associated with their program. Keeping with the theme of long players, 6’7” power forward Vitto Brown and 6’2” combo guard Jordan Hill have also given their verbal pledge to Wisconsin.
A Look Back at 2011-12 Preseason Preview Quote(s)
“(Projected #4 in B1G) The world of basketball continues to bestow praise on guard Jordan Taylor and rightfully so. His 2010-11 season was not only good, it can almost be called legendary. However, his senior year will not be as statistically prolific and Wisconsin will greatly miss Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil.”