Indiana might just debut as the top team in the nation. Everyone is talking about the resurgence at Michigan. Over in East Lansing, plenty figure that this team, even without Draymond Green, has the mark of something special. Aaron Craft gives hope for more good things at Ohio State.
Yep, there’s a lot to talk about in the Big Ten.
And of course, no one is really talking about Wisconsin.
That’s usually the way it goes for Bo Ryan’s squad, whose staid style rarely raises eyebrows. At least not until March.
If the Badgers are going to continue to follow their plan this year, they’ll need some new faces to shine. Jordan Taylor is gone, taking with him both his 14.8 points per game and his leadership.
Jared Berggren can’t physically fill Taylor’s shoes. The fifth-year senior is a 6-foot-10 big man, not a 6-1 guard, but he might just be able to plug the other gaps. Berggren, a role player the year before, made gigantic strides last season, averaging 10.5 points and 4.9 rebounds per game by season’s end.
Equally important, he realizes it’s his turn to lead.
“It’s my time,” he said. “We’ve been a senior-led group most years, so I think it’s up to me to take on that role.”
ESPN.com caught up with Berggren before practice gets underway next week in Madison.
So the first question you have to ask any Wisconsin player: How goes running The Hill?
Jared Berggren: I think we’ve done it maybe seven times now. It’s never a great thing for a big guy. Usually the guards fly up. They can fight gravity a little bit easier. I’ve done OK with it, but I’m sick of seeing that thing after my fifth year here. It never gets easy but coach loves it.
Your league has had a pretty good run on talented big men. Do you enjoy that challenge and how do you prevent it from overwhelming you?
JB: Since I’ve been playing there have been some very good big guys -- Meyers Leonard, Cody Zeller, Jared Sullinger. It’s something I look forward to. There’s always a lot of hype about it and we all know how important it is that I do my best to neutralize them in that situation.
It can be a lot of attention and pressure at times, but I try to remind myself that it’s a team game. I have great trust in my teammates. Some of these guys you’re not going to handle one-on-one, so it comes down to great team defense.
Speaking of the Big Ten, it’s loaded this year. Where do the Badgers stack up?
JB: We always see ourselves fighting for the top spot. A lot of teams are getting a lot of publicity right now -- Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State. I think a lot of times we get overlooked and I’m fine with that. I don’t care what people are saying. We keep the same expectations year in and year out. It doesn’t matter who graduates. It doesn’t matter who we recruit.
Why do you think Wisconsin gets overlooked?
JB: I don’t know. I guess we don’t play the most flashy style of ball. Some people call it boring, methodical. You can call it what you want, but we get it done. We don’t have the McDonald’s All-Americans coming in. That doesn’t matter to us. We get a group to play our style of ball -- disciplined, solid team basketball.
How hard is it to play for a coach like Bo Ryan?
JB: He’s definitely a tough coach. He expects a lot out of everyone and he’s not going to let anyone get away with anything less. It doesn’t matter if you’re an All-American or a freshman walk-on, you’re expected to hold a high standard.
I think that’s definitely a good thing, even if it does get hard sometimes in the middle of the season. The season is long and it gets grinding at times, but he also brings out the best in people.
You learn how to handle things as you get older. You learn you can’t take it personally. If you make a mistake, he’s going to let you know and he always says, 'Have I ever lied to you?’ He hasn’t. Not once. He’s not going to blow smoke up your rear end. He’s going to tell it like it is and it’s up to you to take it the right way. I personally wouldn’t want it any other way.