Team preview: Wisconsin

Blue Ribbon Yearbook previews the 2012-13 season, exclusively on Insider

Updated: October 25, 2012, 12:20 PM ET
Blue Ribbon Yearbook

For the most comprehensive previews available on all 335 Division I teams, order the "Bible" of college basketball, the 2011-12 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, at www.blueribbonyearbookonline.com or call 1-877-807-4857.

COACH AND PROGRAM

At long last, 64-year-old Bo Ryan has arrived. He's no longer the guy habitually overlooked despite averaging 23 wins during his 28-year head-coaching career. In an ironic twist, the confirmation came as part of a poll where Ryan was ignored.

When CBSSports.com polled nearly 100 head coaches on a number of hot topics during the summer recruiting period, one of the questions prompted those coaches to name the sport's most underrated coach. Ryan wasn't among the eight who received at least five percent of the vote. Apparently the coaches have paid attention to the consistent excellence in Madison.

Point 1: The Badgers have made five Sweet 16 appearances in the last 10 NCAA Tournaments. The only schools with more? Duke, Kansas, Michigan State and North Carolina.

Point 2: The Badgers have finished fourth or better in the Big Ten during all 11 years of Ryan's reign. There has been only one superior such streak in Big Ten history: Purdue from 1920-32.

Point 3: The Badgers led the nation in scoring defense last year (53.2 ppg) -- the second such title in the last five years -- and ranked among the top 10 in each of the last six years. In a related note, the Badgers have finished first, second, first and fourth in fewest turnovers per game during the last four seasons. In short, Wisconsin controls the tempo of its games and forces opponents out of their comfort zone.

"I had a coach from California tell me, 'You have a business model,' " said Wisconsin associate head coach Greg Gard. "We have a plan and formula and what works here. Our strength over the years has been to take and find players who learn quickly. There's skills development. Guys get better here."

Look at this year's roster for proof. The Badgers will have one of the nation's oldest starting lineups with two fifth-year seniors, one senior and two juniors. Projected point guard Josh Gasser, one of the juniors in this example, is the only one who made the starting lineup before his junior year.

It's not that the Badgers don't recruit well. Every team in the country would love to have freshman forward Sam Dekker. He's going to be special sooner than later. But at Wisconsin, where players almost never leave early for the NBA's green or transfer for greener pastures, there are always plenty of veterans ready to earn their turn in the lineup.

"If your performance dictates minutes, coach Ryan will give them to you," Gard said. "In this program, you check your ego at the door -- if you even have one."

PLAYERS

PG-JOSH GASSER (6-3, 190 lbs., JR, #21, 7.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.9 apg, 34.1 mpg, .464 FG, .452 3PT, .783 FT, Port Washington HS/Port Washington, Wis.). Not only will Gasser (who started the last two seasons at shooting guard) take over Jordan Taylor's job as the point guard, he'll assume the role as the Badgers' unquestioned leader.

"He's a guy who understands all aspects of what's important and what isn't," Ryan said. "He's going to wrestle away that point guard position and not let it out of his grasp. His teammates respect him and they listen to him. If you were going to select teams and have guys choose players for their side, Josh would be picked first. That's how we always judged people growing up. Who you want with your first pick tells a lot about guys. And it says a lot about Josh."

Gasser made the 2011-12 Big Ten all-Defensive team and also could have claimed the unofficial title as the league's most improved shooter (he hit just 30.2 percent on 3-pointers as a freshman).

"He's smart," Gard said. "Savvy. A winner. Tough. A leader. He has great vision. He's as competitive as any guy I've been around in 20 years with Bo. Now he steps into the forefront and has a chance to show what he can do."

With Taylor gone, Gasser also will need to be more of a consistent scorer. During Wisconsin's final 10 games last season, he enjoyed scoring outbursts of 16, 15, 14 and 12 points. Alas, he failed to score in the Big Ten tournament semifinals loss against Michigan State, scored just two points against Vanderbilt in the NCAA third-round win and scored just two against Minnesota.

Keep in mind that Gasser can help the Badgers win in other ways than scoring. On Jan. 23, 2011, he pro-duced the school's only triple-double with 10 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in a win at Northwestern.

SG-BEN BRUST (6-1, 190 lbs., JR, #1, 7.3 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 0.7 apg, 21.3 mpg, .397 FG, .389 3PT, .833 FT, Mundelein HS/Hawthorn Woods, Ill.). After accomplishing virtually nothing during his freshman year, the sharp-shooting Brust revealed last season why he was the object of so many Big Ten teams' desires during the recruiting and re-recruiting processes.

Brust, who signed with Iowa but was released after Todd Lickliter was fired, made just two 3-pointers in 45 minutes as a freshman. But in last year's opener, Brust came off the bench and drilled 4 of 8 3-pointers against Kennesaw State. Then he repeated the feat in game two against Colgate. Then, in case anyone wondered how he'd fare against higher-profile teams, Brust canned 7 of 10 3-pointers against BYU and set a Wisconsin record by going 7 for 7 against UNLV.

While his minutes and his production decreased during the second half of the year -- as teams realized they had to hug him on the perimeter -- Brust recovered during the NCAAs to hit Vanderbilt with 11 points and Syracuse with nine. Now it's time for Brust to be able to put the ball on the floor to thwart overplaying defenders.

"His ball handling has gotten better," Gard said. "He has added some other dimensions to his game. His confidence has really grown."

SF-RYAN EVANS (6-6, 208 lbs., R-SR, #5, 11.0 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.6 apg, 0.9 bpg, 30.5 mpg, .440 FG, .263 3PT, .726 FT, Hamilton HS/Phoenix, Ariz.). Ryan predicted Evans would be the Badgers' breakout player last season -- and he delivered nicely on that premise. In addition to starting every game and finishing second on the team in scoring, Evans ranked fifth in the Big Ten in rebounding and 11th in blocks. Evans is the Big Ten's top returning rebounder at 6.8 per game. "He went from a 'sometimes' guy to an 'all-the-time' guy," Gard said. "The one thing that helped him is the game experience and the situations he was in. He really benefits from that experience. He's more confident. He understands that this is his last dance, so to speak. He's as strong as he needs to be."

Evans developed into perhaps the Big Ten's most consistent player down the stretch. Starting with the Jan. 26 home win over Indiana, Evans produced at least 10 points and five rebounds in 14 consecutive games. His streaks came to an end in the one-point Sweet 16 loss against Syracuse when he managed seven points and four rebounds in 32 minutes.

He's still more likely to score in the paint and on midrange jumpers, but Evans improved his range during the course of his junior year. During the Badgers' final four games, Evans drilled five of his 10 3-pointers for the year.

PF-MIKE BRUESEWITZ (6-6, 223 lbs., SR, #31, 5.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.8 apg, 25.5 mpg, .394 FG, .294 3PT, .706 FT, Henry Sibley HS/St. Paul, Minn.). Heading into last year, Bruesewitz appeared to be the most likely player to become the Badgers' second-biggest offensive threat after Jordan Taylor. Instead, as his percentages sank from his sophomore year, Bruesewitz settled in as the team's No. 5 option as he became about everything except the scoring. He became the Badgers' second-best rebounder and second-best ball handler in terms of assist-to-turnover ratio (1.6-1).

"His M.O. has always been that of a mixer, a blue-collar guy," Gard said. "That's a strength of his. If he can gives us some scoring, that's great, but he's going to stir the pot a little bit on the court. He'll continue to play to his identity."

C-JARED BERGGREN (6-10, 235 lbs., R-SR, #40, 10.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 0.8 apg, 27.8 mpg, .452 FG, .372 3PT, .732 FT, Princeton HS/Princeton, Minn.). At long last, Berggren became the offensive and defensive force the Badgers staff envisioned all along. He more than quadrupled his scoring and rebounding averages. He ranked second in the Big Ten (behind NBA lottery pick Meyers Leonard) in blocked shots. According to Wisconsin's fact-finders, he ranked second nationally among players 6-10 and taller with 45 3-pointers.

Those are all good things, but Gard believes the best has yet to come. "It's his turn to explode on the scene," Gard said. "He has done a tremendous job with his body, becoming more mobile and agile. Now he's taken another step in the offseason. He has put himself in position to be one of the better big men in the country."

As his 3-point prowess suggests, Berggren has become the latest Wisconsin big man who's a pain in the neck from a match-up standpoint. It's no coincidence that, when facing Ohio State's Jared Sullinger, he stepped outside and drilled 5 of 13 3-point tries. He went 3 of 6 in a game against Illinois' Leonard. At the other end of the floor, Berggren registered an absurd seven blocks in the NCAA opener against Montana. He posted five blocks against Indiana.

A lot of big men in college basketball aspire to being inside-outside threats. Berggren is one.

PG-GEORGE MARSHALL (5-11, 185 lbs., R-FR, #3, 17.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 5.4 apg in 2010-11, Brooks HS/Chicago, Ill.). Marshall didn't play a second during his first season at Wisconsin, but it's hard to imagine anyone getting more out of a redshirt season. That's because Marshall suited up for the scout team and battled Jordan Taylor every day.

"What George did last year was exactly what we asked," Ryan said. "If an opposing point guard shot a lot, he shot a lot. If an opposing point guard was a distributor, he distributed. You only had to tell him once. He was never on my side of the ball during practice, but I can't remember once hearing one of our assistant coaches have to yell at George in practice. That's a great sign.

"He picked up scouting reports quickly and he made Jordan Taylor work every day. They had some great practice battles at both ends of the floor and they pushed each other to get better. But that's the way our pro-gram works."

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Marshall isn't built the same as the rock-solid Taylor, but he raises the Badgers' speed quotient. "George has a quickness and spurt-ability about him," Gard said. "I like to say Jordan was a guy who'd run between the tackles. George can bounce it outside."

Brooks College Prep won its first Chicago Public League title under Marshall's leadership. During the run-up to that victory, he drilled the game-winning shot with four seconds to go in the semifinals.

C-FRANK KAMINSKY (6-11, 230 lbs., SO, #44, 1.8 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 0.3 apg, 7.7 mpg, .411 FG, .286 3PT, .500 FT, Benet Academy/Lisle, Ill.). The latest in the long line of sweet-shooting big men at Wisconsin, Kaminsky was a valuable role player early in the year. He played 12 minutes against North Carolina, 14 minutes against Green Bay and 12 against UNLV. He canned 6 of 20 3-point attempts during pre-conference play before accepting a reduced role in the physical Big Ten.

"He had some success and did some good things, but also got knocked around at times," Gard said. "What he's done [in the offseason] is re-define his body. He has toned up some places where maybe he wasn't ready for college basketball. He's more confident. He has always been extremely skilled. Now he understands what it takes physically."

A stronger Kaminsky will serve again as Berggren's backup with an eye toward becoming the starter in 2013-14. Ryan senses Kaminsky could be the Badger who takes the biggest strides this year.

"I don't think there's any question Frank Kaminsky has made great strides," Ryan said. "He has worked on his shooting, his footwork. What you see when you're an observer as a high school senior is so different from getting in there as a freshman and being in it and experiencing the practices, the conditioning, the class work and learning the wear and tear.

"You learn all of that your freshman year, and the good ones store all that information and come back for their sophomore year ready to go. I think that's where Frank is."

SG-TRAEVON JACKSON (6-2, 213 lbs., SO, #12, 1.1 ppg, 0.9 rpg, 0.2 apg, 5.4 mpg, .368 FG, .375 3PT, .667 FT, Westerville South HS/Westerville, Ohio). With fourth guard Rob Wilson having graduated, there are minutes available on the perimeter. Can Jackson be the one who grabs them? The lefty combo guard played a grand total of five minutes and didn't score any points after Jan. 8.

"That'll be the battle," Gard said. "You're going to get what you earn. He's always been a very confident kid, but you have to go through [a season] to understand. He was definitely better this summer. He became a more consistent shooter, more consistent decision-maker, more consistent defensive presence."

C-EVAN ANDERSON (6-10, 255 lbs., R-SO, #32, 0.4 ppg, 0.5 rpg, 0.2 apg, 2.5 mpg, .500 FG, .000 3PT, .000 FT, Eau Claire North HS/Stanley, Wis.). The massive Anderson didn't have many opportunities during his redshirt freshman season. His best performance was a two-point, three-rebound effort during a five-minute stint against Savannah State. He appeared in just two Big Ten games.

Anderson is in the same boat as junior forward Duje Dukan: They're trying to make the necessary adjustments in order to claim playing time. "They've tried to change their bodies for the physicality at this level," Gard said. "They're showing improvement in areas."

SF-DUJE DUKAN (6-8, 210 lbs., JR, #13, 0.7 ppg, 0.5 rpg, 3.2 mpg, .571 FG, .000 3PT, .250 FT, Deerfield HS/Deerfield, Ill.). Here's an example of how Wisconsin's coaching staff keeps its players accountable in prac-tice from day one until season's end: Dukan saw just two minutes of action during Big Ten play. But when the Badgers encountered some foul trouble during their NCAA opener against Montana, Bo Ryan inserted Dukan into the fray late in the first half with Wisconsin ahead by just eight. He stayed on the floor for just 75 seconds, but it's the principle that counts.

"He had practiced well the last 30 days of the season," Gard said.

Dukan will need to continue that roll if he wants to carve out a role in this year's rotation. It's going to be hard to take minutes away from acclaimed freshman Sam Dekker, among others.

SG-JORDAN SMITH (6-1, 175 lbs., SO, #2, 0.7 ppg, 0.3 rpg, 1.7 mpg, .667 FG, 1.000 3PT, .000 FT, Orono HS/Orono, Minn.). Smith turned down a scholarship offer from Saint Louis (which looks even better in retro-spect based on the Billikens' NCAA tournament win over Memphis) in order to walk on at Wisconsin. He scored all five of his points during a four-minute appearance against Mississippi Valley State. He got to show his specialty (3-point shooting) in that game. It's too soon to think he'll get anything other than junk minutes, though that's Smith goal.

"He has improved his body over the past year," Gard said. "He figured out, 'I have to be more than a standstill shooter.' "

SF-SAM DEKKER (6-7, 220 lbs., FR, #15, 32.5 ppg, 13.2 rpg, 3.3 apg, Sheboygan Lutheran HS/Sheboygan, Wis.). Even before he makes his first appearance in a Wisconsin uniform, Dekker has already become a legend at the Kohl Center.

With his Sheboygan Lutheran team trailing by two points in the waning seconds of the WIAA Division 5 state title game in March, Dekker took an inbounds pass, weaved his way up the floor and buried a 24-foot fade-away 3-pointer from the wing to give his team the championship. The video of his exploit has been seen nearly 500,000 times on YouTube.

Dekker scored 40 points in that game -- including 12 in the final minute -- as one of two cappers to a remarkable pre-college career. The other was his selection over the summer to USA Basketball's U18 team. Though he was bothered by a sprained ankle and an infected toe, Dekker contributed (5.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg, .375 3PT) to the team's gold-medal performance at the FIBA Americas U18 championship in Brazil.

"He was never quite healthy," Florida coach Billy Donovan, who coached the U18, told ESPN.com. "But he's a warrior. He loves to play. He wants to win. I think he's a really good player. He takes some crazy shots. I just wish I could have coached him. He's going to be terrific.''

The Badger coaches are glad they got Dekker, one of those must-have instate recruits that helps sustain a program the caliber of Wisconsin.

"Sam just has a drive to win and he plays so hard," Gard said. "He doesn't care whether he scores 35 points or five points as long as Wisconsin wins. He'll go through the learning curve like everybody else. Some days, he'll look like a million bucks. Some days, he'll look like a nickel. The good thing for him is he's joining a very successful program. The weight of the world is not on his shoulders."

Dekker was rated a five-star recruit and the No. 4 small forward in the country by ESPN. He finished his high school career with 2,629 points, fourth in Wisconsin history.

G-ZAK SHOWALTER (6-2, 195 lbs., FR, #33, 22.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 5.5 apg, Germantown HS/Germantown, Wis.). Dekker might have been the best player in Wisconsin last year, but Showalter won the Milwaukee Sentinel's Player of the Year honor after leading Germantown to 28-0 record and WIAA Division I state championship. Playing for his father, Steve, and with his brother, Jake, Showalter scored 22 points on the Kohl Center floor in the state title win.

Steve Showalter played (he was a third-team NAIA All-American in 1988) and coached for Bo Ryan at UW-Platteville, which helps to explain why Zak turned down a bunch of Division I scholarship offers in order to be a walk-on at Wisconsin. But when Jarrod Uthoff transferred out of the program, Showalter picked up his scholarship. He has a chance to pick up the rotation spot left open by the graduated Rob Wilson.

"The one thing you never want to do is doubt Zak," Gard said. "Zak has a lot of his dad in him. He does the dirty work it takes to win. He stirs the pot. He keeps you on your toes."

SF-ZACH BOHANNON (6-6, 210 lbs., R-JR, #34, 4.3 ppg, 2.0 rpg 1.2 apg, 13.5 mpg, .492 FG, .367 3PT, .750 FT, in 2010-11, Linn-Mar HS/Marion, Iowa/Air Force Academy). Bohannon spent his transfer season working his way into a leadership role despite his walk-on status. "He's a guy who understands the program is bigger than the individual," Gard said. "He's one of the most cerebral, if not the most cerebral, players I've been around. He's very outspoken in a good way. He's a guy who'll keep everybody honest day-in and day-out."

Bohannon, whose brother, Jason, served as a two-year starter at Wisconsin, plans to be a coach when his playing days are over. While he'll continue to be a walk-on this year, there's a decent chance for him to earn minutes.

"He thinks the game one or two steps ahead of the average player," Gard said. "He's right there with you on the dry-erase board [doing Xs and Os]. He wants to know the hows and whys. He's fun to be around and fun to coach."

BLUE RIBBON ANALYSIS

BACKCOURT: B+
BENCH/DEPTH: B+
FRONTCOURT: B+
INTANGIBLES: A-

The Badgers are headed for their 15th consecutive NCAA tournament, though this is one of the few Wisconsin entries that doesn't appear to have a breakout star a la Jon Leuer, Jordan Taylor, Alando Tucker or Devin Harris.

Can a team of relatively unknown veterans take it one or two steps farther than the previous teams?

For the most comprehensive previews available on all 335 Division I teams, order the "Bible" of college basketball, the 2011-12 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, at www.blueribbonyearbookonline.com or call 1-877-807-4857.