Coach: Bo Ryan
Career record: 298-128 at Milwaukee and Wisconsin
Best NCAA Tournament finish: Elite Eight in 2005 (Wisconsin)
Years at current school: 11
Last season's record: 26-10 (lost to Syracuse in Sweet 16)
|Vital Info: No. 22 Wisconsin|
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2012-13 Schedule • Roster
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Notable returnees from last season: Ryan Evans, Jared Berggren, Josh Gasser, Ben Brust, Mike Bruesewitz, Frank Kaminsky, Traevon Jackson
Notable losses from last season: Jordan Taylor, Rob Wilson
Notable newcomers: Sam Dekker, Zach Bohannon, George Marshall, Zak Showalter
Projected starters: G: Josh Gasser G: Ben Brust G: Ryan Evans F: Mike Bruesewitz F: Jared Berggren
Why this team will be good: Why wouldn't this team be good? I mean, it's Wisconsin. Coached by Bo Ryan. And Wisconsin coached by Bo Ryan is always good -- proof being the 11 straight NCAA tournament appearances and fourth-or-better finish in the Big Ten in all 11 of those seasons. Beyond those general notes, this Badgers team returns four starters from last season's roster that won 26 games and finished 12-6 in the Big Ten. Ryan Evans (11.0 ppg) and Jared Berggren (10.5 ppg) provide Ryan with two veteran double-digit scorers to use as a core, and freshman Sam Dekker will be one of the Badgers' top players even if he's not initially in the starting lineup. Josh Gasser is a junior with 66 starts to his credit. Freshman George Marshall could develop into the next Jordan Taylor. I've long contended that any Wisconsin team coached by Ryan deserves a preseason ranking regardless of the roster, and I still believe that to be true. But this roster makes the inclusion simple to justify because the Badgers are experienced, talented and built to win.
Why this team might disappoint: I honestly don't see any scenario under which Wisconsin isn't good and in the top half of the Big Ten, but the loss of Jordan Taylor is at least a minor concern. He averaged 14.8 points and 4.1 assists per game last season, and, more important than that, he was a leader and shot-maker who could finish games. Taylor was almost always on the court with the ball in his hands. Now he'll never be on the court with the ball in his hands. And though he wasn't as good as a senior as he was as a junior, Taylor was still pretty darn good last season. He'll be missed. And if he's missed too much then, perhaps, the Badgers will struggle and by extension disappoint -- especially if George Marshall doesn't provide some point guard help. But, again, let the record show that the opinion here as that Wisconsin will be as solid and successful as ever.
Bottom line: Indiana is the consensus favorite in the Big Ten, and most have Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State behind the Hoosiers in some order. That's fair. But the Badgers will be good enough to compete with any of those teams at the top of the league, and nobody should be favored over them at the Kohl Center. The interesting thing to watch will be the development of George Marshall and Sam Dekker. Wisconsin will be good even if neither makes an impact this season. But if they quickly prove worthy of their freshmen hype -- especially Dekker, who projects as a future college star and NBA Draft pick -- then watch out. That's what could take Wisconsin from a borderline Top 20 team to one that challenges for the first Final Four of the Bo Ryan era.
Quote from an opposing coach in the league: "They'll be just as good as always. They'll take care of the ball, guard you and make shots. And have you seen the Dekker kid? He's really good. Freshmen don't usually make a big difference for Bo's teams. But Dekker could. He's a different level player than Wisconsin is used to getting."