Wisconsin Looks Much More Perimeter Heavy This SeasonPosted by Jonathan Batuello on November 8th, 2013
It’s not often that fast and Wisconsin basketball are used in the same sentence. Since Bo Ryan has been the head coach in Madison, the Badgers have been known for playing big men who execute a deliberate style on the offensive end coupled with strong, take-no-prisoners halfcourt defense. During the past five seasons, Wisconsin’s scoring average hasn’t landed in the top half of the Big Ten, and last season it sat at eighth after averaging 66.2 points a game. The Badgers have also ranked in the bottom 25 Division I teams for possessions per game during four of the past five seasons. Well, get ready for a new look Wisconsin squad. With the graduation of several interior players and the return of Josh Gasser from an ACL injury, the Badgers are likely to use three- and perhaps even four-guard lineups a lot more this season.
Exactly how often Wisconsin may use a perimeter-heavy lineup isn’t certain, but based on its current roster, the Badgers will be doing it early and often. With the graduations of Jared Berggren, Ryan Evans and Mike Bruesewitz, the majority of the team’s inside presence is gone outside of Sam Dekker. Those three averaged a total of more than 26 points and 19 rebounds a game for the team, with the best returning inside player other than Dekker being Frank Kaminsky, who only averaged 10 minutes per game last season. This makes interior play a huge question mark for this team, but Ryan certainly has plenty of known commodities on the perimeter. As he said at Wisconsin’s media day, “You think 12 guards is a lot?. It just panned out this way. It keeps a very high competitive level in the backcourt and all our drills and all our possessions.”
Wisconsin’s guard strength starts with Ben Brust, who averaged 11 points in 34 minutes per game last season. His play was strong enough to earn him honorable mention All-B1G last season, and next to him will be Traevon Jackson. The duo combined to start 64 games a year ago, and both of their backups in George Marshall and Zak Showalter are also back in action. With Gasser, the team returns a player who was expected to take over the starting point guard position before going down in last year’s preseason. Between those players, that’s a combined 136 career starts — quite a bit of experience in the backcourt compared to what Wisconsin is dealing with up front. This group has the men inside realizing what could happen. “Obviously, there’s going to be a smaller lineup at times than there was with Jared, Mike and Ryan,” Kaminsky said. “They were great players, but they weren’t the best-running offensive players. I feel like we’ve got a lot of opportunity to get up and down the court this year.”
With this imbalance in player experience, Ryan is now looking at a lineup that could push it faster, shoot more and bruise less. It will still rely heavily on the All-B1G freshman Dekker, but his style isn’t predicated on banging down low. Instead, Wisconsin will likely spread out the floor more and utilize the abilities of Brust, Gasser and Jackson on the floor at one time. As Gasser put it at Wisconsin’s media day, “I think it can[be faster] because you get a rebound or a turnover, you don’t have to necessarily look for one guy to get out and go. If we have two or three or four guards out there, you can get it, and whoever’s got it can run the offense.” Out of necessity, Wisconsin will have a quicker team, and while it won’t all of a sudden become a scoring giant, it certainly will look to create a few more possessions. Exactly how effective the team will be is uncertain, but if you got bored watching the Badgers’ slow and physical style the past few years, this squad will help to break from that mold at least a little bit.