Print and Go Back ESPN.com: College Basketball Nation [Print without images]

Saturday, October 27, 2012
Losing Gasser changes things in Madison

By Myron Medcalf

The loss of All-American point guard Jordan Taylor affected early projections about Bo Ryan’s ability to lead Wisconsin to the top of the Big Ten in 2012-13, a perennial status for the program throughout his tenure.

Ryan’s offensive and defensive systems flow best when operated by dynamic point guards.

For the first time in years, however, the Badgers didn’t appear to have that in the months that preceded the start of this season.

And now that the program has announced that Josh Gasser -- the player Ryan called his starter at the position during Thursday’s Big Ten media day in Chicago -- will miss the 2012-13 season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, there are even more questions about the Badgers.

According to a Saturday news release from the team, Gasser tore the ACL during practice Saturday morning at the Kohl Center and will undergo surgery after an upcoming re-evaluation by the team’s medical staff. He will redshirt this season and preserve his two remaining seasons of eligibility, the school said.

Ryan will have to go with an inexperienced orchestrator regardless of whom he chooses to run the show in Madison.

He could turn to George Marshall, a redshirt freshman from Chicago. Traevon Jackson, a sophomore who averaged 5.4 minutes per game last season, will be in the mix, too.

But Gasser (7.6 points and 1.9 assists per game, 45.2 percent from the 3-point line 2011-12) offered Ryan’s program the best option in its transition to life without Taylor.

“Based on the summer, based on what we’ve done so far, Josh Gasser is the point guard,” Ryan said Thursday.

Saturday’s news is another early challenge for the program. The Badgers will compete without forward Mike Bruesewitz for the first few weeks of the season as he recovers from a leg injury.

Now what?

Well, throughout the media session Thursday, Wisconsin players and coaches talked about playing faster and diversifying the offense with the addition of freshman Sam Dekker. The Badgers, ranked No. 23 in the Associated Press preseason poll released Friday, talked about Taylor’s absence as an opportunity for more guys to get involved.

It was clear that they trusted Gasser and thought they’d succeed with him at point guard.

“He’s fundamentally sound. He’s someone who’s tough. Great defender. [He] shoots a high percentage,” said Badgers forward Ryan Evans during media day. “[He’s] someone who’s fun to play with. … A guy like Josh, he’s going to give you his all.”

The Badgers were a mystery in the months that followed Taylor’s graduation based on his immense contributions during his tenure. Now, they’re even more difficult to assess.

Ryan’s legacy suggests that he’ll find a way to win, especially with the early talk about Dekker’s next-level talent and potential impact this season. But he has to identify a new point guard, a unique situation for a coach who’s grown accustomed to utilizing elite prospects at the position.