|Jordan Taylor :: Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE |
With forward Jon Leuer gone, Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan will look to senior guard Jordan Taylor to take the leadership reins this season. A second-team All-America who last season led the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio at 3.83-to-1, finished fourth in the Big Ten in scoring (18.1 ppg) and was on the league's all-defensive team.
Taylor has improved dramatically since his freshman season and should be one of the top guards in the country. Add in sophomores Josh Gasser and Ben Brust and Wisconsin has the ability to use a three-guard lineup. Gasser is a skilled all-around player who started 30 games as a freshman and recorded the first triple-double in program history (10 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists) at Northwestern. His only weakness is three-point shooting. Brust, who worked on the scout team as a freshman, could provide another scoring option. He has deep range and is tremendous coming off screens and shooting or attacking the basket.
Leuer and Taylor helped UW finish third in the Big Ten and reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2008. Can Taylor lead UW to greater heights this season? Given the loss of three senior forwards, that appears to be a daunting task.
The departure of Leuer and Keaton Nankivil means the only proven playmaker is junior Mike Bruesewitz, who began to blossom last season and averaged 8.7 points and 6.3 rebounds in three NCAA tournament games -- despite playing on a sprained right knee.
Bruesewitz can't carry the load alone, however. Junior Jared Berggren and perhaps redshirt freshman Evan Anderson will have to provide low-post scoring and physical play, two traits the Badgers lacked last season.
Berggren, like most of UW's big men, is comfortable shooting from the three-point line. He is equally at ease playing with his back to the basket and has the best post moves on the team. However, he must stay out of foul trouble. Last season Berggren averaged one foul every 5.4 minutes.
Senior Rob Wilson, junior Ryan Evans and sophomore Duje Dukan are wild cards. Wilson struggled defensively last season and saw his playing time dip; Evans struggles because he too often tries to force plays on offense; Dukan, a prolific scorer in high school, wasn't physically ready to compete as a freshman.
No one was pleased with the forgettable performance in the 61-54 loss to Butler in the Sweet 16. UW had the potential to reach the Final Four for the first time under Ryan. For some fans, that loss overshadowed a solid regular-season run, which included handing then-No. 1 Ohio State its first defeat. UW can contend for the league title and win a game or two in the NCAA tournament, but several things need to happen: Taylor must stay healthy, Berggren and Anderson must provide production on the interior, Bruesewitz must continue his rise and the Badgers must get some production from an unexpected source.
Evan Anderson (C, Fr.): Redshirted last season.
Traevon Jackson (G, Fr.): Son of former Ohio State star Jim Jackson is a physically mature combo guard.
Frank Kaminsky (F, Fr.): Could earn some time in a relatively inexperienced frontcourt.
George Marshall (G, Fr.): Could get modest minutes because Jordan Taylor is the only true point guard on the roster.
Jordan Smith (G, Fr.): Tough to find playing time in deep backcourt.
Jarrod Uthoff (F, Fr.): Doubtful hi is physically strong enough to play immediately.