Wisconsin looks poised to contend for a Big Ten title.
Last season, the Wisconsin Badgers—led by Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor—had an impressive regular season in the Big Ten, going 13-5 in conference play en route to the No. 3 seed in the Big Ten tournament.
Once they got to the Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, things turned for the worst. In just their first game in the conference tournament, the Badgers were stunned by Penn State 36-33. This year, however, things seem to be lined up nicely for Wisconsin to make a run at both the regular-season and tournament championships in Big Ten play.
Leuer and fellow senior Keaton Nankivil have both graduated, but this year's squad, led by veteran guard Taylor, look primed to make a statement in league play.
Here we look at five keys for the Badgers to win the Big Ten title...
Last season, 6'10'' senior guard Jon Leuer led Wisconsin to the Sweet 16 while averaging 18.3 points and 7.2 rebounds.
Leuer has now made the transition to the NBA, and numerous big men on the Badgers will be called upon to step up big time. Among those who will have a heavier workload this year are Mike Bruesewtiz and Jared Berggren. Both of these forwards will need to play substantial roles if Wisconsin is going to be a legitimate threat in the Big Ten.
Bruesewitz averaged fewer than five points and three rebounds last year, and Berggren averaged fewer than that. Rebounding, especially on the offensive side of the ball, is often the difference between a win and a loss in league action.
If both of these upperclassmen can improve on last season's performances, then the Badgers will prove to be among the elite in conference play.
Jordan Taylor was recently named a preseason All-American. This is not an honor normally bestowed upon Wisconsin basketball players.
Taylor is just the second player in Wisconsin history, the first since Michael Finley (1994-1995), to receive this great recognition. After bursting onto the national scene as one of the nation's top point guards, Taylor will need to remain level-headed in order to give the Badgers a chance at the Big Ten title.
After averaging 18.1 points and 4.7 assists last season, Taylor will need to produce similar numbers in order for Wisconsin to succeed. He does not need to go into every game this year with the mentality that he needs to pour in 40 points a night. If he can remain poised and play up to his capabilities, the Badgers will do very well in conference play.
Now that America knows very well about Jordan Taylor, another guard will need to step up in order for Wisconsin to succeed.
Sharpshooting guard Ben Brust comes to mind immediately. After spending last year on the scout team as a true freshman, Brust had an impressive showing at the Badgers Red-White scrimmage last Sunday.
Brust poured in 22 points en route to a victory for the Red Team over Jordan Taylor's White Team. Of course this was only a scrimmage, but if Brust can garner good minutes this season and take some of the burden off of Taylor's shoulders, the Badgers will be in good hands.
One of the most overlooked aspects in college basketball is coaching. Bo Ryan has been nothing short of spectacular in the 10 years he has coached in Madison.
Wisconsin has not been ranked as high as No. 14 in preseason rankings since the 2006-2007 season. With Jordan Taylor being named a preseason All-American, Ryan needs to keep the Badgers heads turned away from all the hype, and focused on the task at hand.
Ryan, who has accumulated the third-most wins all-time in Wisconsin history, knows what it takes to succeed in the Big Ten. The question is whether he will be able to keep his team poised over the duration of the regular season and especially through Big Ten play.
When Ohio State traveled to Madison last year and held a commanding 15-point lead in the second half, there were two individuals Bo Ryan knew he could count on.
Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor, both veterans, remained poised throughout the tumultuous second half and eventually led Wisconsin to a memorable 71-67 victory at the Kohl Center.
This season, however, Leuer is gone and Ryan will need someone to join Taylor in providing veteran leadership. There will be rough patches this season, as there always are, but the manner in which the Badgers respond will ultimately determine their chances in winning a Big Ten title.