Big Ten Team Previews: Wisconsin BadgersPosted by jnowak on November 6th, 2012
Throughout the preseason, the Big Ten microsite will be rolling out the featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the Wisconsin Badgers.
Where We Left Off: We last saw the Badgers finish off what seemed like just another typical season — steady as she goes. They started the season ranked in most polls around No. 15 in the country and stayed there for most of last year, climbing into the Top 10 at one point. They won a game in the Big Ten Tournament before losing to eventual champion Michigan State and won two more in the NCAA Tournament before dropping a one-point heartbreaker to Syracuse in the third round. Finishing fourth in the conference felt just about right for a Badgers squad that weathered some early-season struggles from All-American guard Jordan Taylor to end the year with a good showing in a tough conference.
Positives: Even with the losses of two upperclassmen (Mike Bruesewitz – albeit temporary — and Josh Gasser, but we’ll get to that in a moment), this may be the most experienced team in the Big Ten. It will be anchored by senior center/forward Jared Berggren, and he’ll get a hand from senior Ryan Evans and junior Zach Bohannan (who transferred from Air Force) and Ben Brust. Experience comes into play most on the defensive end, and defense is arguably the important aspect of the game in the Big Ten (the Badgers led the conference in scoring defense last year). Also, the more time familiar with Bo Ryan‘s system, the more easily these guys can jump right in and hope to contend in a rough-and-tumble conference this year. And with the help of the upperclassmen, freshman point guard George Marshall should have plenty of assistance in the important area of floor leadership.
Negatives: Right now, Wisconsin is more of a “have-not” than a “have.” They’ll be without the senior forward Bruesewitz, who suffered a freak leg injury in practice in early October, until sometime around the Creighton game on November 23 (which means he’ll miss the Florida game on November 14). Then, when junior guard Gasser tore his ACL in practice later last month, that took away a second certain starter for the Badgers who were already going to be fighting to be in the top tier of a loaded conference. The pair of Bruesewitz and Gasser have combined to start 115 games for the Badgers. Those are two talented, veteran players the Badgers will be hard-pressed to replace, at least in the early going.
Best Case: The fate of the Badgers’ season squarely rests on two things: how Bruesewitz bounces back from his nasty leg injury, and how Marshall fares in Ryan’s system as a freshman filling in for the injured Gasser. Ideally, Bruesewitz would be able to return in time to help the Badgers score a few important non-conference victories (maybe against Creighton and either Arizona State or Arkansas) in Las Vegas just after Thanksgiving, and contribute fully in Big Ten play. As for Marshall, if he can avoid trying to do too much and let the upperclassmen guide the offense in conference play, the Badgers can find their way past some potentially devastating injuries and head back to the NCAA Tournament.
Worst Case: If Brueswitz’s injury takes longer than expected to heal, the Badgers could miss out on any opportunity to secure a solid non-conference win. A meeting with Florida in Gainesville will be a tall order under any circumstance, and those games in Las Vegas could become toss-ups. That leaves home games against Virginia, California and a meeting with Marquette in Milwaukee as the other opportunities to shore up the strength of schedule outside the Big Ten. And, again, much of the fate of this team could depend on how Marshall responds to an unexpected wealth of responsibility. The Badgers were already going to be short on depth, and losing their starting point guard could be the difference between participating in the Big Dance and watching it on television next March.
- F/C — Jared Berggren (Sr)
- F — Zach Bohannon (Jr)
- G/F — Ryan Evans (Sr)
- G — George Marshall (Fr)
- G — Ben Brust (Jr)
Key Reserves: Mike Bruesewitz (F, Sr — injured), Sam Dekker (F, Fr), Frank Kaminsky (F, So), Zak Showalter (G, Fr)
The Lineup: Things will change when Bruesewitz returns to the starting lineup, but for now, it’s basically an open audition to crack Bo Ryan’s starting five. Evans and Brust, both upperclassmen, are good bets given their experience. Beyond that, without stalwarts Bruesewitz and Gasser in the lineup, there’s plenty of room for other players to step in. Zach Bohannon has demonstrated a knack for Ryan’s pesky style of basketball (much like his older brother, Jason, showed while also at Wisconsin) and it also means that Marshall will become the Badgers’ starting point guard. There’s plenty that will have to shake out but if there’s one thing we know about a Bo Ryan team, it’s that it can never be discounted no matter the personnel at his disposal.