COACH RYAN: Again, it's great to be here with the idea that everybody is still undefeated and we're all going to see what kind of mix we can put our teams into.
There's a lot of teams that have to do what we're going to have to do and that's find some different pieces to work together. And there's some key losses with teams.
So this is a great time for practice and trying to mesh, and we're looking forward to it.
COACH RYAN: He wins the bet. I'm not allowed to bet, but the first question is going to be about replacing -- look around the country, find two 6-9, 6-10 players that shot the way those two did and were such an integral part of the offense, because they can pick and pop, they could space, they could also post. Would like to have had maybe a little more of that. But they were factors.
And Jordan (Taylor) was a -- the kind of guy that could get them open and do some things by breaking down the defense.
They're going to be tough to replace from the standpoint of while they were developing the offensive skills, they were also pretty good defenders. I mean, those were two guys that made it tough for other teams to get to the rim. That's what we're looking for now from the bigs that are going to replace them, is that they're going to have to have to move their feet better, Jared Berggren and the rest of the company, because they became pretty good at what we were doing defensively.
I think what we're going to need to do to replace them is it might not be two guys replacing two guys; it might be three or four replacing two.
Q. Jordan Taylor has accomplished so much for you guys, especially last year. What does he have to do this year to raise his game to the next level?
COACH RYAN: I think productivity-wise, it's hard to match those numbers. It's just shooting consistency is something every player works on from year to year. Because when he was hot, he was really hot. And there were times where it's not that he lost confidence, but it's just sometimes the rim looks a little smaller.
So I think shooting consistency throughout a game or throughout parts of the season is what not only Jordan but everybody else looks for. So I think that will really help him even rise in what people see in him as a player. It will raise his stakes. And I think, though, that the biggest thing was the leadership role that he has taken and the voice in the locker room, the guy that people listen to, the guy that sets an example with his work ethic.
And it's the oldest saying I know, is when your best player is your hardest worker. And we're in that situation. He is our hardest worker. And he's the guy that makes everybody better around him.
So if there's better numbers he can put up, I don't know about total numbers, but maybe consistency would be something that we all strive for.
Q. What have your initial impressions been of Jarrod Uthoff? You mentioned him earlier. And do you see him fitting into your rotation this year?
COACH RYAN: Yes, I do. He's picked up things sort of the way Josh Gasser did last year. Some guys it might be after a year, some guys after two years, but he's grasped our concepts as fast as anybody that we've had.
And he's working on his strength. He's stronger than when he played in high school because of the -- our ability now to bring players on campus and take classes and also get in the workout room.
So he will be in the mix I would say right now, and probably the most consistent of the younger guys to this point.
Q. With roughly two months of nonconference play coming this season, how important will these two months of nonconference play be to your team's success coming into this Big Ten season?
COACH RYAN: The same as it's been every year, because our nonconference schedule is pretty tough. You have to -- we have to play X number of home games, so there's obviously some guaranteed games.
But the guaranteed games that (associate head) coach (Greg) Gard, who does our scheduling, manages to get for us for the most part are pretty good teams.
A lot of times it's senior-dominant teams. They're good teams to play, because, if you look at the NCAA tournament over the last 10 years and look at some of the schools that have won, they've won with guys that have been together for a long time. I mean, we brought in Winthrop about four years ago. When they had their best team, teams like that, that we know would probably be in the NCAA tournament.
So we had (North) Carolina, Marquette, Green Bay, and Milwaukee, state games that are always hotly contested. And I think we have Vegas (UNLV) at home. I know they're very good. So if we can compete with that schedule, then I'm pretty sure that will prepare us to compete in the Big Ten. We have to survive those two months, and that will be our goal.
Q. A few days ago, I can't remember which one of your players made the comment, but he kind of made a sarcastic comment about the fact that just because -- with all the guys back, you should be very good this year but at the same time the people who make predictions will find a new way to underrate your team. Why do you think that does happen as often as it does? Do you think it has anything to do with style or defense is not valued as much in low-scoring games?
COACH RYAN: I don't know, who did you say said this? The media or a player?
Q. No, it was a player. But I don't know whether it was -- several things in one day, so I can't remember which guy it was. But he was saying that people will find a new way to underrate us.
COACH RYAN: Well, maybe he meant because of who we lost; that maybe in the eyes of some people that replacements such as Ryan Evans, Berggren, (Mike) Bruesewitz, whatever names you want to put out there, they're unproven as 30-minute-a-game players.
They were role players, so now role players have to become solid contributors. And trying to replace that 90 to 100 minutes that the players that are no longer with us that they gave us, might be that people don't know that much -- because Bruesewitz was not a McDonald's All-American, despite what he looked like with that red wig, with his red -- I mean, not wig, his red hair.
He was called Ronald McDonald at a few places. And Ryan Evans was a late bloomer, so he's someone we've been trying to help develop. And Jared Berggren was injured. Had a bad shoulder, kept popping out on him. He had the surgery. So we had a lot of question marks as far as really proven, say, 3, 4, 5 spot.
So maybe they were saying inside, well, they probably won't -- they don't know too much about us because we didn't make any All-anything Team, and they probably won't think we're very good.
It was probably just a guy having some fun during a study break.
Q. How would you assess (George) Marshall and (Traevon) Jackson right now? If you had to handicap them, who would you say is more primed to contribute immediately?
COACH RYAN: Not really going to do that as far as -- because it's too early. But I know one thing: Defensively and their quickness in what they bring to the table in our drills, they have really made our drills much more competitive because they both -- they use what they have very well. Traevon is thicker, stronger, but good feet. George Marshall is a little more wiry, but he has a long wing span and he's quick. He's quick off the bounce. When we do our pressure cookers, five against four, four against three, three against two, full court, giving the defense the advantage, those two guys make good decisions. They're quick. They're hard to double team. But that's just in drills so far. So now the real test comes:
Can you understand these concepts defensively when you're not the guy on the ball? Can you understand our defense? And on offense, where do you go off of this read? And what are you reading next?
So we're not to that point yet, but the two of them have definitely added to the competitiveness of our drills. And that's a good thing.