Badger Nation's View from the Box

With Wisconsin's rebounding numbers down from a season ago and the killer instinct gone from its 31-win season, the Badgers are desperately missing a dominant presence in the paint to dictate the tempo, something fifth-year senior Brian Butch did to perfection.

MADISON – To reach the promise land, which could range from a conference championship to a Final Four birth, Wisconsin basketball requires a multitude of things to go right. There has to be presence in the post, leadership from its seniors and someone who rises to the occasion in clutch games and situations.

While there is a healthy dose of that among the 17 members of this year's Badger squad, there was always something that was missing, dating all the way back to when Wisconsin started the non-conference season.

And at forward for Wisconsin …. !

Wisconsin had its leaders in seniors Joe Krabbenhoft and Marcus Landry, guys that have been around the block numerous times in the conference, but Krabbenhoft is not a high scorer and Landry isn't much of a post player.

A 6-foot, 11-inch senior from Appleton, Wisconsin

Wisconsin has post talent in Keaton Nankivil, but the experience and size is just not there yet. If only the Badgers still had …

Number 32 … Briannnnnnn Buuuuutch

Ah yes, Brian Butch, as Wisconsin's Public Address announcer always so eloquently put it, was worth the high build up, as the now departed senior was something special for the Badgers, especially in his final two years.

The 32nd player in school history to surpass 1,000 points in his career and a first-team All-Big Ten player, Butch did everything the Badgers needed him to do. He could dominate in the post, his leadership skills were unquestioned and when his team needed him the most, he took his game to a new level.

Without question, Brian Butch is a player that Badgers would love to have prowling on the court for another year.

In leading Wisconsin to duel titles last season, Butch led Wisconsin in shooting 45.6 percent from the floor and averaging 12.4 points per game. But the stat that was the key to Wisconsin's success was Butch's rebounding, as he pulled down 77 offensive rebounds and averaged 6.6 rebounds per game.

Right now, the only player close is Krabbenhoft, who has pulled in 48 offensive boards and averages 6.1 rebounds per game.

With Butch in the paint, Wisconsin tied for first in rebounding defense in the conference last year (30.2 rebounds per game), fourth in total rebounds (35.9 per game), third in rebounding margin (plus 5.7 ratio) and first in field goal defense, as teams shot only 38.3 percent against the Badgers and the 6-foot-11 frame of Butch.

Without Butch to this point in the season, the Badgers are first in rebounding defense (28.6 rebounds per game), but are ninth in rebounds (31.3 per game), tenth in field goal defense (43.8 percent) and have a rebound margin of only plus 2.6.

In 27 games, the Badgers have been out scored 11 times in the paint and have been crushed by post players JuJuan Johnson (20 points) and were bullied by fifth-year season Goran Suton in the second half on Sunday, as he scored 12 points to help Michigan State erase a double-digit deficit and caused Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan to candidly say that the Badgers needed a more physical presence inside.

In Butch's tenure, the Badgers never lost more than four consecutive games, as his leadership was unquestioned on the court and in the locker room. One year later, the Badgers lost six consecutive games for the first time since 1998 and didn't get out of its funk until the team was dealt an emotional, fiery speech attacking the team's lack of leadership.

The speech wasn't dealt by a player or by Ryan, but by associate head coach Greg Gard, as the usually mild-mannered coach was apparently tired of Badgers pointing fingers.

"Coach's speech made us want to pay attention to what we were doing and take a second look at ourselves," said junior guard Jason Bohannon. "He was tired of us putting the struggles on other people."

But as good as Butch was at rebounding and leadership, he was even better in the clutch. When No.2 Pittsburgh came to Madison during his junior year, Butch scored a career-high 27 points in front of a national audience to prove the Badgers were for real.

While fans remember senior Michael Flowers beating No.9 Texas with a three-pointer in Austin, people are quick to forget that the Badgers wouldn't have even been in that possession without Butch's 21 points and 11 rebounds.

Desperate for his team to get back into the Big Ten title race, Butch hit the biggest shot of his career when he banked in a three-pointer with 4.5 seconds left to win 68-66 at Indiana.

The list goes on (20 points at Northwestern to win the Big Ten outright, 19 points against Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament to help UW erase a 12 point deficit) and the fact that the Badgers have lost seven games where they had the lead in the final minutes of regulation is proof that Wisconsin is lacking that ultimate closer.

One year removed from his tenure from Wisconsin, Butch is the John Stocco of basketball … somebody the fans and the program don't truly appreciate until after they are gone.

Although the Badgers are primed to be back in the field of 64, life just isn't the same without the Polar Bear roaming the court.


Badger Nation Top Stories