Well, we tipped it off tonight against might Bemidji State. What is a Bemidji? Well, lets just cut to the chase–this is the self proclaimed curling capital of the world. Quite a proclamation!
Tonights opponent aside, let’s discuss the outlook of UW hoops in 09′. Most “analysts” have them pegged somewhere between 4 and 8. Even UW alum Andy Katz doesn’t paint the rosiest picture. Katz knows Wisconsin basketball better than any journalist outside of Madison. Katz knows enough to know that rankings and Bo Ryan’s teams don’t really work. This guy won a big ten title with Charlie Wills and Travon Davis. This ranks as arguably the greatest coaching performance of the past ten years…if you recall that team lost to Hawaii-Hilo. Bo Ryan is the type of coach who could win with a shocking absent of talent, he has proven it time and time again.
Commentary about his rough and tumble origins in Chester, Pa. aside, he is as tough as they come. Why then is UW pegged to be “down”. It really isn’t anything that UW did, it is the rest of the league. Ohio State has the leagues best player, and a closet full of McD’s All Americans. Purdue is superbly coached with elite talent. Michigan State is Michigan State. Minnesota has improved dramatically, although their offseason facelift which included grabbing every questionable character-big time talent guy has imploded as three of their incoming players are suspended due to character issues. Northwestern is even being talked about as an NCAA team. Penn State has the explosive Talor Battle and a bevy of incoming talent.
Then there is UW. Nothing sexy here, if you want flash and style, you’re looking in the wrong window. UW is what it is, rugged, precise, tough, and fundamental. Wait, those are awesome traits, right? Yeah, but there is no Evan Turner. There aren’t explosive athletes. No Kalin Lucas here–no all big ten player in sight, it would be a huge surprise to see one. UW’s profile during this amazing 12 year NCAA streak has been to find an underrecruited star player, ala Devin Harris, Kirk Penney, and Alando Tucker. Surround him with solid, physical, and smart role players and let the system take over. Nothing has changed but the star player part. UW’s inability to find that next guy since Tucker took his game to Phoenix has hurt the program. UW often goes into pronounced scoring droughts without this type of player and it impacts their abilities to win on the road and in big games. Questions abound this year about where the offense will come from–it is difficult in this day in age to expect five guys to share the ball and score 10-12 points per game, the defenses are so good and being that efficient is hard to achieve. UW also seems to lack some defensive capabilities that they have had in the past. Gone are the days of Mike Flowers, Joe Krabbenhoft, and UW’s twin towers defensively. They are not a quick team on the perimeter and their help defense will be sternly tested. Given the significant increase in the big ten’s athleticism, this is going to be a test for the Bob Knight-Dick Bennett inspired defense that UW employs.
How will they win? Lot of positives on this team, I figured we’d end on a good note. UW has age. Senior guards in college basketball are a rare blessing. Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon figure to improve on solid junior campaigns and are poised for bigger things. Neither is an all league performer but Ryan knows what he can expect out of them. The frontcourt is where things get interesting.
Keaton Nankivil has teased us for 2 years. He is a good athlete, who can be a phenomenal shooter. Which Keaton will we see the one who took over the Purdue game or the one who vanishes for weeks on end. The coaches believe he has turned a corner and they expect big things from him. Jon Leuer has been more consistent than Keaton Nankivil, and has similar abilities. Leuer continues to reshape his frame and has put on additional muscle this year maintaining his solid athleticism. He has shown the ability to be that next UW star, will it translate to the floor? Who rounds out the five? Most bets are on Tim Jarmusz manning the 3. He is healthy and poised to assume that super glue role of Joe Krabbenhoft. He is a much better offensive player than Krabbenhoft and has guard abilities as well as the ability to defend 2-4. This is a solid starting five, but in a league with stars abound there is no Manny Harris here…and that raises question marks. UW’s bench has intriguing potential as well as UW can counter with 3 near 7 footers and a pair of explosive young guards in Jordan Taylor and Rob Wilson. But the wild cards might be incoming Frosh Mike Brusewitz, Minnesota’s reigning Mr. Basketball and ultra-athletic Ryan Evans.
Brusewitz is skilled, hardnosed, versatile, and as tough as Krabbenhoft was. How quickly will he be ready? At 6-7, 220 he has the frame to contribute immediately and the mentality of an upperclassmen. Evans meanwhile is a tremendous athlete who is oly going to get better as he gains basketball experience.
Prediction. UW finishing in the top 3 seems irrational. Although anyone who saw UW winning the big ten in Ryan’s first year was in a small minority. I am hesitant to pick Michigan, Northwestern, Penn State, Illinois or Minnesota over the Badgers. All have distinct question marks, and have not “been there”. Michigan’s offense has less structure than a beer league get together. Northwestern wears purple and is not athletic, zone teams seldom have staying power. Penn State is small and coached by Ed DeChelis.
Minnesota’s suspended team is a great group of athletes, but you can’t play from the stands or jail. As for Tom Crean…sorry, I don’t mean to be hating, but it is really hard to take a guy serious who tans. Sorry. Just the way it is. that being said IU is really young.
Iowa is just not very good. So here it is…1-11.
2009-10 Big Ten Standing Prediction
- Michigan State: 13-5
- Purdue: 13-5
- Ohio State: 12-6
- Wisconsin: 10-8
- Minnesota: 10-8
- Michigan: 9-9
- Northwestern: 8-10
- Illinois: 8-10
- Penn State: 7-11
- Iowa: 5-13
- Indiana: 4-15
- Manny Harris: Michigan
- Kalin Lucas: MSU
- Evan Turner: OSU
- Robbie Hummel: Purdue
- Kevin Kolb: Northwestern
Player of the Year: Evan Turner
Coach of the Year: Tom Izzo
National Champ: Kansas