Another year and another good Wisconsin basketball team under head coach Bo Ryan. What’s new? Wisconsin returns much of their core from last year, minus their star guard Jordan Taylor. They won’t be focused on the loss of Taylor though, due to their ample returning talent as well as highly touted freshmen.
Before we look at who is returning for Wisconsin it has to be remembered that no matter what talent Ryan has he will be successful. He has taken rosters filled with unfamiliar, lowly recruited players and been successful. He doesn’t need great talent to win. It just so happens that Wisconsin does have a lot of talent this year.
First off, Wisconsin has to replace Taylor at point guard. The man for that job will be Josh Gasser, a junior. Gasser is more than capable to be the starting point guard. Offensively he takes care of the ball, an important trait for a Ryan point guard. He also had the third highest three pointer percentage in the Big Ten last season. Gasser is also Wisconsin’s best perimeter defender, able to shut down the opponent’s best scorer while still leading Wisconsin’s offense.
Joining Gasser in the starting line-up are three seniors; Jared Berggren, Ryan Evans and Mike Bruesewitz. Berggren is a 6-10 senior center who averaged over 10 points and 5 rebounds a game last season. He also led the Big Ten in blocks in conference games. If Berggren continues to be a dynamic big man Wisconsin can play with anyone in the Big Ten. His ability to step outside and hit shots make him very difficult to guard, as well as dragging the other team’s big-men away from the paint, opening it for his teammates.
Evans and Bruesewitz are a pair of forwards who can also play inside and out. Bruesewitz is a fan favorite in Madison, for good reason. He is scrappy, tough, plays with heart… and all the other cliches. But really, Bruesewitz is the type of player a coach loves to have. He fights inside for rebounds and has a knack for getting offensive rebounds in big moments. He is also another three point shooter on the floor for Wisconsin, stretching the defense out. Bruesewitz will do the little things that help a good team become great. It is of note that it was reported that Bruesewitz would miss 4-6 weeks on October 10th after lacerating his lower leg in practice. When healthy Bruesewitz will be a big piece of Wisconsin’s success.
Evans, once a gangly, athletic freshman earned his early playing time because of his strong defense. Now his offense has finally caught up, making him a complete player. He averaged 11 points and 7 boards last year. With the loss of Taylor’s scoring expect Evans to score even more. He has added a better mid-range and deep shooting ability to his knack for attacking the paint with his athleticism. After being an Honorable Mention for the All Big Ten Team last season watch for Evans to be even better. The only thing that can hold him back is if incoming freshman Sam Dekker takes some of Evans’ minutes.
Dekker has Wisconsin fans the most excited for a freshman since Brian Butch in 2003. He is ranked 13th in the nation by Rivals. Dekker was Mr. Basketball in Wisconsin and was on the under 18 US national team over the summer. He looks like the elite level talent that Wisconsin often struggles to get. Dekker is 6-8 and 215 pounds. He plays small forward, bringing the ability to hit threes while also being able to score inside. As the season goes along his minutes will pickup and if he is all he is built up to be Dekker has the talent to put Wisconsin over the top.
This is as talented a team Wisconsin has had in awhile. Bo Ryan should be very excited to put out an amount of talent that Wisconsin frankly isn’t used to having. The loss of Taylor will be offset by a very balanced offensive team. They have multiple guys who can score, instead of depending on one small guard. Ryan adds one of the best freshmen in the conference on top of a team of seasoned juniors and seniors. In a very tough Big Ten Wisconsin is a sleeper to be a top three team. They do not turn the ball over, they shoot three pointers well, they have guys who can score inside, they are very good defensively and they are very experienced. That is just about everything. The fact that they don’t lose at home doesn’t hurt either. I expect them to finish fifth because they don’t quite have the same impact talent level as the top few teams. But with a Bo Ryan coached team nothing would surprise me.
Big Ten Record Prediction: 11-7