For starters? Questions abound

Wisconsin tips off season's first exhibition game at 7 p.m. Wednesday

The 2004-05 University of Wisconsin men's basketball team that debuts tonight, with an exhibition at the Kohl Center against UW-Parkside, is an amalgam of old and new, known and unknown, leaving plenty of questions for a team with high hopes.

Despite returning only fifth-year senior forward Mike Wilkinson from last season's starting lineup, these Badgers are likely Ryan's deepest and most athletic crew, with a plethora of players who could command minutes.

"Anybody in a uniform will be on the floor," Ryan said Tuesday. "I don't know in what minutes or anything else for tomorrow."

How about the first five?

"I'd give you all 14 names," Ryan said.

Four starters are gone from the team that finished 25-7 a year ago and won the Big Ten Tournament title. Devin Harris is playing point for the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, Dave Mader and Freddie Owens completed their eligibility, and junior guard Boo Wade is taking an indefinite leave of absence from the team.

Wilkinson, a preseason All-Big Ten selection, is the constant, a 6-foot-8, 240-pound ultra consistent, inside-outside presence. With a larger cast of post players surrounding him this season, Wilkinson will primarily play power forward after logging most of his minutes at center last season.

The only other guarantee in the starting lineup is small forward Alando Tucker. The 6-5, 210-pound sophomore played in just four games a year ago before a pair of foot injuries forced him to take a medical redshirt. Tucker is back and as good, if not better, than ever, combining elite athleticism with impressive strength and an improved shooting touch.

Past that it is anyone's guess. The assumption here is that Wednesday's starting five will also include sophomore point guard Kammron Taylor, senior guard Clayton Hanson and senior center Andreas Helmigk, but junior wing Ray Nixon, senior guard Sharif Chambliss and senior forward Zach Morley all could start.

In addition, if redshirt freshman Brian Butch was not recovering from a minor foot injury, he probably would supplant Helmigk at the "5". Though Ryan said Butch would play Wednesday, it will likely be on a limited basis after he missed Sunday's intrasquad scrimmage and Monday's practice, returning for only part of Tuesday's workout.

Chambliss is a favorite to start eventually, but he is still holding back a little after undergoing knee surgery about seven months ago.

"Sometimes [trainer Henry Perez-Guerra] will take me out. He doesn't want the knee to get too sore, no inflammation in it," Chambliss said. "I'm still going through the rehab process. It is all a process for me, getting back healthy. I want to be able to play at the end of the season rather than push myself to kill myself in the beginning of the season."

Chambliss will be playing in his first game since transferring from Penn State at the end of the 2002-03 season. He joins Tucker, Butch, redshirt sophomore forward Jason Chappell, redshirt freshman walk-on Tanner Bronson and true freshmen center Greg Stiemsma, wing DeAaron Williams and guard Michael Flowers as potential new faces in the Badgers' lineup. Stiemsma and Flowers were still considering redshirting heading into Wednesday's game.

"These two exhibition games here will give us a better sense of what's going on," assistant coach Gary Close said. "Any time you throw people in the stands and referees and a different team than you've got to see how guys react to that."

Taylor will be a focal point of those watchful eyes. He played very little as a true freshman last year but has been pressed into service this season. The Minneapolis native is confident and talented but there are wrinkles to iron out. He scored 18 points in the Badgers' intrasquad scrimmage but also had six turnovers.

"He made some great plays as well," Close said. "Now, he's got to keep making those great plays and cut down on some of the mistakes and we'll see if he can make some progress between Sunday and Wednesday."

With an impressive array of athletes, the Badgers have installed a full court press in practices this fall.

"We still want to be a real good half court defensive team," Close said. "This is just an added dimension that hopefully we can include in it."

Take a break, shoot a free throw

Beginning this year, free throws will be shot after any coinciding media timeout. In the past the charity shots had taken place before the timeout but missed shots were squeezing commercial breaks. In order to prepare for the change, Wisconsin has been periodically shooting free throws after a water break.

"The best thing to do is put them in practice and have them take a little break and then come out and shoot free throws," Ryan said. "It's still 15 feet and actually they should be able to make them with a higher percentage because they are relaxed."

Don't try this at home

In exempt preseason tournaments and some non-conference games, the NCAA is experimenting with a one-and-a-half-foot wider lane, a 20-foot, 6-inch three-point line and a charge circle similar to the one used in the NBA.

Wisconsin had planned on taking part in the experimentation in its two exhibition games, but the temporary lines laid on the Kohl Center floor were smudging as practice progressed and Ryan felt they were unfair to the women's team, which practices after the Badger men, and has no use for the lines. So Ryan had them removed during practice Monday.

"We'll be getting tapes on some of these exempt tournaments and I can see from video what kind of effect that will have, if any," Ryan said.

Badger Nation Top Stories