Big Ten Team Previews: Wisconsin Badgers

Posted 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.

With Mike Bruesewitz out for at least a month, the Badgers will have some holes to fill in the early going. (Greg M. Cooper/US Presswire)

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.

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Big Ten M5: 11.05.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on November 5th, 2012

  1. Exhibition games don’t mean much in the grand scheme of the season, but you get a good first look at the freshmen. Michigan State’s Gary Harris is arguably the most interesting freshman in the conference and will be scrutinized especially as Branden Dawson tries to get back to 100% after an ACL injury. After two exhibition games, Harris has impressed Tom Izzo on the offensive end of the court. He looked really good off the dribble in the game against Northwood and scored 14 points. However, he admits that he needs to be more effective on defense specifically against the pick-and-roll. Izzo will demand Harris’ improvement on defense but his offensive production will help the Spartans during the non-conference season.
  2. Speaking of freshmen in the league, Purdue has a couple of good guards who are expected to contribute immediately. Even though Ronnie Johnson and Rapheal Davis were not ranked in the top 30 by Rivals coming out of high school, both of them have the talent to be very good players in the league. Each of the freshman guards scored 16 points in Purdue’s exhibition win over Newberry with Davis scoring all of his points in the second half. Ronnie Johnson may be the primary point guard in the rotation after the departure of Lewis Jackson but Davis will play a significant role off the bench. Guard Terone Johnson (9.1 PPG last season) will carry the offensive load for the Boilermakers; he scored 18 points in the exhibition.
  3. As Matt Painter tries to incorporate new talent into the rotation, Bo Ryan has to figure out how to replace Josh Gasser at the point guard position. Every guard on the roster will need to help out with Gasser’s loss and the latest scrimmage in Madison has obviously led to more scrutiny of the guards. Redshirt freshman George Marshall has been impressive and appears to be the frontrunner to replace Gasser. Traevon Jackson‘s jumpers were a good sign and Ben Brust showed why his minutes will increase this season — Brust averaged 7.3 PPG in 21 MPG last season and is expected to play a key role in the backcourt. Ryan once again praised Frank Kaminsky, a forward who has a good jumper for a big guy which fits perfectly in the Ryan’s offensive system.
  4. The Iowa Hawkeyes are considered a sleeper in the Big Ten mainly due to their underclassmen such as Aaron White (11.1 PPG) and Adam Woodbury. Junior wing Roy Devyn Marble (11.5 PPG) will be their primary scorer offensively, but Fran McCaffery believes that Eric May, the only senior with a scholarship on the roster, needs to be effective for Iowa to meet their lofty expectations this season. May averaged 4.3 PPG in 14.7 PPG last year but wants to be a lock-down defender for the Hawkeyes during his final season. May is supposed to be in “great shape” according to the coaches and Iowa will definitely need somebody to set the tempo on the defensive end after losing Matt Gatens to graduation. They will push the tempo and play a fast brand of basketball but if they are not able to defend, McCaffery’s team will fall short of making the NCAA Tournament.
  5. Speaking of former Big Ten seniors, Illinois’ Mike Davis was drafted as the fifth overall player in the NBA Development League over the weekend. Davis had a solid career at Illinois as he averaged at least 11 PPG from his sophomore season on. He was not highly recruited out of high school but former Illini coach Bruce Weber appreciated his work ethic and intensity. Davis also averaged eight rebounds per game during the final three seasons, and he has the size (6’9″) to continue to play professional basketball at some level for a few years. He might not make the NBA but he can certainly work his way out of the Development League and possibly play in Europe for a few seasons.
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Big Ten M5: 10.30.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on October 30th, 2012

  1. College basketball has a lot of diverse talent across the nation among its various conferences, regardless of their size and popularity. Especially with so many good mid-major programs receiving positive coverage over the years, there are few consensus agreements among the media. In this partisan environment, Indiana’s Cody Zeller has been selected for the preseason All-America team by all of the AP voters except for one. The near-unanimous pick is a rarity in today’s competitive hoops’ landscape. The sophomore forward received 64 votes and two other Big Ten players were selected as well – Michigan’s Trey Burke and Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas. Burke tied for the fifth slot with Lehigh’s C.J.McCollum. Creighton’s Doug McDermott and Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan make up the rest of this year’s preseason All-America team.
  2. After injuries to Mike Breusewitz and Josh Gasser, Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan understands that he has some holes in his lineup. But Ryan seems optimistic and realizes that the next player in line will step up and fill the void. Sports Illustrated explains that Ryan,  after 41 years in the coaching business, doesn’t get “alarmed” or “nervous” when thinking about replacing experienced players on his squad. Brueusewitz will be back in a few weeks but Gasser will miss the entire season due to an ACL injury. The Wisconsin assistant coaches speak highly of redshirt freshman guard George Marshall, who took advantage of last season by practicing and learning from All-American guard Jordan Taylor. Ryan mentions that he prefers “well-blended” teams that don’t specifically focus on a single player to carry the load on either end of the court. Tough to disagree with a philosophy that has resulted in consistent success in Madison, but Marshall and Traevon Jackson will need to get up to speed quickly during the non-conference season after Gasser’s loss.
  3. Another coach who is very optimistic about his young team’s chances to make the NCAA tournament is Iowa’s Fran McCaffery. He is challenging his younger players to bring Iowa basketball back to relevance at the national stage after several years of mediocrity. He strongly believes that the loss of Matt Gatens’ production will be filled by junior wing Roy Devin Marble (11.5 PPG). Marble is described as “incredibly cerebral” and is expected to take the leap to the next level this season. Iowa hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2006 and with a young core of Aaron White, Adam Woodbury and Mike Gesell, the fans are hopeful with their expectations. Sophomore Aaron White averaged 11 PPG in just 24 MPG and his production should increase as he appears to be one of the primary scoring options now in the wake of Gatens’ departure.
  4. There have been several changes in the Illinois athletic department over the last two years. Long time athletic director Ron Guenther left the program so Mike Thomas was hired to revive Illinois athletics. Thomas then replaced both the football and the basketball coaches within a span of 12 months (which doesn’t happen very often in major programs). Football head coach Tim Beckman is off to a rough start in Champaign as his team is off to a 2-6 start, but John Groce’s performance will be under review as the basketball season tips off in two weeks. The Daily Illini discusses the pressure on Groce as he takes over a program that arguably is in the “rebuilding phase.” The overall energy level within the program is very high with Groce’s arrival but his coaching abilities will be immediately scrutinized during the non-conference season. Without a true big man in the post like Meyers Leonard, expectations are not very high but that doesn’t necessarily give Groce too much of a cushion if the losses begin to pile up during the first two months.
  5. Speaking of rebuilding, Purdue’s Matt Painter has several new faces in West Lafayette. None of the “Baby Boilers” are around anymore, but Painter has been in this situation after the departures of Carl Landry and David Teague at the beginning of the 2007-08 season. Even though Purdue has a young freshman core of center A.J. Hammons and guard Ronnie Johnson, D.J.Byrd doesn’t want this year’s team to be considered “Baby Boilers II.” Robbie Hummel’s class was a special one and this squad will need to form its own identity. Byrd (8.9 PPG) and Terone Johnson (9.2 PPG) will provide  great leadership but the jury is still out on such a young squad with nine freshmen and sophomores. Ronnie Johnson is expected to take over the point guard position after Lewis Jackson’s departure.
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Big Ten M5: 10.18.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on October 18th, 2012

  1. The first official preseason polls are out and there are three total B1G teams in the top five positions of the USA Today Coaches Poll – Indiana, Ohio State and Michigan. It should come as no surprise that Indiana has been voted #1 after all of the hype surrounding the Hoosiers during the offseason. It might be a little surprising, however, to see the Buckeyes ranked one spot higher than Michigan at #4. Both OSU and the Wolverines return three key starters, so the overall ranking is well deserved to begin the season.
  2. Another update on the Jabari Parker sweepstakes – he will not be committing during the early signing period and probably will wait until December to announce his decision. Parker is scheduled to visit Michigan State this weekend and will visit his other top choices – Duke, Florida, Stanford and BYU – over the next few weeks through mid-November. Tom Izzo has been recruiting Parker for a couple of years now and will get a chance to convince him further in East Lansing in a few days. It will be very surprising if Parker stays more than one season in the college game but that might just be enough for him to make a difference at one of the five programs.
  3. College hoops icon Dick Vitale is just getting warmed up around this time of the year. He announced his preseason “All-Solid Gold Team,” which is essentially his list of best players for the season and it includes several players from the Big Ten. Indiana’s Cody Zeller and Michigan’s Trey Burke are on the first team followed by Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas on the second team. Seniors Trevor Mbakwe and Brandon Paul made it onto the fourth team which may be considered a bit of a surprise but is not a complete shocker considering their scoring averages from their last season – 14.0 PPG and 14.7 PPG, respectively. Mbakwe didn’t play a full season last year due to an injury, though. Junior guard Aaron Craft was also on his list despite averaging only 8.6 PPG last season but he is arguably the best on-ball defender in the country.
  4. Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan has played a prominent role in Madison, both on and off the court. His record as a coach speaks for itself as he led the Badgers to several consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances over the years. Off the court, he is actively involved in the community and his most recent event is a “charity stripe” challenge to encourage the students to participate in raising money for cancer research as part of the “Coaches vs. Cancer” challenge. The event will be held at the Kohl Center on October 25 and $1 will be donated for every student in attendance. Ryan’s Badgers are ranked #21 in the USA Today preseason poll that was released yesterday. Despite losing Jordan Taylor who was an All-American guard last season, other Badgers are expected to step up, specifically freshman phenom Sam Dekker and point guard George Marshall.
  5. After three official practices, Purdue head coach Matt Painter is very impressed with his newcomers on the squad. Returning wing DJ Byrd has been very satisfied with freshman A.J. Hammons during practice and praised his work ethic to improve his conditioning during the offseason. Painter thinks that the team is meshing well together and credited the four exhibition games on the European tour in August as one of the main reasons. The non-conference schedule is extremely important for the Boilers because they need several new faces to understand their roles on the team. Hammons is expected to be one of the primary options in the frontcourt along with sophomore forward Jacob Lawson who averaged 11 MPG last season. Redshirt wing Donnie Hale is also expected to contribute on the offensive end in addition to returning guard Terone Johnson (9.2 PPG) who will certainly be the primary scorer for Painter.
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Big Ten Morning Five: 02.02.12 Edition

Posted by jnowak on February 2nd, 2012

  1. Both Purdue and Michigan have been trying some lineup experiments over the last few days, and one team is seeing immediate benefits while the other may still be trying to work out the kinks. The Wolverines are now 3-2 with senior guard Stu Douglass in the starting lineup after beating Indiana on Wednesday night, and sophomore forward Evan Smotrycz starting on the bench. Purdue, meanwhile, is a perfect 1-0 with a smaller lineup that features basically Robbie Hummel and four guards. The new-look Boilermakers will surely be tested this weekend against Indiana’s Cody Zeller down low.
  2. Jordan Taylor receives a bulk of the credit when it comes to Wisconsin‘s backcourt — and rightfully so — but Taylor knows fully well that he wouldn’t have his level of success without a lesser-known Badger: George Marshall. The freshman, a redshirt this season, has been instrumental on the scout team, writes Jim Polzin of the Wisconsin State Journal, particularly in imitating opposing teams’ best backcourt player. This week, that meant Penn State’s Tim Frazier. Marshall must have done his job well, as the Badgers rattled off their sixth straight win with a victory against the Nittany Lions.
  3. Nebraska coach Doc Sadler has a simple explanation for why his club’s free throw percentage is at 75%, considerably higher than the average of 69.1% in his first five seasons. “The right guys are getting fouled, I guess,” he told the Omaha World-Herald. Nebraska leads the conference in free throw shooting and is 21st in the country in that statistic. The Huskers only have three Big Ten wins to their credit, but if they keep up that performance from the charity stripe, it could help account for a few more.
  4. Michigan State fans are surely thrilled with the news that senior Draymond Green‘s knee injury does not appear to be serious and that he could practice this week before a big Sunday showdown against Michigan. Green tweaked his left knee in the final minutes of Tuesday night’s loss to Illinois and did not return to the game. The versatile forward is averaging 14.9 points, 10.3 rebounds (tops in the conference), 3.5 assists and 1.5 steals per game this season for the Spartans.
  5. Minnesota, which is capitalizing on every spark it can find as the Golden Gophers try to bounce back from a discouraging Big Ten start, is relying heavily on the burst of Chip Armelin. “He’s one of our worst three-point shooters, but now since we’ve been playing in the Big Ten he’s been one of our better three-point shooters and he’s got a lot of confidence,” coach Tubby Smith said of the sophomore, who had six points and four rebounds Wednesday against Iowa.
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