It seems like every year the Wisconsin Badgers lose a key player or two, and they should be destined for a down year.
From last year's team, they lost big men Keaton Nankivil and Jon Leuer, and yet they're still a top-10 team in the country.
The main reason for the high-ranking? Preseason All-American guard Jordan Taylor.
The senior lead guard is coming off a breakout season where he, alongside Leuer, led the Badgers to the Sweet 16. He's off to a bit of a rough start shooting the ball, only averaging 12.0 points per contest, and is shooting 39.2% from the field. He's making up for it elsewhere for Wisconsin though, grabbing 4.9 rebounds and dishing out 5.6 assists per game.
Taylor is a game changer, and MU will look to shut him down on Saturday.
"I think [Taylor] puts you in a position that makes many people have to guard him," said Marquette Head Coach Buzz Williams. Look for MU guards Vander Blue, Junior Cadougan, Derrick Wilson, Darius Johnson-Odom and Todd Mayo to each have a shot at defending Taylor.
Joining Taylor in the backcourt is returning starter Josh Gasser. Gasser is off to a solid start for the Badgers, averaging 8.7 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. He also leads the Badgers in three-point shooting at 65 percent (yes, I did say 65 percent). His point total might be mitigated by the emergence of another Badger guard: Ben Brust.
Brust is a sophomore guard who likes to shoot the ball from the perimeter. Last year, he only played in 15 games and averaged three minutes per game in those contests.
This year is a completely different story, as he is averaging 12.3 points per game, as the 6th man for the Badgers. He's shooting 50.0 percent from the field and 46.5 percent from beyond the arc. 43-of-Brust's-64 shots this year have come from three-point land.
Due to the loss of Leuer and Nankivil, the Badgers are comprised of pretty much all unproven and inexperienced players in the paint, which hasn't really been an issue for them thus far this season.
Redshirt junior Jared Berggren is the leading scorer for UW this year at 12.6 points per game while he adds 5.3 rebounds per game. Berggren is listed at six-feet-ten, but like many big men for the Badgers before him, he can shoot it from the outside.
Fellow redshirt junior Ryan Evans has been fulfilling some of the potential that Badger faithful had in him when he arrived in Madison. He's the team's leading rebounding this season, averaging 6.3 rebounds per game, and is also pitching in just under 10 points per game.
The fifth and final starter for Wisconsin is the unheralded red head Mike Bruesewitz. Bruesewitz is a junior who last year made an impact off the bench as a sparkplug for Bo Ryan and company, but this year has transitioned into the starting line-up. Averaging 6.6 points and 5.0 rebounds, Bruesewitz can shoot from beyond the arc, and is best defined as a high energy guy down low.
The six Badgers mentioned above are the only players for Wisconsin that are averaging over 12 minutes a game, so depth isn't something that the Badgers may have this year, unlike their opponents on Saturday, Marquette.
Something else they don't have is a very fast style of play. Their tempo ranks as the slowest in the country. As Marquette guard Darius Johnson-Odom said yesterday, Wisconsin "conned" North Carolina into a slower game, something they'll surely look to do to the Golden Eagles on Saturday as well.
While the Badgers prefer a slower paced game, it doesn't come without reason. Wisconsin ranks in the top-10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
If Marquette stands a chance on Saturday afternoon at the Kohl Center, it will be because they will be able to adjust to Wisconsin's tempo well. The game will probably be at the host's pace, so we'll see how the Golden Eagles handle the half court game they'll be forced to play.
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