It started with conversations between media members, talking about former Badger and NBA lottery pick Devin Harris's junior season at UW in 2003-04 and the current season extraordinaire current point guard Jordan Taylor is enjoying. Then a few questions were lobbed at Bo Ryan about the last time he relied so much on a ball- screen action offense, instead of the normal "swing" motion sets. If you recall, Taylor's epic 27 point (on 13 shots!), seven assist performance came in the second half against the Buckeyes with exclusive pick-and-pop action that Taylor directed.
So what has been kicked around passively for a week or so, needs to be addressed directly.
Although heresy it may seem, is Taylor putting together a better single season than Devin Harris ever did?
And if Taylor compares favorably, to Harris, who doesn't he stack up with?
More succinctly stated, Taylor is enjoying the greatest single season ever for a Badger basketball player.
Taylor's excellence can be expressed in a lot of ways, but here is a quick overview of his stat line: The junior guard averages 18.1 points per game on 46 percent from the floor, 42 percent from 3-point range and 85 percent from the free throw line, boasts the nation's top assist-to-turnover ration at 4-to-1 and even chips in 4.4 rebounds per contest. According to statistics guru Ken Pomeroy, Taylor ranks as the most efficient offensive player in the nation and he averages 1.45 points per shot. And remember he does this all while UW plays at the slowest pace in the nation and relies on Taylor to take the majority of shots when the shot clock dips below 10 seconds.
OK, so obviously those numbers are awesome. Anyone in the country not named Jimmer would be happy with that production, especially when you look at it in a tempo free light.
And as it turns out, any player in UW's history would trade his own stat line for Taylor's as well.
Devin Harris? The junior guard averaged 19.5 ppg, on 46/37/80 shooting. One point more than Taylor, but worse shooting across the board. As for taking care of the ball, Harris's 2.14-to-1 assist to turnover ratio is nearly half as good as Taylor's.
From the team standpoint the 2003-04 Badgers and this year's edition are nearly identical. Harris's team lost seven games on the season and went undefeated at home. They finished second in the Big Ten, won the Big Ten Conference Tournament and fell in the second round of the NCAA Tourney.
While it is nearly sacrilege to put down Harris in Wisconsin, the numbers don't lie. Taylor's season has been better.
As for other contender's for the crown, no one scores as efficiently or distributes the ball better.
Alando Tucker scored a bit more at 19.9 ppg, but shot threes at a 33 percent rate and free throws at just 66 percent. Shockingly, he only grabbed one more rebound a game than Taylor. And the 1.2 assist-to-turnover of Tucker's? Well, let's just say when he got the ball inside the arc, he probably wasn't giving it up.
Go back further and look at Michael Finley. The future NBA All-Star certainly had a prolific career, averaging over 20 points a game in three different seasons. In his top two seasons, Finley could fill the hoop as well as anyone, scoring 20-22 points, while shooting 46/36/78. Of course, these numbers were compiled while playing at a much faster pace, and the Badgers didn't finish over .500 in the Big Ten in either of those seasons or make the NCAA Tournament.
But of course, Taylor's awesomeness cannot just be expressed in the numbers he compiles.
The fact that a freshman starts in the backcourt with him puts more pressure on Taylor as well. Josh Gasser has been good in many facets of the game, but easing the scoring load hasn't been one of them.
Further pressure is added with only Jon Leuer as the other option for creating his own shot. If Leuer isn't on the court, Taylor becomes responsible for getting his own shots as well as finding teammates for theirs.
If Taylor has a bad game, there are very few (OK, no) ways UW can win. Yet they sit at third place in the Big Ten and in the top-15 rankings.
Yes, it seems pretty clear that if Taylor keeps up at his current pace, his season will go down as THE greatest performance over a year in Wisconsin history. No one has ever scored as efficiently or run a team more effectively at point guard. He is the ultimate Bo Ryan player, mistake free, calm under pressure and wildly underrated.
Let's just sit back and appreciate it.