Grading the Badgers – 2009-10 season

INDIANAPOLIS - While Wisconsin isn't playing in this evening's national semifinals, the Badgers made the NCAA field for a 12th straight season and finished one game out of a first-place tie in the Big Ten, not bad for a team picked to finish seventh or lower. Badger Nation Publisher Benjamin Worgull hands on the season grades.

For Starters

Senior Guard Trevon Hughes: B

From the moment he stepped foot on the court last summer, this became Hughes' team. The man of few words made sure his actions spoke louder than words and it was evident that the Badgers succeeded when Hughes did.

Seven times in 2009-10 did Hughes score over 20 points and Wisconsin went 6-1. For his careers, UW was 15-1 when its point guard scored 20 plus. When UW's biggest post presence suffered a wrist injury that sidelined him for nine games in the conference season, Hughes scored 16-plus points in four games, including 14 late points in a seven-minute stretch to earn a victory at Northwestern.

In UW's victory over Duke, Hughes finished that game with 26 points on 9-of-16 shooting and zero turnovers, a main reason he had his best statistical season (1.4 assist-to-turnover ratio) and was a second-team All-Conference selection and a first-team All-Defensive team selection.

Hughes was a part of 105 wins in his career, tied for most in his career, but one can't help think he left some things on the table. Granted he had a 11 game double-digit steak to end his career, but Hughes shot 13-of-37 (35 percent) in three postseason games, missed two game-winning shots to give UW a big road victory at Mackey Arena against Purdue and seemed to put too much pressure on himself to perform in the clutch, a main reason he has a season-high six turnovers in the loss to Cornell.

Still, Hughes finished 12th on UW's all-time scoring list (1,348 points), became the seventh player in UW history with 1,250 points and 250 assists and helped UW overcome low preseason expectations.

Senior Guard Jason Bohannon: B

Coming in as a three-point specialist, the difference between the Bohannon then and now is shockingly different. Working hard in the offseason on his defense and being a player shooter off the dribble, Bohannon scored 384 points last year – most of any season of his career – and ranked 20th on Wisconsin's all-time scoring list with 1,170 points. He was still a deep shooting threat (hitting a three-pointer in 28 games), but his defense and durability is what has been benefiting Wisconsin.

Playing in 36.8 minutes per game (a team-best and fifth-most in the league), Bohannon notched a career high in blocks, points per game, rebounds, steals, assists and averaged under 1.3 turnovers per game. Still, it was his scoring that made him and the team tick, which was evident by his 30-point performance on 11-of-16 shooting against Indiana.

Still, Bohannon curiously vanished at times throughout the season, and his absence was evident on the scoreboard. At Purdue, he attempted just five shots, he shot 1-of-10 in the loss to Illinois in the Big Ten Tournament, didn't make any of his four attempts against Wofford and was 2-of-10 from three against Cornell.

Still, Bohannon and Hughes combined for 2,443 career points, the most of any backcourt duo in UW history, and won 105 games. Without Bohannon, UW would have been in a different place.

Junior Forward Jon Leuer: B+

If Leuer wasn't robbed of nine games during the heart of the conference season, UW could have easily been holding a conference trophy, been playing in Milwaukee in the first two rounds of the tournament and perhaps be playing this weekend. Woulda, coulda, shoulda, but the impact Leuer made in 24 games gives those ‘what-if' questions a dose of validity.

Leuer was outstanding on both ends of the court, finishing with the team lead in points (15.4 per game) and shooting percentage (52.2 percent) and being tops in shot blocks (32) and third in rebounds (5.8 per game). Leuer showed why he's a perfect fit for UW Coach Bo Ryan's system, physical in the post battling for rebounds and scoring in the paint or hit tough jump shots from the baseline of the perimeter. Losing Leuer showed why he is so valuable to the team, as the Badgers inability to create shots in the paint caused a spike in three-point attempts and the lack of length inside no longer scared teams off.

After getting the cobwebs out in an ugly Minnesota game, Leuer averaged 17 points and shot 58.5 percent over the team's final seven games, including back-to-back 20-point games in the NCAA Tournament, single handedly keeping the Badgers alive or with a pulse.

Leuer will take the summer to further polish his game and step into a leadership role. He already showed his toughness by playing three-fourths of a game with a broken wrist and coming back early to contribute to the team. If he continues to improve with his already array of post moves, his ability to score off the dribble and be accurate from three-point range, it's no stretch of the imagination that Leuer will be a first-team All-Big Ten player.

Junior Forward Keaton Nankivil: C-

The case of Nankivil is still an interesting one. One on hand, the junior from Madison has shown glimpses of the player he can be. His 25-point outburst at Purdue gave the Badgers a chance when Leuer was on the bench and his ability to chip in with points in the paint gave the Badgers an added lift. Still, he hasn't been a dominant post scorer like Leuer is or Brian Butch was, which was a big reason why UW struggled inside without Leuer.

The big thing for Nankivil is not thinking too much, something he's been criticized openly and privately about by the coaching staff. Nankivil does much better when he just plays, and doesn't have to think about footwork, the media or anybody else.

Nankivil also has to develop a mean streak, something Ryan has gotten on him about. In the Big Ten, you can't be too friendly with people and that's something Nankivil has to learn. The other thing is footwork and being a defensive presence in the post. Against Cornell, Nankivil looked lost trying to guard the 7-foot center Jeff Foote, racking up foul after foul after Foote took him to the cleaners.

Nankivil finished with no points and two rebounds in five minutes, which was somehow worse than his two points against Wofford. Still, Nankivil raised his points (2.9 to 8.1) and rebounds (1.8 to 4.7) significantly from year two to year three. After playing in only 46 minutes his freshman year, you wish looking back that he would have redshirted, as he'd be outstanding in two years.

Nankivil needs to improve his footwork and defense, become instinctive, develop a post game and find a way to co-exist with Leuer on the court, as the Badgers look disjointed at times with both of them out there. With inexperience in the backcourt, UW will need Nankivil to play big in 2011.

Sophomore Guard Jordan Taylor: A

The one and possibly only good thing coming from Leuer's injury was the emergence of Taylor as a bonafied point guard and player at the college level. Taylor finished third in the country with a 3.03 assist-to-turnover ratio, giving the Badgers a solid, confident player at the point next season that will help ease the burden off loosing Hughes.

UW fans knew Taylor could play before the injury (game-tying shot at Iowa last year, 19 points from Gonzaga in Maui) but his performance against Purdue in Madison spoke volumes. With Leuer struggling with his shot (we later learn it was because he broke his wrist), Taylor buried Purdue on 7-of-11 shooting for a career-best 23 points.

Four games later and stuck in the worst shooting slump of his young career, Taylor awakens to score the last eight points of regulation and seven of the first nine points in overtime to beat Penn State. When Leuer came back, Ryan stuck with the three-guard lineup and the results gave UW success, as Taylor proved he was capable of shouldering the work.

He finished the season fourth on the team with 10 points per game and played the third most minutes (29.5), a big benefit with him coming back. There was no question that Taylor was the most improved player from a year ago. Now the junior will need to morph into a leadership role both on and off the court and improve on his 32.7 percent shooting percentage.

In Reserve Junior Forward Tim Jarmusz: D

The D is for defense, which is something Jarmusz brought at times throughout the season. Admitting he never is going to light up the scoreboard, Jarmusz' role was to be a hard-working, blue-collar defender, who is willing to sacrifice his body to dive for loose ball and create opportunities for the scorers to be successful in the offense.

Still, his lack of production meddled with his confidence and ignited the message boards with him being the prime target. Jarmusz could hit the open shot his first two years, but that vanished in 2009-10. He only made 25 shots the whole season, shot 30.8 percent and played 10 or less minutes in four of the final six games, which was when Leuer came back and had shaken all the rust off.

There's not a guy that's nicer to talk to than Jarmusz, which is why you can't help but feel for him after an awful individual season. Jarmusz needs to regain that confidence within the conference, become a seven-, eight-point-a-night scorer for UW. This year, 75 percent of his shots were from three-point range. As a forward, Jarmusz needs to develop some semblance of a post game and find that defensive prowess once again.

Freshman Forward Ryan Evans: C

The Will Smith look-a-like on UW's roster, one can't help but breaking out into the theme song from ‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air' every time Evans and his flat-top haircut walked by. Recruited as a project by assistant coach Howard Moore, Evans used his redshirt season to add weight, polish his game and improve his athleticism. It's evident that it was time well spent.

Evans was usually the first person off the bench for Ryan and Co. and played in every game, averaging just over 13 minutes per game. His assist-to-turnover margin was what you would expect from a freshman (21-to-26) and some of his decisions were questionable, but the flashes he showed give fans hope that he's just starting to tap into that well of potential, especially when you watch him out muscled someone for a rebound (career-high eight rebounds vs. Duke) or take off on a dunk.

Take the finale against Cornell, Evans scored 11 points, six rebounds and three assists in what could be deemed his best performance of the season. If he takes that, uses that this summer, improves his ball handling and takes a learning lesson from Leuer, Evans will be a steal.

Sophomore Forward Rob Wilson: C-

Another young player that has started to show flashes of what he is capable of, Wilson shot 54.7 percent during the season and provided a spark at times off the bench, as his 13 points against Michigan can attest.

Still, Wilson's biggest problem is consistency and not just showing flashed of being a solid player. Having suspect ball handling, decision making and mistakes on defense sometimes made Wilson a liability, which could explain why he played just 14 minutes in the post season.

Wilson's 6-foot-4 frame bodes well for a Wisconsin team needing to find another guard, as Wilson can shoot accurately at times from the outside and can post inside when needed. Wilson's biggest key this summer is after learning what it takes to compete in this level to use that to his advantage in everyday workouts.

Freshman Forward Mike Bruesewitz: B

Some people may debate this grade because he only played 10 or more minutes in eight of the 28 games he played and averaged 1.1 points per game, but Bruesewitz was vital in two big areas for Wisconsin this year.

First, the Badgers don't come back from Maui with a third-place trophy without Bruesewitz' contributions. He longed 43 minutes on the island when foul trouble could have cost the Badgers and his seven rebounds against Arizona tied a season high. If UW doesn't have success (and confidence) during those three days, there's no way they beat Duke.

Secondary, Bruesewitz was phenomenal rebounding the basketball during the time he spent on the court. Bruesewitz averaged one rebound every 3.6 minutes (including garbage time) and grabbed 10 rebounds in a combined 10 minutes in back-to-back games against Michigan State and Purdue.

The biggest key for him is finding his scoring touch from areas further away from the basket. If he can combine that with his rebounding, UW has recruited another talented two-way post player.

Freshman Forward Jared Berggren: D+

It's been a tough two years for Berggren, but the dark shroud is starting to be lifted from his eyes. A talented big man and decent shooter, Berggren struggled to match the speed and physicality of the Big Ten, a reminder he got on more than a few occasions when his footwork slacked behind and his seat on the bench became warm.

Appearing in 19 games and scoring 20 points with eight rebounds, Berggren played most of the season with an injured shoulder, a chronic problem that got so bad for the 6-foot-10 redshirt freshman that it was painful for him to raise his arms higher than his shoulders at times, a problem if he's trying to block shots.

When Leuer went down, the next day's practice was a whirlwind for Berggren, as the coaching staff tried to turn him into an All-American over night. Talking to him after, you could tell that Berggren's head was spinning, but that confidence shooting the ball and on the defensive end will come with more experience and a healthy shoulder.


Junior J.P. Gavinski (played in six games this past season, scored two points on a thunderous dunk against Cal Poly, most likely will stay a scout team player)

Junior Wquinton Smith (played in eight games, scored five points and considered by many as the strongest guard on the team. Potentially could work himself into the rotation with a vacancy at the two-guard)

Junior Brett Valentyn (appeared in eight games and scored four points)

Sophomore Ian Markolf (played in only two games and is still a work in progress)

Freshman Dan Fahey (walk-on from St. Ignatius Prep that played in five games his first season)

Freshman J.D. Wise (former Whitefish Bay Domincan player that won a spot on the team via an open tryout. Played in one game)

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