The hallmark of Wisconsin basketball is efficiency, and they just lost their most efficient player.
It’s an instinctive thing to put your arms and hands out in front of you during a fall, because you want to use them as shock absorbers and cushion the blow. Sometimes, the price for saving your head, neck, or chest is a broken bone in one of the upper extremeties if the fall is fast or awkward (or both). Wisconsin junior forward Jon Leuer knows a little about this concept, learning about it on Saturday during the first half of the Badgers’ win over Purdue. Attempting to reduce the impact from a fall, Leuer broke his left wrist, and there is no mention anywhere of when he might be able to return.
Leuer is the leading rebounder and shot-blocker for the Badgers, snagging 6.0 RPG and adding 1.1 BPG. He has almost doubled his scoring output from last season, going from 8.8 PPG to this year’s 15.4 PPG, which is second on the team (Trevon Hughes averages only 0.4 PPG more). His absence, though, will be felt in a slightly more subtle way. If you’ve seen Wisconsin play, you know that they are the Ivan Lendl of college basketball. Not a single movement is wasted, and they’re more than content to sit back and take their time, slug it out with you, wear you down with their physical and mental toughness, induce you into mistakes, then beat you with a mixture of power and intelligence. Efficiency is the Bo Ryan mantra.
The problem for Wisconsin is that Leuer leads his team in just about all of the efficiency statistics. Out of 345 Division I teams, Wisconsin ranks 337th in possessions per 40 minutes (62.5). This is by design, but you can see how important it is that they score when they get the chance. Wisconsin is good at this, ranking 15th nationally in points per possession (1.12). Leuer averages 15.4 PPG but only plays 27.9 minutes in a game, on the average. Extrapolating it out, Leuer averages 22.1 points for every 40 minutes he plays, a full two points higher than Hughes, who is second. His overall efficiency rating and efficiency per possession numbers are also tops on the Badgers.
Wisconsin only turns the ball over an average of 9.2 times a game, second in the nation. A team that prides itself on control and economy of this magnitude can only suffer when they lose the one player that basically embodies the style of the team. While Leuer is on the shelf, Coach Ryan will have to try to find ways to squeeze even more points out of every precious possession but still take extra care of the basketball. Most of all, he (and about every UW supporter) will be hoping that Leuer’s bones knit quickly. Surgery is scheduled for tomorrow, but there’s been no mention of a timetable or even which bones were broken, so it’s tough to say how bad this is right now. The only good thing is that…well, Wisconsin is the Dairy State, so there’s no shortage of calcium for those bones.