Wisconsin Basketball Preview: #18
Overall Rank: #18
Conference Rank: #2 Big Ten
2007-08: 31-5, 16-2, 1st
2007-08 postseason: NCAA
If there is one thing we have learned, it is that Wisconsin will always be a contender for the Big Ten title. It seems like every year the Badgers lose some key players and then surprise everybody by making a run at a conference title. Unfortunately for Wisconsin, in recent years that has also led to disappointment in March. But there is no reason to believe that Coach Bo Ryan will not have his group ready to play and battle with Michigan State and Purdue for the top spot in the conference.
However, it will not be easy to replace Brian Butch, Greg Stiemsma, Michael Flowers and Tanner Bronson. Butch led the team averaging 12.4 points and 6.6 rebounds. At 6-11 and 235 pounds, Butch had the size to battle in the paint and, like so many Badger big man, the outside shot to stretch out the defense. Finding another perfect fit in Coach Ryan’s swing offense will not be easy. Stiemsma was a more traditional big man and his 11.5 minutes per game off the bench will be missed. Flowers was one of the leaders of the backcourt. He averaged 9.6 points per game and shot 41.2 percent from beyond the arc. Bronson, a walk-on guard, rarely played, but he was practically another coach on the bench.
With those losses there are minutes to be had by the newcomers. In the backcourt Jordan Taylor and Rob Wilson could play an important role right away. Taylor is a very quick point guard who is usually unselfish, but has the scoring prowess to put up big numbers when he needs to do so. Wilson could be the next in line of big time scorers with the Badgers. The 6-4 slasher can score by getting to the basket or hitting the outside shot. Small forward Ryan Evans might need some more time to develop, but he is a solid athlete who can score above the rim. The more important newcomers are Jared Berggren and Ian Markolf in the frontcourt. That duo, combined with a couple returning players, will have to replace Butch and Stiemsma. Berggren is garnering the most hype. At 6-10 and 235 pounds, the Princeton, Minnesota native can fill the void on the defensive end. It may take some time, but Berggren could develop into a more athletic version of Butch. That leaves Markolf to play the role of Stiemsma and clog the lane with his 7-0, 270 pound frame.
Who to Watch:
Sophomores Keaton Nankivil and J.P. Gavinski are the other options to start at the five spot. Both, understandably, saw very few minutes as freshmen behind Butch and Stiemsma, but one of the four underclassmen has to step up and at least play solid defense in a starting role. The rest, along with the versatile Jon Leuer who lacks the strength to play the five spot, have to be the team’s main bench players at the four and five positions. However, it is not that important to find a scorer like Butch out of the five spot this year. That is thanks to returning senior forwards Marcus Landry and Joe Krabbenhoft. Both are only 6-7, but their experience can make up for any shortcomings at the center spot. Landry can score with his back to the basket or step out and hit the outside jumper. He is a great athlete and will be one of the Badgers top scorers after averaging 10.8 points and 5.4 rebounds a year ago. Gullickson is not as prolific of a scorer, but he is the guy who holds this team together. Gullickson will do whatever is necessary to win and he ranked second on the team with 6.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists
Trevon Hughes is the most important player to watch in the backcourt. The streaky point guard looks great at times and not so great at other times. He is a great scoring point guard, but most of his concerns stem from handling the ball. He turned the ball over way too many times last year and that has to change now that he is an upperclassman. Jason Bohannon will make the transition from shooter off the bench to starting shooting guard. The 6-2 junior will hit plenty of three-pointers, but now that he is in the starting line-up he will be asked to do a little more. Tim Jarmusz, a 6-6 wing, is the only other player with any significant experience on the perimeter and he will battle it out with the freshmen for playing time off the bench.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Trevon Hughes, Junior, Guard, 11.2 points per game
Jason Bohannon, Junior, Guard, 8.2 points per game
Joe Krabbenhoft, Senior, Forward, 7.6 points per game
Marcus Landry, Senior, Forward, 10.8 points per game
Jared Berggren, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season