Efficient Taylor is key to Wisconsin's run
MADISON, Wis. (AP)
The nation's most efficient point guard, Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor, flashes a mischievous grin every time he stops to talk.
That wide smile cracks up the Badgers and it comes with a confidence that already has teammate Mike Bruesewitz believing Taylor will be the governor of Wisconsin one day.
Two more wins for Wisconsin and it may be inevitable.
Taylor's poor shooting could have kept Wisconsin from playing in Thursday's NCAA regional semifinal against Butler in New Orleans. Instead, it was everything else the Badgers' point guard did in a 70-65 win over Kansas State that locked up their trip to the round of 16.
He blocked a key shot, had six assists without a turnover, and made all the right decisions despite a 2-for-16 shooting performance.
''I didn't even notice he was struggling that bad against Kansas State, for him, that is, because he just doesn't let the emotions get to him,'' freshman Josh Gasser said.
Taylor, a junior, leads the nation among point guards with a 4.38 assist-to-turnover ratio. It's the best mark for a starting point guard in college since Chattanooga's Wes Moore (4.38) in 1996-97 and on par with NBA players like New Orleans' Chris Paul and Toronto's Jose Calderon.
''He has great composure,'' senior forward Keaton Nankivil said. ''In a game like Saturday's, it's easy to let that moment get the best of you, but battling the way he did and making the plays after he admitted having struggled throughout the game, making the plays in the last couple of minutes that he did is kind of a microcosm of how he is as a person.''
He's often a jokester, eager to crack up his teammates. Even coach Bo Ryan is amused at Taylor's quick wit and timing.
''He's a tough personality not to like,'' Bruesewitz said. ''He's just a tough kid not to like and on the basketball floor, I don't know if I've ever played with a smarter player.
''I've learned a lot from the coaching staff, but I think I could say I've learned just as much from Jordan. He's constantly talking to guys, constantly telling them what he sees, why he sees it and what's going on and why that happens.''
Taylor, who averages 18 points a game, is clear in his goals for the Badgers, something that impressed Ryan when Taylor visited Madison as a high school star from the Minneapolis area.
''When I first met him, (he's) not a very imposing guy, not long and lanky, physically short of stature, vertically challenged, as we say, but his eyes never left mine,'' Ryan said. ''He spoke very clearly, very succinctly.''
That cool, unwavering confidence struck a chord with Ryan, who has built Wisconsin's program for the last 10 years on the foundation that it's a super team over superstars.
''We felt he could be a heck of a leader,'' the coach said. ''And he certainly hasn't let us down.''
Wisconsin (25-8) is still playing because of Taylor and its recruiting efforts in Minnesota, where Taylor, Jon Leuer, Bruesewitz and Jared Berggren all played in high school.
Taylor said his knowledge of Leuer's game, plus Ryan's experience as a point guard was a major draw to Madison. He was also impressed with how he was recruited by associate head coach Greg Gard, Ryan's key adviser for the last 17 years.
''Coach Gard was always trying to help me out before they had even offered me a scholarship,'' Taylor said. ''He was trying to help me out and tell me ways I could improve my game. And this was before he knew if I was even good enough to come here. So, I took that to heart.''
Taylor also watched former Badgers point guard Trevon Hughes' leadership style, so when it became Taylor's time, he decided to slide into the role.
It was another great choice, even though Taylor defers any credit about his efficiency, saying he never thinks of risks or rewards when making decisions at the helm of the offense.
''I don't think it's really something you think about in the game,'' Taylor said. ''You just play the game, try and take what the defense is giving you. We've got a lot of guys who can make plays on our team. We've got a lot of guys that can stretch the floor, create space to make plays and make the decisions a lot easier.''