A Program on the Decline?
Yeah, one game…true. UW lost to Gonzaga on Tuesday in the semifinals of the Maui invitational. Relevance? Consider this, Gonzaga is a team that is similar to Wisconsin. A system team that has to out scout and depend on regional and international recruits. Both teams have magnificent coaches and are great programs. This game revealed that Gonzaga is better in 2009, so…?
So. Gonzaga has shown the ability to “reload” to find tremendous athletes in areas that are off the beaten path of major programs. What Wisconsin has found previously in Kirk Penney, Devin Harris, and Alando Tucker, Gonzaga has found in players such as Ronny Turiaf, Adam Morrison, Josh Heytvelt, and Dan Dickau. The difference lies in the past three-five recruiting cycles. Both programs have to recruit in areas that only have one primary in-state rival. Milwaukee has produced far less than Seattle given the incredible woes of the MPS system, so Milwaukee has really proven to be non-existent where as Gonzaga can count on Seattle and its suburbs producing rich talent year in and year out. UW should be a slam dunk in recruiting. Great university, tremendous campus, famous coach, and a great conference affiliation. What has happened?
Consider the recent past. Five years ago it was Wesley Matthews the Madison Memorial product turning his back on the Badgers. Jerry Smith turned to Louisville despite his desire to follow in the path of former Tosa East star Devin Harris. Then the Vander Blue saga. Vander commits to UW, blows up, gets advised by the Maymon family (teammate Jeronne headed to MU) on his decision, waffles on his commitment, decommits, then is chastised in the Madison media for his lax academics and goes to Marquette. Three elite guards, 0 for three. Consider the current situation. Wisconsin has three “true guards” on its roster. Trevon Hughes, Jason Bohannon, and Jordan Taylor. Two will graduate at years end. Leaving a backcourt for next year of Jordan Taylor and true Frosh Josh Gasser. In reserve they will have swing guards in Rob Wilson and Tim Jarmusz. UW has recruited some very promising front court players. Mike Brusewitz looks very impressive early.
Evan Anderson is a high ceiling player, everyone is a abuzz about the scoring potential of Duje Dukan. But where are the guards?
It must get better? Right…well. Diamond Taylor thrown out school. Potential UW recruit from Tosa East and star guard Larry Bradley is currently under investigation for armed robbery.
Current HS sophomore J.P. Tokoto is a potential McDonalds All American who currently holds offers from Duke, Wisconsin, and pretty much every school in the country.
Keeping him home will be a significant task. One that UW has proven it may not be up to. With the big ten’s smallest recruiting budget for the past 8 years, this staff seems a bit disinterested in playing the games that other schools do. One result has been an inability to keep the states best home. UW will always have a difficult time in mining Illinois. The landscape in Minnesota has changed. So it is imperative that UW keeps its best at home. There are good players here. Josh Gasser a great example he figures to be a terrific addition. A player who can do a great many things on the floor, but is he a difference maker? At this time that would appear doubtful. Landing Tokoto has become an absolute necessity.
Decline? UW had back to back thirty win seasons and that hasn’t proven dividends in recruiting. UW will remain a very good basketball team as long as Bo and his staff are there. But after Kirk, Devin, and Alando no star has emerged. The team has lacked the explosive athletes it needs to take their game to the next level. They will decline based only on the basis that they haven’t improved and the rest of the conference has. The Big Ten has some great coaches, programs on the rise and they are escalating their ability to bring in elite players. Where does this leave UW? Stagnant, they will be an NCAA team year in and year out. They will win some big games, have that great home court, but in the end they have not compiled the athletes to improve on their current situation. Thus they seem bound to simply be a very good team who will make the tournament, occasionally make a run to the sweet sixteen, maybe getting to the elite 8 if they get hot. This is fine, but it isn’t what we hope for. Not improving while those around you do…is a recipe for disaster. UW needs one of the underclassmen to explode to change that grim scenario.
UW can no longer afford to make recruiting blunders like JP Gavinski and Ian Markholf disrupting their chance to strengthen their roster and improve their athleticism. UW had a great relationship with the nations #1 recruit Harrison Barnes, yet they ran out schollies. One can only wonder what might have been had former UW lean Evan Turner had cast his lot with the first team offer him? I’ll leave that to you. You can’t win them all, but you do need to win some.