Tonight I’m heading to see my first Wisconsin game of the year, their exhibition against UW-Superior. In lieu of doing any sort of preview this year (let’s face it–if you’re reading this, you probably know just as much, if not more about the Badgers than I do), I’d like to take this opportunity about some of the things I’m excited for and that I’ll be looking out for this year when I’m watching Wisconsin games. So here are my thoughts, to this point untainted by actual observation of the current team:
1) Probably the thing that I’m most excited about this year in all of my basketball watching is seeing Jared Berggren suit up for the Badgers. I have seen Berggren play all of 20 minutes, all of which came in last year’s intra-squad scrimmage, so I recognize that I’m not working from a totally rational place here. However, my excitement is genuine–I loved him in that scrimmage. Berggren physically resembles Brian Butch. However, unlike Butch, who had mind-boggling difficulty finishing shots at short range (I always felt way more comfortable watching Butch shoot from 15 feet out than 3-feet away), Berggren looks like he’s totally at home on the blocks, able to bang with defenders without issue and to score from the paint with regularity. Bergrren may not be a star just yet, but he’ll be something that we see less and less of each year–a big guy that knows he’s big. I’m making the role of my favorite player his to lose this year.
2) I like Jordan Taylor a lot. There will never be anything great about him, and most of us probably won’t truly appreciate him until about halfway through his senior year when people are complaining that he’s another one of those Wisconsin players that seems like he’s been around for a decade. Tim Jarmusz gets a lot of attention for being the solid, but unspectacular guy (probably because he’s so incredibly unspectacular) for Wisconsin, but let’s not forget that Taylor fits that bill, as well.
3) It bothers me that I don’t like Jon Leuer as much as most other people. I totally understand why people are nuts about Leuer–I’ve seen him when he’s on his game, and even I can’t help but sit back with my mouth agape and watch in awe. But I feel like those moments when he takes his game to another level are too few and far between for me to be truly excited. He still strikes me as a guy that’s just as likely to score 2 points as he is to score 20. To be fair, some of that’s probably a function of his limited playing time during the last two years, a problem that won’t exist now that Marcus Landry and Joe Krabbenhoft have used up their eligibility. But count me as someone who’s not ready to pencil Leuer onto an NBA roster or the all-Big Ten team just yet. The talent’s there–it just needs to be displayed more consistently.
4) How do I think the Badgers’ season is going to go? I’ll show my complete lack of creativity and agree with every analyst who’s said that logically, you have to pick Wisconsin seventh or eighth in the Big Ten, but that at the end of the year, they’ll probably finish higher than that somehow. His roster’s not overwhelming this year, but Bo Ryan’s not an eighth place kind of guy.
5) I was generally less than excited about Keaton Nankivil when I saw him in high school, until his junior year hit and he took a big leap forward. I’m hoping something similar happens to him in college.
6) I’m hearing a lot of good buzz about Ryan Evans. When I saw him at last year’s scrimmage, he looked like exactly what he’s being described as: an athletic guy who could potentially develop into something. Bo Ryan’s comments about him during the post-game show following the exhibition against Bemidji State echo the comments that I got from a college buddy who happened to teach a middle school-aged Evans a few years back: he’s a good kid that does his work. I’m not buying the hype that he’ll be an big contributor to this year’s team, but then again, I haven’t seen him yet this year. But the fact that he seems to be progressing is a nice sign that even if he’s the ninth man this year, he’s working towards being an even more integral part of the team. Not too bad for a guy that essentially recruited himself to become a Badger.
7) My greatest hope this year is for a breakout year for Rob Wilson. Wisconsin’s guards this year are an unexciting lot. I’ve already noted that Jordan Taylor and Tim Jarmusz are essentially the definition of “solid, but unspectacular,” and Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon have less of a “wow” factor than most senior classes that I can remember. Rob Wilson brought the wow almost the moment that he stepped on the floor last year when he attempted a dunk over Hasheem Thabeet at the start of last season. I can accept it if Wilson isn’t the best man for the job at times this year, but it would sure be fun if his game has gotten to the point where he can see a bit more floor time.
8) It is appropriate that J.P. Gavinski is pictured on my tickets to tonight’s game, because I’m looking forward tonight to getting my one glimpse of Gavinski playing in a game this year. Gavinski looks like he’ll never be a guy that ever plays a meaningful minute for Wisconsin, but he still seems like the Badger that would be the most amusing to hang out with.
And with that, I’ll let things rest until I get my first look at the team tonight. Here’s hoping for a complete dismantling of UW-Superior, and perhaps enough time for a post-game stop at Ian’s for a slice of some ridiculous type of pizza before the drive home.