I read an interesting stat about the Wisconsin Badgers the other day.
The Badgers have averaged just 8.42 turnovers per game over the last three seasons.
When you combine an ability to take care of the basketball with a knack for playing intense and suffocating defense, what you get are the two reasons why Wisconsin can never be counted out in the race for a Big Ten championship.
Teams that don’t turn the ball over and play defense win games, primarily because they are able to dictate the tempo of the game and ultimately emerge with a victory.
The Badgers have proved the formula works time and again. It’s part of the reason they haven’t missed the NCAA tournament since 1998.
It doesn’t hurt that Bo Ryan, with his 651 career wins, is their coach.
A year ago, the Badgers allowed just 53.2 points per outing, which happened to rank first in the league and first in the nation.
Wisconsin finished at 26-10 overall and 12-6 in the Big Ten. Its NCAA tournament run ended with a gut-wrenching loss to the Syracuse Orange in the Sweet 16. The Badgers lost 64-63.
Losing point guard Jordan Taylor is big for the Badgers, but don’t think for a moment that it’s the end of the world.
Redshirt freshman George Marshall, a star for Brooks College Prep in the Chicago Public League, appears to be ready to fill the void. I’m sure he will do just fine and live up to his expectations.
But no one in Madison can overlook the impact Josh Gasser should have in the Wisconsin backcourt this year either.
Gasser averaged 7.6 points and 4.2 rebounds as a sophomore. He dished out 67 assists and only turned the ball over 43 times.
He is a viable threat to knock down 3-pointers–he made 42 a year ago–and he has the ability to get after it defensively, tallying 25 steals last season.
Gasser doesn’t have to be a player who drops 20 points or more on opponents every single night. He just needs to consistently score in double figures and play within the team-oriented system that seems to work so well for the Badgers.
As long as he does that, along with continuing to take care of the ball and becoming an even better defender this season, the Badgers shouldn’t miss Taylor too much.
Wisconsin is going to be a very good team this year. The Badgers will contend for a conference championship and I don’t see any reason why they can’t at least get back to the Sweet 16.
After all, when a team can limit turnovers and play hard on the defensive end of the floor, it’s going to be in a position to be successful.
The Badgers fit that bill.
Follow Rant Sports Big Ten columnist Brian Lester on Twitter @BLester1993 or drop him a line at email@example.com.