Around the Big Ten 2010-11: Wisconsin

Dylan Burkhardt
on
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Next up in our preview series, Wisconsin. For this preview we interviewed Phil from over at Bucky’s 5th Quarter.

[Previously: MinnesotaOhio State / Michigan State]

I always say that it’s impossible to pick against Wisconsin in this league. Is there any reason to think differently this year?

In a word, no. Last year’s starting backcourt was very experienced, yet streaky — both offensively and defensively. This year’s team should feature a number of versatile pieces to mix and match around stars Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor. Leuer is an offensive force of the same magnitude as Alando Tucker. A third scorer will need to emerge, but the track record of the head coach is no mystery.

Obviously Trevon Hughes is a huge loss as he had the knack for making big shots and was one of the best guards in the conference. That being said, Jordan Taylor looked very good last year. What are your thoughts on Taylor? Is he ready to be the go to guy for Bo Ryan?

The transition at point guard from Hughes to his successor actually took place last season, when Taylor stayed in the starting lineup after Leuer’s return. Even before that, Taylor proved his mettle in three-guard sets, distributing the rock while Hughes roamed off the ball. Taylor is already a better decision-maker than Hughes (3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio) and even strapped the team on his back offensively against Penn State last year. He’s ready.

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Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor

Jon Leuer is one of those inside-outside big men that are so popular in college basketball right now. He is extremely skilled offensively but is also a great rebounder and can hold his own in the post. How would you compare him to guys like Robbie Hummel and John Shurna?

At 6’10”, Leuer is certainly a bigger threat on the blocks than the other two guys you mention. Leuer possesses an arsenal of post moves that includes an unstoppable baseline turnaround. This makes him the most efficient scorer of the the three. Like Hummel and Shurna, he takes care of the ball with a good handle for his size and can step out to shoot threes. I’d actually like to see Leuer get after more rebounds, but he has to avoid foul trouble. When I think of Hummel, I think versatility. He’s really a super-skilled “glue guy” when healthy. Shurna is the best pure shooter of the bunch and is long like Leuer.

The Badgers attempted significantly more three point shots last year than we are used to seeing under Bo Ryan. Should we expect to see more of the same or will we see more traditional Bo Ryan offense now that Bohanon and Hughes have graduated?

The increase in long-distance shot attempts has definitely gained some notoriety among fans the past couple years. You are probably right to assume a return to a more traditional Bo Ryan approach this season, given the depth they will have in the front court combined with the inexperience at guard. I’m at least hoping to manufacture some easier buckets. My guess is the change starts with increased playing time for junior guard Rob Wilson, who knows how to post up and has an aggressive offensive approach.

If Taylor or Leuer aren’t taking shots for Wisconsin who is it going to be? Give me a someone in the backcourt and the frontcourt that will take on a much larger role this year.

Like I said, Wilson has the profile to be that guy out of the backcourt. He’s paid his dues and got a lot of experience in the heart of the conference schedule when Leuer was out. Up front, I think 6’10” redshirt sophomore Jared Berggren could be an option in relief of Leuer. Berggren’s role will be much larger since he didn’t really have any impact last season. It turns out he wasn’t healthy. You will definitely hear more from Ryan Evans too — albeit without his flat top.

What are the highlights of Wisconsin’s non-conference schedule this year? Any early season tournaments or marquee games?

After opening with two patsies, playing UNLV in Vegas could be a stiff test. The gem of the non-conference slate is the I-94 rivalry with Marquette renewal on Dec. 11 in Milwaukee. Wisconsin is playing in the Old Spice Classic during Thanksgiving as well, where the Badgers open with Manhattan, but hope to get a couple decent games against Boston College, Cal, Notre Dame, Georgia or Texas A&M. Luckily for season-ticket holders, Wisconsin gets a home game in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

Record prediction? Conference and overall.

I see a 23-7 regular season, including 13-5 in conference. That should be good enough for another top-four finish. Give ’em a 1-1 record in both the conference and NCAA tournaments for a final tally of 25-9.

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Most feared player in the conference?

Tough one. But when Demetri McCamey’s outside shot is falling, he’s a monster. He’s ballsy, a bull with the rock and runs the pick-and-roll with Mike Tisdale to perfection (at least against the Badgers). His inconsistency is what holds him back. On the other hand, I am not excited to run into Kalin Lucas or Jared Sullinger either.

Projected most improved player in the conference?

Rodney Williams is probably the trendy pick because of his raw talent, but I’ll be watching another Gopher, Devoe Joseph, who really came on toward the end of last year. Two other darkhorses: Michigan’s Darius Morris (if he can cut down on TOs) and Purdue’s Patrick Bade (Johnson needs some help up front).

Projected conference champs?

Gotta go with Michigan State, in light of the Robbie Hummel tragedy. Even though I haven’t liked the vibe coming out of East Lansing this off season, I suspect the Spartans will circle the wagons under Izzo. They have too much talent.

Toughest place to play in the Big Ten?

The logical answer is Michigan State’s Breslin Center, followed by Purdue’s Mackey Arena. Those two programs have been among the league’s best for several years. Wisconsin hasn’t won at Michigan State since 2004 and lost five of six in West Lafayette.

Do you think you win your Big Ten challenge game

I fully expect the Badgers to beat North Carolina State in the Challenge. The Wolfpack will be young and very talented, but you need more than that to come into the Kohl Center and win against a Bo Ryan-coached team.

  • Sam

    At this rate, Michigan is going to end up with about -20 Big Ten wins. A lot of people seem to be very high on their teams, and probably rightfully so, there is just obviously no way everyone can play up to their expectations. I liked what Jordan Taylor showed last year, but I don’t think anyone will be able to fully replace what Trevon Hughes did for Wisconsin, especially his clutch shooting at the end of games.

  • AG2

    Its so hard to tell with Wisconsin because they just plug in big, physical upperclassmen and keep on going. Are Jordan Taylor and Rob Wilson *really* as good as Trevon Hughes?

    I have this dream that all the coaches in the Big Ten will have learned from last year’s Wisconsin/Cornell game how to beat Wisconsin once and for all, and the football on hardwood tyranny, where the Big Ten’s style of play is dictated from the Kohl’s Center, is smashed.

  • “will have learned from last year’s Wisconsin/Cornell game how to beat Wisconsin once and for all”

    You mean shooting 60% at will? Yup, that would probably work. I think you will be surprised at how good a fit Taylor is compared to Hughes. And I really liked Hughes. As for clutch shooting, I didn’t see too many people stop Leuer last season.

    sorry, couldn’t resist

  • Sam – you may be right most people’s expectation for their team is high – especially Minnesota, but MSU, OSU and Wisconsin seem to be right on track.

    History has shown that those three programs by the end of the year are one of the top 3 or 4 teams in the Big Ten year in and year out.

    First, they have outstanding coaches, seldom need to use freshman or sophomores unleast they are truly outstanding and get great recruits. It’s how you build a program.

  • Sam

    Yes, I agree completely that these three programs have recently been quite successful and I fully understand that the remaining teams’ expectations should be tempered a bit, I just think it is interesting how well these first four bloggers think their teams will do.

    And I still don’t see anyone replacing Hughes.

  • Sam

    I also think that people are undervaluing Jason Bohannon’s loss. He would have been terrific in Beilein’s system and really flourished at times for Wisconsin. He never fully developed into a night in, night out scoring machine, but he was always going to give you a couple threes every game and tough play in general. He will be tough to replace.

  • 16

    I love the picture of Bo Ryan at the top of the post. When I think of Wisconsin basketball, I think of a photo like that haha