"We knew it would come," Gard said. "We were surprised that it came quicker than expected."
Taylor, who was named Minnesota's Mr. Basketball as a senior after averaging 22.3 points and 7.1 assists per game, was the go-to player down the stretch for Wisconsin, providing needed relief when struggles plagued UW's backcourt.
"We're a team, which means you have to pick each other up when someone is struggling," Taylor said. "I took a lot of confidence from last year that the coaches could count on me to contribute. I think experience from last year helps a lot, just knowing the offense, the speed of the game a little bit better and trying to adjust to it a lot easier this year than last year."
Leading the Badgers with a 2.2 assist-to-turnover ratio, Taylor was a quiet role player throughout the first part of last season, until a game in Iowa changed his role. With Trevon Hughes struggling with his shot and his control, Taylor came off the bench in relief, scoring a career-high 10 points, including a three-pointer at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.
From that point on, Taylor was a fixture on the floor, playing 20 minutes seven times in UW's final 16 games.
"I have fun whenever I play basketball," Taylor said. "It was a lot of fun and things didn't always go our way. It was a good experience, it was a fun experience, and hopefully it can get better from there."
The only time he didn't have fun, something he was quick to point out, was UW's six game losing streak in January, including a 73-69 overtime loss in Iowa where Taylor tried to be the savior. Wisconsin was 7-8 in games decided by five points or less.
"It's part of the game and you have to work to avoid those situations and if they happen, you have to work to get yourself out of the hole," said Taylor, who had never experienced a six game losing streak in his playing career. "You can never get up, never rest, because everybody else is clawing and fighting. I think at times, we kind of faltered and got weak minded. We just have to fight all the way through, all the way to the end."
Although the Badgers needing to replace two senior starters in the frontcourt, UW's backcourt looks to be the strength of UW's lineup, as the Badgers could easily play with a three-guard lineup with Taylor and seniors Jason Bohannon and Trevon Hughes, something UW coach Bo Ryan tinkered with at times last season. With a young Taylor still learning what it takes to be a guard in the rugged Big Ten, he's the big benefactor of studying under one of the better guards in the Big Ten.
"Competing against someone like (Hughes) every day is only going to make you better, so that's good for me, as well as Jason," Taylor said. "(Hughes is) tough to guard and a tough player to play against. Going against guys like that everyday can't help but make you better."